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ARCHIVED - Posters and Broadsides in Canada

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War and Military

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While the Dominion government, in particular the War Records Office, organized the collecting of Canadian and foreign war posters, it did not play a central role in the actual creation of posters. Most recruiting posters, for example, were created and distributed by individual military regiments or local organizations.

Poster printed with illustration of a tiger leaping at a fleeing German soldier. Title at top, text at bottom

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Figure 4

The 205th Tiger Battalion took its name from the Tiger Athletic Club, which was located in Hamilton, Ontario. Drawing a parallel between the popular sport of football and the battle against Germany, the poster challenged the viewer to join up.


Figure 4: Local recruitment poster, Hamilton, Ontario, 1915 - 1916


Poster with illustration of aboriginal warriors and French settlers fighting. Text at top and bottom in black and white on salmon-coloured background

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Figure 5

A number of recruiting posters referred to historical events or individuals. This one called upon French Canadian men to show the same courage as military men such as Adam Dollard Des Ormeaux.


Figure 5: Recruitment poster calling for French Canadian volunteers, 1914 - 1918


Colour poster with illustration of an old lady sitting in a rocking chair, as in the painting known as Whistler's Mother. Title at top in green and text at bottom in black and green

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Figure 6

Regiments were often organized along ethnic lines and, in this case, artist Hal Ross Perrigard borrowed the image of Whistler's mother to drive home the point of the war to potential Irish Canadian Rangers.


Figure 6: Recruitment poster for the Irish Canadian Rangers, 1914 - 1918


Colour poster with illustration of a woman holding out her hand, superimposed by a burning cathedral under bombardment. Title at top

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Figure 7

This example not only emphasized the need to protect women from harm, but also suggested that social and cultural institutions, such as the church, were under threat from Germany.


Figure 7: Recruitment poster emphasizing the German threat against Canada, 1914 - 1918


Private donors and companies provided the funds for many of these recruiting posters. This was also the case with the posters distributed by the Canadian Patriotic Fund (established in 1914 to raise money to support soldiers' families), the Canadian Red Cross, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and other benevolent and volunteer organizations. These posters called on Canadians to donate a range of things-from money to maple syrup-to support the war effort.

Poster with illustration of an aboriginal man holding a letter and money. Title at top

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Figure 8

This overtly racist poster attempted to promote unity among Canadians and suggested that everyone, even Native Canadians, supported the Canadian Patriotic Fund.


Figure 8: Private war donation poster calling for funds, Canadian Patriotic Fund, 1916


Poster of a large red cross inset with a black and red illustration of a nursing sister wiping the forehead of a fallen soldier. Title and text in black on light brown background

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Figure 9
Poster with an inverted red triangle superimposed with the letters "Y.M.C.A." in white on black background. Title at top and text at bottom

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Figure 10

Figure 9: Red Cross war donation poster calling for funds for hospitals and prisoners of war, Montréal, Quebec, 1914 - 1918

Figure 10: Private war donation poster calling for funds, Young Men’s Christian Association, 1914 - 1918


The Red Cross and YMCA provided a plethora of services to Canada's military personnel during the First World War, including important medical aid for wounded soldiers.

Poster with a black-and-white photograph of a boat with people on the lower and upper decks, centred on page. Title at top and text at bottom, in black on white background

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Figure 11

A fundraising excursion on Lake Erie was advertised on this poster, which was produced by William T. Gregory in July 1916.


Figure 11: Private war donation poster offering a boat excursion on Lake Erie to raise funds for a convalescent home for Canadian soldiers, 1916


By 1916, the Dominion government was not entirely pleased with the way in which posters were being created and distributed, and it established the Poster War Service in an effort to standardize propaganda production. Among the government agencies that used the Poster War Service were the Canada Food Board and the Victory Loan Dominion Publicity Committee.

The Food Board encouraged productivity in the agricultural sector, asking farmers to increase their production of beef, pork and eggs to meet British demand.

Colour poster with illustration of a giant chicken. In the background a woman is standing between egg production figures. Title at top in white on green background

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Figure 12
Colour poster with illustration of a mountie handing a pig to a British man. Title at top

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Figure 13
Colour poster with illustration of a man and woman standing at a table laden with bags of flour and sugar. Behind them is a shaded window with the silhouette of a police officer. Text at top and bottom

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Figure 14

Figure 12: Poster for egg production, Canada Food Board, 1918

Figure 13: Poster for pork production, Canada Food Board, 1918

Figure 14: Poster against hoarding food, Canada Food Board, 1918


The Food Board also asked Canadians to conserve and preserve food supplies and avoid hoarding.

Colour poster with illustration of a soldier pointing at the title. Title in yellow at top, text in blue at bottom

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Figure 15
Colour poster with illustration of two women standing at a table covered with vegetables, fruits and jars of preserves. Title and text in light blue on navy blue background

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Figure 16

The need to modify behaviour was tied to patriotism and support for the war effort. This message was especially apparent in this image of a soldier pointing to the violence of the trench warfare behind him as he asks Canadians to conserve food.


Figure 15: Poster encouraging the saving of food for the war effort, Canada Food Board, 1918

Figure 16: Poster encouraging the saving and preserving of perishable food items, Canada Food Board, 1914 - 1918


From 1915 to 1919, the Victory Loan Dominion Publicity Committee worked on behalf of the Dominion government to persuade individual Canadians, as well as private companies and other organizations, to invest their savings in bonds that could be redeemed in the future. The five Victory Loan campaigns raised hundreds of millions of dollars and the loans, combined with the introduction of a federal income tax, enabled the government to finance military operations.

Colour poster with illustration of a soldier wearing a kilt. One of his hands is raised, holding up four fingers. Title at  top and text at bottom

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Figure 17

The "Kiltie" in this poster pressured Canadians to do their bit for the war by buying bonds.


Figure 17: Victory Bonds poster, "Kiltie," 1914 - 1918


Colour poster with illustration of three women pulling a plow. Title at top in blue, text at bottom in red on black background

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Figure 18

The significance of sacrifice was central to this poster, which demonstrated the suffering of women in France.


Figure 18: Poster depicting the suffering of women in France, 1914 - 1918


Colour poster with illustration of man, in an ocean, wearing a life jacket and holding an unconscious woman, possibly a nurse. He is waving a fist at a departing submarine. Text at top and bottom

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Figure 19

The deaths of 234 men and women in June 1918 from the German torpedoing of a Canadian hospital ship generated posters such as this one. Canadians had to buy bonds to preserve humanity and stop Germany's threat to civilized society.


Figure 19: Victory Bonds poster in defence of humanity, 1914 - 1918


Colour poster with illustration of a soldier holding both arms out in a beseeching manner. Title in black at bottom on red background

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Figure 20

As the war continued, text became briefer and images became more important in creating a poster that packed a greater punch. In this case, a soldier, with his arms stretched out before him, implores the viewer to buy Victory Bonds.


Figure 20: Victory Bonds poster, 1914 - 1918


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