On Exhibit: European Posters From WWI

August 15, 2014

In the midst of Word War I, Dutch businessman and historical memorabilia collector Maurice Frankenhuis (1893-1969) began to acquire a collection of posters, coins and medals that he then started to sell to support his family while hiding from the Nazis during World War II.

Now some of the remains of the collection are on view in a Rare Book & Manuscript Library exhibition, The European Home Front in WWI: Posters from the Frankenhuis Collection. During WWI, examples such as those in the exhibition promulgated news and regulations, built morale, encouraged enlistment and other war work and solicited contributions of goods and services.

A vibrant assemblage of bold images and colors that pop from the library’s exhibition cases, the posters were an important and effective means of mass communication, persuasion and propaganda a century ago: one shows a massive English bulldog emblazoned against a Union Jack with the exhortation, “They can’t muzzle me;” another shows a map of Europe with an octopus’s tentacles seemingly strangling the continent; and another has an illustration of men standing on scaffolding on the side of a ship with text that proclaims, “Every rivet brings us nearer to victory.”

“While some posters are starkly typographic, many use illustration and design to persuade,” said exhibition curator Jane Rodgers Siegel. “We chose posters to show their broad variety, giving some attention to the plainly informative, but with an emphasis on the eye-catching.”

Frankenhuis brought the posters to New York in 1948 and they were given to Columbia by his grandsons in 1975. The collection consists of about 4,800 posters, roughly 3,500 of which were made for use in Germany and Austria and areas they occupied. The remainder of the collection is from all over the world, including 300 each from the United States, the British Empire and France, more than 100 from the Netherlands and small numbers from Italy, Switzerland and Belgium.

The exhibition will be open until September 12. For more information, visit the Rare Book & Manuscript Library website.