CLOSE

21 World War I Recruitment Posters From Around the Globe

All countries have their own style when it comes to military recruitment posters, and even within one country, the style will change drastically depending on the specific branch looking for volunteers. Here are some interesting examples of military recruitment posters from World War I.

England

This poster was designed to bring a sense of shame to those who weren’t fighting.

While every other poster I found was vertical, the decision to shape this one like an arm was pretty perfect considering the message.

While this would be a great way to recruit D&D fans these days, at the time the knight and dragon image was selected to remind viewers of the story of Sir Gawain St. George and the dragon.

Scotland & Ireland

While the United Kingdom may be united in title, the country is most certainly not all one culture, which is why the powers-that-be had to make posters oriented specifically towards Scotland and Ireland as well. This design by Lawson Wood is pretty subtle other than the fact that the soldier is wearing the Scottish military dress and the fact that the caption includes a bit of slang.

The Irish were even harder to recruit into the war given all the political turmoil going on in their own land at the time. In fact, while the World War was going on, there were rebellions breaking out throughout Ireland, and as soon as the major international war ended, the Irish War of Independence broke out. That’s why recruiters hoping to get Irishmen to enlist into the war couldn’t just ask them to support their king & country like they asked the Scottish. Asking for revenge for the German attack on the passenger ship was a good way to encourage the Irish to fight without asking them to fight for the kingdom.

Australia

This poster doesn't bother striking up national pride, guilt or benefits to potential troops; essentially, all it says is “We promised to help England -- can you help? No big deal if you can’t.”

Canada

One of the best ways to recruit people into a war if they don’t otherwise care about the cause is to show them what they could get out of it. This Canadian ad promises to help improve the skills of artisans and mechanics, thus, hopefully, ensuring them better employment after the war.

Germany

Wondering what the recruitment posters looked like on the other side of the battle lines? Well, they are strikingly darker. In fact, maybe it’s just because I can’t read German, but I think I’d be less likely to sign up after seeing a creepy, ghostly poster like this one, designed by Julius Ussy Engelhard.

This poster, created by Lucien Zabel, isn’t quite as horrifying as the other, but I still don’t think it would have me running to a recruitment office to sign up.

U.S.A.

While America’s recruitment efforts usually focus on specific branches, there are still a few designs just urging people to get out there and fight. This one is particularly powerful as it shows Uncle Sam standing over a seemingly violated Lady Liberty telling the viewer “It's up to you. Protect the nation's honor.”

Navy

It’s interesting to see the contrast of the frail, weeping Lady Liberty in that first U.S.A. poster up against Kenyon Cox’s image of a strong, powerful woman bearing a sword. She’s certainly more awe-inspiring like this, isn’t she?

There’s something incredibly familiar about this Navy recruitment poster. Is it possible that Dr. Strangelove borrowed the idea for their climax from this Richard Fayerweather Babcock image?

The pin-up girl poster was designed by Howard Chandler Christy.

To be fair, this poster, by James Henry Daugherty, was released just after the war, but it’s hard to leave out of this collection when it has such fantastic artwork and a classic message inspiring people to see the world by joining the Navy.

Marines

Of course, the Army isn’t the only branch that recruits soldiers by promising to show them the world. Here is the Marines' version of the same concept. Interestingly, this poster was released in 1917, so it was pretty darn unlikely that any of the recruits inspired by this artwork by James Montgomery Flagg actually saw any cheetahs, at least not until the war was officially over.

The Marines have always put bravery over all else, so while many people might be put off by the idea of being the first to fight, those aren’t the people this ad, by Sidney H. Riesenberg, was targeting anyway.

Army

The power of this poster, designed by I. B. Hazelton, is its simplicity. All you need to know is that men are needed for the Army and that you can help, beyond that, the wonderful artwork speaks for itself.

August William Hutaf’s design for the Tank Corps is truly fantastic. My only question: is the cat terrified because the Tank Corps roughed him up or is he angry because he is symbolizing the roughness of the Tank Corps?

Canada hoped to recruit artisans and mechanics, and the U.S. needed them as well. Only rather than going after people who already were familiar with the trade, this recruiting poster promised to train anyone interested to become a mechanic -- offering them a great opportunity to land a job in a booming industry when they returned home.

WWI was the first war to incorporate planes. In the U.S., soldiers involved in this division were part of Army’s Air Service, which eventually became the U.S. Air Force after the war ended. With posters featuring great artwork like this design by Charles Livingston Bull, and the opportunity to learn to be a pilot at the beginning of the aviation industry, it’s easy to imagine that the Air Service had a lot of recruits, even if it was incredibly dangerous.

National Guard

The National Guard was fairly new during WWI. In fact, over 40% of the U.S. soldiers in France during WWI were in the National Guard.

