"The Navy is Calling ENLIST NOW" Vintage WWI Poster, Circa 1918

This poster, a color lithograph, was published in 1918, and is by the famed poster artist L. N. Britton. Depicting five men in a Navy uniforms, standing beneath a large eagle bearing the stars and stripes shield, the poster urges the nation’s men to enlist in the Navy. The poster reads: “The Navy Is Calling ENLIST NOW” in yellow letters, blocked and large for emphasis. 

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. The needed support both financially, through the purchase of war bonds and rationing, and emotionally, through volunteer service (men for the military, women for the nurse corps), displays of patriotism, and through shared sacrifice. 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 war ushered in the biggest advertising campaign to date, critical to the wartime communication needs of every combatant: from raising money, recruiting soldiers and boosting volunteer efforts, to spurring production and provoking outrage at enemy atrocities. The stark, colorful graphic designs, created by some of the nation’s leading artists, elicited strong emotions. The posters played to the fears, frustrations, and faith in freedoms that lingered in people's minds during the war. 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.


This poster was part of the Colonel Edward McCrahon Poster Collection. 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. 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.

This specific poster is part of this amazing collection and was obtained via the McCrahon estate sale, in 2015.   


This original color lithograph is in good condition. The poster has been backed on linen and edges have been trimmed. The poster has a clear coating applied to its surface. In the 1920's, in preparation for various public exhibitions, a portion of the posters in this McCrahon poster collection were protected with a clear coating. Unlike varnish (which tended to turn amber and brittle through the years) applied by some collectors many decades ago, the coating used on the Col. McCrahon posters remain clear and flexible. If anything, the coating has tended to intensify the original printed colors.  

The poster has been presented in a custom-built black and silver frame. Framed dimensions: 41" H x 28.75" W x 2" D. 

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