This poster is the upper section of what was a very large WW I recruitment poster. In the upper-right corner, the bold letters "EN" were once part of the call for onlookers to "enlist" in the Army. The fractured nature of the image is evocative of the fractured identities, communities, and nations of the world resulting from the Great War. And yet, the image conveys a sense of purpose and pride--and the swell of patriotism was one of the more positive consequence of the war.
In 1919, during the final stage of World War I, Colonel Edward H. McCrahon found himself in the devastated French village of Mieux. Among the war-scarred buildings, he came upon a Howard Chandler Christy poster nailed to a door depicting a smiling woman in a navy blue suit declaring, "Yes, I wish I was a man, I'd join the Navy." McCrahon decided to take the poster as a souvenir and continued to collect more World War I posters over the next 16 years. By 1935 he had obtained thousands, making his collection one of the largest privately-owned World War 1 poster collections in America.
Although an American citizen, in 1915 Edward H. McCrahon joined the French Army working as an ambulance driver. He was released from French service in 1917 so that he was allowed to fight with the United States, who had just entered the war. Considering McCrahon's role in both the French and American militaries, respectively, it was no surprise that he chose to take the Howard Christy poster home with him from Mieux. When he began actively collecting, he specifically sought out Allied posters created by French artists manufactured during the early stages of the war. As his Collection increased, he started to expand his scope, including prints from all the major nations in the war, both Allied and Central Powers. McCrahon would frequent antique shops and bookstores, searching for forgotten posters. He even went so far as to advertise in local newspapers. After 16 years compiling his Collection, Colonel McCrahon, along with his wife, made selected pieces of their poster collection public, exhibiting them in galleries, libraries, schools such as Middlebury College, and veteran groups such as the National Recovery Administration. Due to the rarity and delicacy of some of the prints in his touring exhibition, McCrahon mounted a number of posters on linen and coated them in a protective gloss finish of his own creation in order to preserve and protect them while they travelled. Many of the posters in the Collection also feature his initials "E.H.McC" on the back.
The size of McCrahon's World War I Poster Collection eventually landed him in John Hix's syndicated cartoon strip Strange as It Seems in 1935. By then, McCrahon had collected 3,000 posters from all-over the world. In the February 2, 1936 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, McCrahon describes his assortment of posters as flaunting "catchy slogans and appeals from every vantage point in the world's cities, from lonely outposts of deserts, jungles and steppe, and in isolated villages." This fantastic Collection certainly represents one of the most complete compilations of World War I poster art. It features famed artists such as James Montgomery Flagg, Theophile Steinlen, Ludwig Hohlwein, and Howard Christy. Naturally, these wartime messages were represented in McCrahon's traveling collection in the 1930s. The posters served as a touring memorial for those who lived through the First World War, evoking the wartime sentiment that many had repressed as part of the nightmare, but also reminding the public of the nation's unity under one cause.
This specific poster is part of this amazing collection and was recently obtained via the McCrahon estate sale.
Framed size: 58 3/4" H x 45" W x 2 1/2" D