The First World War introduced an entirely new type of conflict with unprecedented demands. Reacting to a largely undefined situation, the United States government called upon every American citizen to contribute to the war effort in some way. It successfully persuaded young men to fight by offering everything from honor to adventure; the tactics used to solicit contributions from those on the home front were equally varied and, in many cases, just as effective.
This poster was designed to persuade Americans to invest their earnings in liberty bonds, which helped finance the war efforts of both the U.S. and her allies. The taglines featured on the advertisement make appeals to both the logos and pathos. The first line, “If you can’t enlist-invest,” makes the choice to purchase government bonds seem to be a matter of simple logic. For those who were unable to serve in the military, making financial sacrifices for the good of the nation was presented as an honorable alternative. Americans could “defend [their] country with [their] dollars” even if they could not go to the front lines. Furthermore, buyers were well aware of the secure returns that bonds offered, making them the logical choice for both the nation and the individual.
On the other hand, the alternatives to investing (“war, devastation, death”) must all be combated to ensure survival. By leaving the viewer with a dismal feeling, this poster makes it clear that in order to protect the nation, the only option is to aid the war effort.
The emotional appeals within this advertisement are not as direct; they lie mainly within the artwork. The red, white, and blue color scheme, as well as the American-flag imagery, touch upon viewers’ patriotism. They remind prospective buyers of something greater than themselves, the nation to which they belong, and thereby encourage them to purchase bonds not only for their own benefit, but for a greater good.
The loan itself is portrayed as a shield for the warrior representing America. This image creates a sense of security, suggesting that bonds offer protection against not only the war, but numerous other calamities (which are represented by the darker figures). A hesitant buyer would also be reassured by images of the flag on the warrior’s sword and shield, as well as the eagle (a symbol of the nation) that flies before him. These symbols all indicate that, ultimately, the bonds will work to protect the buyer as much as he works to protect the nation. In addition to appealing to its audience as Americans, this poster works on a simpler premise as well. The figures attacking the liberty loan holder are physically portrayed beneath him, as he rises out of the darkness surrounding them. This is an attempt to make buying liberty bonds appear as not only a patriotic act, but an elevated, moral act as well.
The most effective message, however, is the call to duty. The poster urges Americans to serve and defend their country, working with values deeply embedded in the nation’s culture. It exhibits a strong, heroic figure who, although fighting against uneven odds, will clearly be victorious.