We Can Do It!: World War II Posters at the Still Picture Branch

"We Can Do It!"
“We Can Do It!” 179-WP-1563, NAID: 535413

Many recognize Rosie the Riveter’s “We Can Do It!” or Uncle Sam’s “I Want You” posters from World War II. Just as the posters created a rousing call to the public at the time of their creation, they also serve as hallmarks of the Second World War. The Still Picture Branch at the National Archives and Records Administration houses a multitude of posters used during World War II by the United States Government. The messages range from the promotion of Victory Gardens to recruitment for the various branches of the military.

While not an exhaustive list, included within this blog post are highlights of the largest series of posters from World War II within the holdings of the Still Picture Branch. Also listed below are series of art created during the process of designing the posters, as well as posters from foreign countries.

 

Fully Digitized Series of Posters

"I Want You For The U.S. Army Enlist Now"
“I Want You For The U.S. Army Enlist Now,” 44-PA-71, NAID: 513533

44-PA: World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945

This series consists of posters created by various Federal Agencies and assembled by the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information to promote the war effort. Posters in this series range from the famous Uncle Sam’s “I Want You” to promotions for War Bonds to advocating for healthy practices. The series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog. Please note that there are a few posters in this series that may have copyright restrictions. Refer to our copyright and publication statement below.

 

"Give It Your Best!"
“Give It Your Best!” 179-WP-438, NAID: 534287

179-WP: War Production Board, 1942 – 1943

This series consists of posters used in various production drives instituted by the War Production Board, which was an United States government agency created to manage production of war materials during World War II. Included in this series are posters such as Rosie the Riveter’s “We Can Do It!,” posters recruiting for the military, and promotion of the war effort on the homefront. This series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog.

 

"Every Canadian Must Fight"
“Every Canadian Must Fight,” 44-PF-606, NAID: 44267597

44-PF: World War II Foreign Posters, 1942 – 1945

This series consists of posters produced by foreign information offices and war relief associations. The posters are from a variety of countries including Great Britain, Canada, France, Russia, and more. The subject matter includes promotions for military recruitment, education, safety and more. This series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog.

 

"Together we WIN"
“Together we WIN,” 208-AOP-116-115, NAID: 7387545

208-AOP: Original Artwork for World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945 

This series consists of original artwork and a few photographs for World War II-era posters. Many posters were created by the Office of War Information (OWI) for the War Department’s campaigns. The art covers a variety of topics such as civilian agencies’ campaigns, labor issues, promoting unity among the Allies, and many more. A number of works of art were created by renowned artists, or those who later grew in popularity. The series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog.
Please note that there are a few records in this series that may have copyright restrictions. Refer to our copyright and publication statement below.

 

"Help Prevent Forest Fires"
“Help Prevent Forest Fires,” 208-AOP-5-5, NAID: 7387430

 

Additional Series that are Not Currently Digitized

287-P: Illustrative Material Published By The Government Printing Office and other Government Agencies, 1871 – 1970

This series consists of primarily posters printed by the Government Printing Office (GPO) between 1917 and 1945, with additional materials dated up until 1970. Since the Government Printing Office (GPO) produces and distributes materials for all three branches of the United States Federal Government, the materials within this series were created by nearly 150 Federal Agencies. The posters related to World War II cover subject matter such as military recruitment, war efforts at home and abroad, Civil Defense, and more. This series is not currently digitized.

 

24-PO: Recruitment Posters, ca. 1942 – ca. 2001

This series consists of posters produced for recruiting for the United States Navy. Most of the posters are from World War II, however, a few posters from World War I are also included. The posters were used to recruit for a variety of naval positions such as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the Seabees, and more. This series is not currently digitized.

 

44-PS: Records Relating to Poster Production and Procurement, 1942 – 1945

This series consists of records that illustrate the effort undertaken by the U.S. Government to produce and disseminate posters during World War II. While there are no full-size posters within this series, there are poster catalogs, lists of contacts for posters within various U.S. Government agencies, bulletins, and a “Poster Handbook” outlining the steps in procuring and displaying posters. This series is not currently digitized.

 

208-MSC: Posters from the World War II-Era, ca. 1942 – ca. 1945

This series consists primarily of posters used during World War II. The posters focus on production and other labor-related issues, as well as the need to conserve and recycle materials for the war effort. Poster titles include: “For God and Country Plant a Victory Garden,” “Effort for Victory. Safety. A Good Production Soldier Doesn’t Expose Himself to the Sniping of Danger,” and “Kid Salvage.” Please note that there are a few posters in this series that may have copyright restrictions. This series is not currently digitized.

 

208-PMP: World War II Posters, 1941 – 1944

This series consists of color and black and white posters that were distributed and predominately produced by the Office of War Information’s Art Section of the Graphics Division of the Domestic Operations Branch. The posters address recruitment, national security, conservation of resources, fund raising, and propaganda. This series is not currently digitized.

 

208-PMO: Office of War Information Posters, ca. 1941 – ca. 1945

This series consists of posters from the Office of War Information (OWI) during World War II. The posters cover a variety of subject matter related to the war effort such as wartime production, health and safety issues, war bonds, military recruitment, and more. The posters were created by federal agencies, commissions, and councils, as well as non-federal organizations. Please note that there are a few posters in this series that may have copyright restrictions. This series is not currently digitized.

 

See our additional blog posts related to World War II posters:

Images of the Week: World War II Posters
Food and the War Effort
Spotlight: Propaganda
Double Take: Making Visual Connections in the National Archives Catalog

 

If you have questions about any of the posters included in this blog post or still photographs, you may contact the Still Picture Branch at stillpix@nara.gov.

 

PUBLICATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS FURNISHED BY THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES STILL PICTURE BRANCH-RRSS

Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available.

*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

  • National Archives photo no. 210-G-C241
  • Credit National Archives (photo no. 83-G-41368)
  • Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 83-G-41430
  • National Archives (210-G-A14)

If using a large number of our images, the National Archives will appreciate receiving copies of publications that contain our photographs. Such copies can be sent to the Still Picture Branch or the Library, National Archives and Records Administration.

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