"At the Service of Mankind" Vintage WWI Red Cross Poster by Lawrence Wilbur, 1917

Presented is a vintage WWI Red Cross poster, dating to 1917. The poster was illustrated by Lawrence Wilbur and printed in Chicago by Edwards & Deutsch Litho. Co.

The poster was created to promote the first Red Cross membership drive. Scenes of war, flooding, and smoky destruction at the bottom of the poster’s composition are balanced by a white-robed Red Cross nurse at the top. The nurse stands with her arms stretched out, above a map of the United States. The map is emblazoned with a large red cross and scenes of a doctor headed to a small town and a wounded soldier on crutches walking with his young family. At top left is the text "Annual Roll Call," printed in blue. Below the map is the text, “At the service of All Mankind,” in white.

During the first World War, the American Red Cross became the country’s central relief organization. Desperate for funding and volunteers, the organization initiated its first membership drive in December 1917. To encourage membership, the American Red Cross enlisted the pro-bono services of several well-known artists and produced a series of posters for the Roll Call. With an annual fee of one dollar, the first Christmas Roll Call boosted membership significantly and raised millions for the organization. Running ads with slogans such as, “We cannot all serve in the trenches, but we can all serve at home,” Red Cross members increased from around 10,000 American citizens in 1916 to roughly 22 million adults and 11 million children, almost a third of the total US population at that time, in 1918. This level of success in a relief campaign had never been achieved in American Red Cross history, and so the Roll Calls occurred annually around Christmastime for 25 years. 

Painter and printmaker Lawrence Nelson Wilbur (1897-1988) was born in Whitman, Massachusetts. As a teenager, he attended night classes in Boston Normal Art School and began training as a photoengraver. He moved to California in 1921 to work in the engraving department of the "Los Angeles Times." In 1925, Wilbur relocated to New York City  and was employed as a finisher by several of New York's finest engraving shops and by several of the leading magazines of the era. He enrolled in the Grand Central Art School and studied under Harvey Dunn, N.C. Wyeth, and Pruett Carter. The combination of his graphic arts skills and his serious pursuit of training in the fine arts formed the basis for his career as a talented draftsman, printmaker, and painter.

Wilbur’s works have been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many other institutions. He received numerous awards for his art, including the Audubon Artist's medal of honor for a self-portrait in oil in 1957. He was a member of the Salmagundi Club of New York, the Painters and Sculptors Society of New Jersey, and the Society of America Graphic Artists. 

CONDITION:

In very good condition. Color lithographed poster. A little edge wear, with a minor stain along the edge at top right. Color is vibrant. 

Framed to the highest archival standards with acid free mats and a custom-built wooden frame. 

Framed dimensions: 31 1/2" H x 21 1/4" W x 1 1/2" D.




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