Thursday, May 12, 2022

The National Archives Catalog Still Picture Branch safeguards World War !! Posters

“Don’t Be a Dope”: Will Eisner’s World War II Posters

The Still Picture Branch at the National Archives safeguards many series of posters used during World War II by the United States Government. The messages range from the promotion of Victory Gardens and the war effort to military recruitment, education, safety and more.

World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, “Of Course I Can!” National Archives Identifier 515098

World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, “Save by Sharing” National Archives Identifier 515337 


Cartoonist and writer Will Eisner (1917-2005) was one of the most significant pioneers and innovators within the 20th-century comic book industry. Though his career spanned over half of the century, Eisner is perhaps best known for one of his earliest works — his comic strip The Spirit, which debuted in newspapers in 1940. 


Soon after The Spirit began its run, Will Eisner was drafted into the Army during World War II. During his service, he created a series of illustrations to provide soldiers with helpful information about safety and preventive maintenance. Illustrating for Army publications and maintenance manuals, Eisner created the character “Joe Dope” who, through his misadventures, reminded soldiers of the importance of maintaining their equipment properly.

World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, “The book says to run a car right you should keep every nut and bolt tight.” National Archives Identifier 514727 

World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, "On high over enemy soil the guns can't be cocked or recoil - the lubricants froze - and the gunner now knows Joe Dope used the wrong kind of oil."  National Archives Identifier 514714

Joe Dope features in several posters depicting Eisner’s “what not to do” illustrations within the World War II Posters 1942-1945 series (44-PA) which is digitized and available in its entirety in the National Archives Catalog and maintained by the Still Picture Branch. Please note that there are posters within the World War II poster series (44-PA) that may have copyright restrictions. 

World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, "Joe Dope has a way that's unique, Of toting a gun 'cross a creek.” National Archives Identifier 514707

World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, "Joe Dope has a vague premonition, That he's in for some quick demolition." National Archives Identifier 514705 


Many thanks to Todd Crumley of the Still Picture Branch at the National Archives in College, Park MD. This feature was adapted from Todd’s blog post on the Unwritten Record blog: “Don't Be a Dope”: Will Eisner's World War II Posters


An additional series of posters consists of original artwork and a few photographs for World War II-era posters. A number of works of art were created by renowned artists, or those who later grew in popularity. The series is entirely digitized and available in the National Archives Catalog.

Original Artwork for World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, “Must! Shall!” by James Montgomery Flagg. National Archives Identifier 7387426

Original Artwork for World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, “Books Are Weapons In The War Of Ideas.” OWI no. 7. By S. Broder. National Archives Identifier 7387451 

Original Artwork for World War II Posters, 1942 - 1945, Woman carrying groceries as soldiers marching with rifles on their shoulders in the background. By Valentino Sarra. National Archives Identifier 7387506

For more information on World War II posters from these and other series, check out the following Unwritten Record posts:

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