[All images courtesy of the Library of Congress. For more World War I history, start following Erik Sass' WWI Centennial series, covering the events leading up to the war exactly 100 years after they happened.]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
The Secret Underground Life of Newborn Meerkat Pups
iStock
iStock

The Secret Underground Life of Newborn Meerkat Pups. Nature photographers fitted a meerkat with a camera to get a look inside.

*

America’s Secret Ice Base Won’t Stay Frozen Forever. When the glacier hiding it is gone, environmental hazards will be exposed.

*

All 11 Versions of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Ranked. With each described in excruciating detail.

*

How Tennessee Became the Final Battleground in the Fight for Suffrage. The process was much dirtier than we ever learned in school.

*

A Remix in Tribute to Han Solo. He had a lot of great lines over four films, so Eclectic Method gave them rhythm and rhyme.

*

Ishmael Beah tells what it was like to go from child soldier in Sierra Leone to high school student in New York. His classmates couldn't figure out why he was so good at paintball.

*

A Brief History of Credit Cards. They aren't as old as you might have thought.

*

10 Allegedly Cursed Objects. Just keep telling yourself that all the bad things that happened around them could be coincidence.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
arrow
science
Head Case: What the Only Soft Tissue Dodo Head in Existence Is Teaching Scientists About These Extinct Birds
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock

Of all the recently extinct animals, none seems to excite the imagination quite like the dodo—a fact Mark Carnall has experienced firsthand. As one of two Life Collections Managers at the UK's Oxford University Museum of Natural History, he’s responsible for nearly 150,000 specimens, “basically all the dead animals excluding insects and fossils,” he tells Mental Floss via email. And that includes the only known soft tissue dodo head in existence.

“In the two and a bit years that I’ve been here, there’s been a steady flow of queries about the dodo from researchers, artists, the public, and the media,” he says. “This is the third interview about the dodo this week! It’s definitely one of the most popular specimens I look after.”

The dodo, or Raphus cucullatus, lived only on the island of Mauritius (and surrounding islets) in the Indian Ocean. First described by Vice Admiral Wybrand van Warwijck in 1598, it was extinct less than 100 years later (sailors' tales of the bird, coupled with its rapid extinction, made many doubt that the dodo was a real creature). Historians still debate the extent that humans ate them, but the flightless birds were easy prey for the predators, including rats and pigs, that sailors introduced to the isolated island of Mauritius. Because the dodo went extinct in the 1600s (the actual date is still widely debated), museum specimens are very, very rare. In fact, with the exception of subfossils—the dark skeletons on display at many museums—there are only three other known specimens, according to Carnall, “and one of those is missing.” (The fully feathered dodos you might have seen in museums? They're models, not actual zoological specimens.)

A man standing with a Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird
A subfossil (bone that has not been fully fossilized) Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird in a museum in Wales circa 1938.
Becker, Fox Photos/Getty Images

Since its extinction was confirmed in the 1800s, Raphus cucullatus has been an object of fascination: It’s been painted and drawn, written about and scientifically studied, and unfairly become synonymous with stupidity. Even now, more than 300 years since the last dodo walked the Earth, there’s still so much we don’t know about the bird—and Oxford’s specimen might be our greatest opportunity to unlock the mysteries surrounding how it behaved, how it lived, how it evolved, and how it died.

 
 

To put into context how old the dodo head is, consider this: From the rule of Oliver Cromwell to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it has been around—and it’s likely even older than that. Initially an entire bird (how exactly it was preserved is unclear), the specimen belonged to Elias Ashmole, who used his collections to found Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum in 1677. Before that, it belonged to John Tradescant the Elder and his son; a description of the collection from 1656 notes the specimen as “Dodar, from the Island Mauritius; it is not able to flie being so big.”

And that’s where the dodo’s provenance ends—beyond that, no one knows where or when the specimen came from. “Where the Tradescants got the dodo from has been the subject of some speculation,” Carnall says. “A number of live animals were brought back from Mauritius, but it’s not clear if this is one of [those animals].”

Initially, the specimen was just another one of many in the museum’s collections, and in 1755, most of the body was disposed of because of rot. But in the 19th century, when the extinction of the dodo was confirmed, there was suddenly renewed interest in what remained. Carnall writes on the museum’s blog that John Duncan, then the Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, had a number of casts of the head made, which were sent to scientists and institutions like the British Museum and Royal College of Surgeons. Today, those casts—and casts of those casts—can be found around the world. (Carnall is actively trying to track them all down.)

