This moving WWI poster is a plea by the US Food Administration to US citizens to help alleviate the world-wide food shortage caused by the war. The agency was tasked with the responsibility of meeting the US Army’s need for food to feed its soldiers as well as the food needs of the US allies in the war-ravaged countries where civilians were starving.
As the poster so urgently states, the world was crying out for food, and Americans could help at this time of crisis by growing gardens of their own. The idea was that this small effort by individuals could provide enough additional food in the US so that widespread food rationing could be avoided while food was being sent overseas to meet critical needs.
The effectiveness of this powerful appeal relied on an outpouring of sympathy for the civilians in war-torn countries, as well as a patriotic sense of duty to one’s own country. The poster shows an older man and two younger men (presumably his sons) striding along carrying their produce.
This appeal to patriotism is reinforced by the reference at the top of the poster to the “Spirit of ’18” (1918). It invokes a famous painting of the American revolutionary war called Spirit of ’76 (1776) in which two drummers (one of which is older) and a fife player march through battle. The older drummer in the middle in the Spirit of ’76 painting is similar in appearance to the older man in the middle of this poster who, instead of holding a drum, is carrying a similarly shaped basket of vegetables.
This poster was designed by American artist William McKee.
Take a look at the other WWI and WWII posters we offer -- each providing an interesting snapshot of an earlier era.