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Walter Whitehead, Mine More Coal, 1918, Color Lithograph, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. Maurice F. Lyons, 1954/2.35.104

Mine More Coal: War Effort and Americanism in World War I Posters

May 9 - September 20, 2015

During World War I, the American Government used a powerful poster campaign to rally all troops and farmers, housewives and shipbuilders, “old-stock Americans,” and immigrants to the cause. Propaganda, commodity, and art came together in WWI posters. This exhibition presents rarely displayed WWI posters from UMMA’s collection.

The focus of the exhibition is posters directed at coal miners. These works explore the larger themes of supporting the war effort and Americanism. Coal mining communities were microcosms for the social and economic pressures when the United States entered the Great War in 1917. Coal was a central resource for the war, yet the immigrant workforce was considered unreliable because of increasingly frequent workers’ strikes. Posters also addressed anxieties about the definition of American culture and its readiness for war.

Marking the centennial of the Great War (1914-1919), the presentation of WWI posters of the UMMA collection includes some of the lesser-known works by America’s most famous poster artists. From iconic Gibson-girl type illustrations to multilingual posters in Polish, Italian, and German, these posters present war-time American ideals. Works by famed designers James Montgomery Flagg, the designer of the Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster, and Howard Christy are featured alongside works by illustrators like J.C. Leyendecker and the acclaimed painter and printmaker Henry Reuterdahl.


Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment.