"First in the Fight- Always Faithful- Be a U.S. Marine!" Vintage WWI Poster by James Montgomery Flagg, 1918

This 1918 Marines recruitment poster was designed by the famed poster artist, James Montgomery Flagg. Equally persuasive as his iconic "I want YOU" poster, Flagg's exhortation to America's youth in this WWI poster is poised on the edge of action: pistol raised, about to aim; foot forward, fatigues rumpled as if in the first motions toward a run. The artfully illustrated Marine pops in contrast from the bold, simplified, flag depicted in the background. The poster’s design is completed with a concise exclamation, “First in the Fight ~ Always Faithful~ Be A U.S. Marine!,” in blue text at bottom. This particular poster features an address for a Baltimore, MD custom house, where interested recruits could sign up for service. 

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) was a prodigious illustrator, working as a contributing artist to Life magazine at the surprisingly young age of 14. He is most famous for creating the first image of the fictional Uncle Sam. His “I want YOU" lithographed image of Uncle Sam was published in 1917, during the first World War. It is storied that Flagg used his own image as the model for Uncle Sam, imagining himself as a much older man and with facial hair.

Until the advent of the Cold War in the 1950s, America traditionally maintained a relatively small standing army. Whenever war broke out, it was necessary for the country to mobilize—to recruit (and sometimes draft) troops, to train them, and to produce the arms, equipment, and supplies needed to fight. When Congress and the President declared war on Germany in April of 1917, this mobilization took on extreme urgency. The government’s overarching goal was to persuade a traditionally isolationist American populace to invest and support the European war effort. They needed support both financially, through the purchase of war bonds and rationing, and emotionally, through volunteer service and displays of patriotism.

New government organizations, especially the Committee on Public Information, were tasked with putting out a singular patriotic message, achieved primarily through posters and printed pamphlets. The United States alone produced about 2,500 poster designs and approximately 20 million posters, nearly 1 for every 4 citizens, in little more than 2 years.


Original color lithograph, in very good condition, considering age and past use. Color is original and still vibrant. Evidence of water damage, causing running of ink at bottom of flag, on left. Paper with no splits or tears. Poster is signed in stone by the artist, at lower right. Framed to highest conservation standards, with a custom-built black wooden frame. Framed dimensions: 58 1/4"H x 33 1/4"W x 2"D.

Related Items