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PropagandaSelling the War: Propaganda in Advertising

Not all propaganda was issued by the government. During the Great War, independent companies attached their names to images praising the war effort. One famous example of this was produced by the Hercules Powder Company.

The Hercules Powder Co. was a chemical manufacturing company based in Wilmington, Delaware. Formerly a part of DuPont, it emerged as an independent company when DuPont was broken up by anti-trust laws in 1910. The company established itself as a key munitions supplier during the Great War. In 1916, the company signed a lucrative contract with Britain to supply the country with the much-needed solvent acetone and with cordite, a smokeless propellant that replaced gunpowder in the late 18th century and was widely used by the British armed forces at the time. In addition to the acetone and cordite market, the Hercules Powder Company found lucrative income with its sale of gunpowder to the United States Army.

Throughout the Great War, the Hercules Powder Company hired a few well-known artists to produce calendars and magazine advertisements with deeply political themes that supported the war effort. One series stands out in particular—four separate images that tell the story of a single American family’s experience during the war.

The first painting in the series was created by Arthur Fuller and shows a soldier leaving for war, saying goodbye to his dog, and joining his regiment as they march by (“Not This Trip Old Pal,” 1917, Arthur Fuller). The next painting in the series was not painted by Fuller, but by Canadian illustrator Norman Price (1877-1951). It shows the same soldier’s family receiving a German helmet, or “pickelhaube,” in a package from him (“Bagged in France,” 1918, Norman Price). The painting also shows a service flag in the window with one star, informing passersby that there is one man in their home serving in the war. A War Savings Stamp flag and a Red Cross flag can also be seen in the background. The third painting in the series shows the soldier returning home, now in a captain’s uniform, to his son and his dog, which has had puppies (“A Surprise Party,” Arthur Fuller). The final painting is of the soldier taking his dog and slightly older son on a hunting trip (“This Trip, We’ll All Go,” Arthur Fuller). All four paintings show the same brick wall and white fence of the soldier’s front yard.

propaganda2The images are highly idealized and optimistic. They were obviously not meant to portray the harsh realities of the conflict, but rather to raise morale on the home front by focusing on key American ideals, such as family, service, and sacrifice. The image “Not This Trip Old Pal” found a second life in World War II, being used again in 1942 for a calendar released by the Hercules Powder Company.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ask Art. “Arthur Davenport Fuller.” Accessed August 31, 2011.http://www.askart.com/askart/f/arthur_davenport_fuller/arthur_davenport_fuller.aspx

Bushing, Dr. William W. “Giant Bladder Kelp.” Accessed August 11, 2001.http://www.starthrower.org/research/kelpmisc/kelp_mp.htm

Wikipedia. “Hercules Inc.” Accessed August 31, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules_Inc.

IN THE COLLECTION

Prints:

“Not This Trip, Old Pal,” 1917, artwork by Arthur Fuller, framed

“Bagged in France,” 1918, artwork by Norman Price

“A Surprise Party,” artwork by Arthur Fuller, framed

“This Trip—We’ll All Go!” by Arthur Fuller, framed

“Not This Trip, Old Pal,” 1942, artwork by Arthur Fuller, framed, with paragraph at bottom that reads,

“Providing the Sinews of War,” small advertisement from The National Geographic, framed

Magazines:

Advertisements in the following issues of The Literary Digest:
March 16, 1918, p. 109
July 6, 1918, p. 3
August 3, 1918, p. 53
August 31, 1918, “Backing the Fighter,” p. 53
November 23, 1918, “Thirty Thousand Tons of Powder,” p. 81
December 21, 1918, “From War to Peace,” p. 51
January 11, 1919, “A Stick of Dynamite,” p.44
January 18, 1919, “Turning to the Task of Peace,” p. 40
March 29, 1919, “Developing a National Asset,” p. 74

Artifacts:

Two metal 48 oz. Hercules Powder Bullseye Smokeless Powder canisters, one red and one yellow

Arts of the Great War Collection