Produce for Victory

Teachers and Educators!

World War II posters helped mobilize a nation. Inexpensive, accessible, and ever-present, the poster was an ideal agent for making war aims the personal mission of every American. Government agencies, businesses, and private organizations issued an array of poster images linking the military front with the home front — calling upon every citizen to boost production at work and at home. Twenty-six of the Smithsonian ’s best wartime posters were reproduced in Produce for Victory, organized by the National Museum of American History and curated by Harry Rubenstein and Larry Bird. Collected by the Smithsonian ’s curator of graphic arts during World War II, these images accompanied photographs and original objects to tell the story of an America mobilizing its human and natural resources for the war overseas.

Addressing every citizen as a combatant in a war of production, wartime posters united the power of art with the power of advertising to sell the idea that the factory and the home were also arenas of war. Poster campaigns aimed not only to increase productivity in factories, but also to enlarge people ’s views of their responsibilities in a time of total war. Family and home, the cornerstones of democracy, were depicted as being directly threatened by the armies of the Axis powers. Many of the posters proposed an idealized post-war America, where everyone would own a home, buy goods, and raise families in safe, secure neighborhoods — an image that is still potent today

Lesson Plans
Get the scoop on all the ways you can teach American history with these specific lessons from the National Archives, "The New York Times, and more.