While 'Keep Calm and Carry On' has come to encapsulate the British Second World War official poster image, that earlier ‘Britons… [Kitchener] …wants you’ design does the same for the 1914-18 conflict. The American equivalent is James Montgomery Flagg’s poster of Uncle Sam in the same finger-pointing pose as Kitchener above the words ‘I want you for US army’.
Although this work clearly inspired by Alfred Leete’s British design is undoubtedly the most famous poster by Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960), he contributed 46 works in total to support the US war effort.
A couple of his other designs are coming up at Special Auction Services in the UK on March 7. They are among The Late David Schwarz Propaganda Poster Collection being offered at the Newbury, Berkshire saleroom as part of the monthly antiques, collectables, stamps and militaria auction.
"I Expect You to Enlist"
One of the Montgomery Flagg posters at SAS, 20 x 2ft 6in (51 x 76cm), estimated at £300-500, from 1918, shows Uncle Sam in a half-length portrait looking straight at the viewer with fists on hips, above the words ‘I Am Telling You, On June 28th I expect you to enlist in the army of war saves to back up my army of fighters, W.S.S. Enlistment’.
The other, c.1917, shows showing Uncle Sam offering a young boy and girl War Saving Stamps with the words ‘Boys and Girls! You can help your Uncle Sam Win the War, Save your quarters, Buy War Savings Stamps, c1917’. The 2ft 6in x 3ft 5in (76cm x 1.04m) poster is also guided at £300-500.
SAS director Thomas Plant says: “David Schwartz was a stock market historian and columnist - a well-known commentator and analyst in the British financial sector. He collected First World War posters mostly in the 1980s and mainly from his home city, New York. He was attracted and fascinated by the bold messages, wonderful artwork and often eye-catching colours.”
The collection did appear on the BBC Antiques Roadshow in 2014. It came to SAS from a family vendor and Plant says the auction house’s reputation for specialist sales secured the consignment.
He adds that such propaganda posters form a rising market, “this year especially for the American poster as it is 100 years since they entered the war”.
SAS sells posters particularly during its extensive range of specialist auctions such as music and entertainment, and toys, trains and transport and so on.
Uncle Sam Wants You
That famous Montgomery Flagg ‘I want you…’ design is understandably sought-after at auction and an example on offer across the pond at the Swann Galleries vintage poster sale in New York on March 16 is estimated at $4000-6000. The 1917 poster measures 3ft 4in x 2ft 6in (1.02 x 76cm).
Over 4m ‘I want you…’ copies were printed from 1917-18 as the US joined the Allied war effort. As the story goes, the artist did not have time to commission a model and used his own face after sitting in front of a mirror, adding wrinkles and goatee.