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One of the largest and oldest components of the poster and broadside collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) consists of war-related materials, particularly examples produced during the two world wars. While the broadside collection includes a number of works associated with earlier events such as the War of 1812 and the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada in 1837-1838, the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 marked the first large-scale use of posters to bolster support for a military action. The emergence of poster art in the 1870s meant that by the time the war began, technological advances in printing enabled participating countries to produce propaganda posters in a fairly quick and efficient manner.
In 1916, the Dominion government began to collect these works as part of an effort to "bring in every scrap of authentic original evidence that throws light on Canada's connection with"1 the war. LAC amassed some 4,000 posters during and immediately after the conflict, and this group of works became the basis of its collection of First World War posters. In addition to preserving Canadian materials, LAC also acquired posters and other war souvenirs from public and private sources from Britain, France, Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Russia, South Africa and the United States.
This British recruiting poster used the symbol of the British lion to appeal to other members of the empire, such as Canada, to support the cause.
Figure 1: Recruitment poster for the Empire, 1915
This clever French poster, sponsored by La Société des Amis des Artistes, encouraged the French to donate their gold coins to help the French army defeat the Germans.
Figure 2: War donation poster asking for gold to aid France, 1915
This American poster illustrated one of the more unique causes to which citizens were asked to give funds during the First World War.
Figure 3: War donation poster asking for funds for chocolate for the United States Forces in France, 1914 - 1918