Archived Pages from 20th Century!!

Powers of Persuasion
Guns, tanks, and bombs were the principal weapons of World War II, but there were other, more subtle, forms of warfare as well. Words, posters, and films waged a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the American citizenry just as surely as military weapons engaged the enemy. Persuading the American public became a wartime industry, almost as important as the manufacturing of bullets and planes. The Government launched an aggressive propaganda campaign to galvanize public support, and some of the nation's foremost intellectuals, artists, and filmmakers became warriors on that front.

 This online exhibit features 33 posters and 1 sound file from a more extensive exhibit that was presented in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, from May 1994 to February 1995. Like the original, this exhibit is divided into two parts, which represent two psychological approaches used in rallying public support for the war. 

Part 1 These posters motivate the viewer by instilling patriotism, confidence, and a positive outlook. Patriotic colors of red, white, and blue predominate. Pictures of fists, muscles, tools, and artillery convey American strength. American heroes and familiar national symbols appeal to patriotism.


Part 2 These posters rock people out of their complacency with grim, unromantic visions of war. They depict the human cost of war, confronting the viewer with corpses, bloodshed, and gravestones. These images appeal to darker impulses, fostering feelings of suspicion, fear, and even hate.


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Citations and Credits
All posters used in the Powers of Persuasion exhibit were made from the original posters in the custody of NARA's Still Picture Branch at the National Archives at College Park, MD. A NARA identification number appears at the end of each caption. 

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Last updated: October 23, 1997