The Oxford University Dodo head with scoleric bone and the skin on one side removed.
The Oxford University Dodo head with skin and sclerotic ring.
© Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History // Used with permission

In the 1840s, Sir Henry Acland, a doctor and teacher, dissected one side of the head to expose its skeleton, leaving the skin attached on the other side, for a book about the bird by Alexander Gordon Melville and H.E. Strickland called The dodo and its kindred; or, The history, affinities, and osteology of the dodo, solitaire, and other extinct birds of the islands Mauritius, Rodriguez and Bourbon. Published in 1848, “[It] brought together all the known accounts and depictions of the dodo,” Carnall says. The Dodo and its kindred further raised the dodo’s profile, and may have been what spurred schoolteacher George Clark to take a team to Mauritius, where they found the subfossil dodo remains that can be seen in many museums today.

Melville and Strickland described Oxford’s specimen—which they believed to be female—as being “in tolerable preservation ... The eyes still remain dried within the sockets, but the corneous extremity of the beak has perished, so that it scarcely exhibits that strongly hooked termination so conspicuous in all the original portraits. The deep transverse grooves are also visible, though less developed than in the paintings.”

Today, the specimen includes the head as well as the sclerotic ring (a bony feature found in the eyes of birds and lizards), a feather (which is mounted on a microscope slide), tissue samples, the foot skeleton, and scales from the foot. “Considering it’s been on display in collections and museums, pest eaten, dissected, sampled and handled by scientists for over 350 years,” Carnall says, “it’s in surprisingly good condition.”

 
 

There’s still much we don’t know about the dodo, and therefore a lot to learn. As the only soft tissue of a dodo known to exist, the head has been studied for centuries, and not always in ways that we would approve of today. “There was quite some consideration about dissecting the skin off of the head by Sir Henry Acland,” Carnall says. “Sadly there have also been some questionable permissions given, such as when [Melville] soaked the head in water to manipulate the skin and feel the bony structure. Excessive handling over the years has no doubt added to the wear of the specimen.”

Today, scientists who want to examine the head have to follow a standard protocol. “The first step is to get in touch with the museum with details about access requirements ... We deal with enquiries about our collections every single day,” Carnall says. “Depending on the study required, we try to mitigate damage and risk to specimens. For destructive sampling—where a tissue sample or bone sample is needed to be removed from the specimen and then destroyed for analysis—we weigh up the potential importance of the research and how it will be shared with the wider community.”

In other words: Do the potential scientific gains outweigh the risk to the specimen? “This,” Carnall says, “can be a tough decision to make.”

The head, which has been examined by evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro and extinction expert Samuel Turvey as well as dodo experts Julian Hume and Jolyon Parish, has been key in many recent discoveries about the bird. “[It] has been used to understand what the dodo would have looked like, what it may have eaten, where it fits in with the bird evolutionary tree, island biogeography and of course, extinction,” Carnall says. In 2011, scientists took measurements from dodo remains—including the Oxford specimen—and revised the size of the bird from the iconic 50 pounder seen in paintings to an animal “similar to that of a large wild turkey.” DNA taken from specimen’s leg bone has shed light on how the dodo came to Mauritius and how it was related to other dodo-like birds on neighboring islands [PDF]. That DNA also revealed that the dodo’s closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon [PDF].

A nicobar pigeon perched on a bowl of food.
A nicobar pigeon.
iStock

Even with those questions answered, there are a million more that scientists would like to answer about the dodo. “Were there other species—plants, parasites—that depended on the dodo?” Carnall asks. “What was the soft tissue like? ... How and when did the dodo and the related and also extinct Rodrigues solitaire colonize the Mascarene Islands? What were their brains like?”

 
 

Though it’s a rare specimen, and priceless by scientific standards, the dodo head is, in many ways, just like all the rest of the specimens in the museum’s collections. It’s stored in a standard archival quality box with acid-free tissue paper that’s changed regularly. (The box is getting upgraded to something that Carnall says is “slightly schmancier” because “it gets quite a bit of use, more so than the rest of the collection.”) “As for the specific storage, we store it in vault 249 and obviously turn the lasers off during the day,” Carnall jokes. “The passcode for the vault safe is 1234ABCD …”

According to Carnall, even though there are many scientific and cultural reasons why the dodo head is considered important, to him, it isn’t necessarily more important than any of the other 149,999 specimens he’s responsible for.

“Full disclosure: All museum specimens are equally important to collections managers,” he says. “It is a huge honor and a privilege to be responsible for this one particular specimen, but each and every specimen in the collection also has the power to contribute towards our knowledge of the natural world ... This week I was teaching about a species of Greek woodlouse and the molluscs of Oxfordshire. We know next to nothing about these animals—where they live, what they eat, the threats to them, and the predators that rely on them. The same is true of most living species, sadly. But on the upside, there’s so much work to be done!”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios