Clash of Symbolic Eagles

Today’s Poster is an incredibly strong design, the equal in some ways of the ‘Your Country Needs You’ Kitchener / Uncle Sam example, though I’m sure this is far less well known.


The poster was created by Charles Livingston Bull, 1874 – 1932,  and produced by the Alpha Litho. Co., Inc., N.Y. Taking advantage of the national symbols of the American bald eagle to attack the German adler was a propaganda stroke of genius, yet Bull has managed to develop a dynamic, attention grabbing design, despite the underlying unreality of the action depicted. Bull’s other art in the Library of Congress collection are mostly pastoral images of animals in their natural environment, this, and another featuring a patriotic eagle are definite outliers to his work, but clearly he knew his eagles.

The title and exhortation; ‘Join the Army Air Service, be an American eagle!’ was a valid strong one as the USA joined the World War after several years of isolationism. The reality was somewhat less immediate or powerful, as the American aero industry simply didn’t exist, and the country was more a semi-rural economy rather than the industrial powerhouse of later years we are familiar with. The ‘American eagle’ airmen initially relied on French, Italian, and British aircraft and equipment to get into battle in the early stages, though the nation was quickly gearing up to support them. But what an artwork!

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Poster from the Library of Congress collection, link here. Another example here.


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