Save Food and Defeat Frightfulness, a color lithograph produced by the Strobridge Litho Co. of Cincinnati and New York in 1917, is a poignant representation of American homefront propaganda during World War I. Through the distinct imagery of a Red Cross nurse, wounded soldier, and civilians standing in juxtaposition to the Iron Cross, the poster vividly embodies the theme of human suffering and the moral urgency to alleviate it, as underscored by the evocative quote from John Greenleaf Whittier.
The early 20th century, marked by the gruesome theater of World War I, was a tumultuous period of global realignment and strife. As nations grappled on the frontlines, the US Food Administration was established to manage the wartime supply, production, and distribution of food. Amid these efforts, there arose a need to instill a collective consciousness among Americans about the importance of food conservation. Through the medium of posters, the administration sought to impress upon the public the significance of their contributions to the larger war effort and the global humanitarian cause.
Illustrated by Herbert Andrew Paus, this particular lithograph does not merely present a call to action; it captures the ethos of the time. The figures represented—a nurse symbolizing care, a soldier showcasing sacrifice, and civilians depicting the vulnerable sections of society—represent the many faces impacted by the war. The presence of the Iron Cross, emblematic of the German military, reinforces the dichotomy between the enemy and the values America sought to defend and uphold.
The choice of John Greenleaf Whittier's quote reinforces the overarching message of the poster. By drawing upon the words of Whittier, an esteemed American Quaker poet and ardent abolitionist, the piece evokes themes of hope, resilience, and moral righteousness. Whittier's vision of America as a beacon of hope for the oppressed and a formidable adversary to wrongdoers aligns seamlessly with the poster's narrative of America's dual role as protector and provider.
In sum, Save Food and Defeat Frightfulness stands as a testament to the power of visual propaganda in shaping public opinion, encapsulating the fervor and moral imperatives of its era. Its blending of artistic representation and strategic messaging offers insight into the American psyche during one of history's most challenging epochs.