Motor magazine, April 1917.
The Great War (1914 – 1918) saw an explosion of poster and pictorial artwork to help prosecute the war, by all of the combatant nations. It was the social media of the era.
As well as government advertising, companies worked hard to bring their war brand to public notice, and among the German examples was Dutchman Anthony Fokker’s buisness operating in, and for Germany at Schwerin – the capital city of northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
This advertisement is significant for featuring arguably the first dedicated fighter (in German, Jager, or ‘hunter’) aircraft, the Fokker E.I Eindecker (‘monoplane’) which was the first successful combat aircraft used in front line service fitted with a fixed forward firing machine gun, synchronised to fire through the arc of the propeller, the pilot aiming his whole aircraft at the enemy before pressing the trigger*.
It was a terrifically important type in the history of warfare and aviation. But the poster isn’t quite what it seems. Published in 1917 (I’d be interested in evidence of earlier publication) two years after the 1915 success of the ‘Fokker Scourge’ it’s effectively hearkening back to an earlier German success, from a later time when the war was not going as well for the Central Powers.
The design of the poster is interesting as well. A strong graphic design, the detail of the pilot is almost naive, while the critical details of the gun (tricky to depict clearly ‘head on’) the company logo and a frozen propeller blade are all given prominence. Easy for a modern reader to overlook is the medal in the top right, looking like nothing other than a wine bottle ‘quality’ award, but this is the Pour le Mérite awarded to several Fokker Eindecker pilots, for the highest valour. Very effective, subtle advertising of ‘quality’ in a unusual context. Finally, the gun and pilot sighting it directly at the viewer may be a visual cliche today, but in the period it would’ve been powerful, attention getting and memorable. It’s also dragging the viewer into confrontation with the poster, exactly like the ‘Your Country Needs You’ Lord Kitchner and H Montgomery Flagg Uncle Sam posters from the same war. This Fokker picture seems to be a genuine colour image, but again, any further info on it will be appreciated.
It would be easy (as I’ve just found!) to do an entire spread of Fokker Eindecker related posters, with, notably advertising by the aircraft manufacturer, engine maker, machine gun maker and featuring notable Fokker E.1 pilots as well as this one.
For the moment, though I’m sure we’ll return to the topic, let’s just stick with a couple of other versions.
James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.
*The adjectives matter, and while there were precursors to the Fokker E.I family, this is a reasonable summary. Note the post is about the picture, not aviation history!