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Boys and Girls! You can help your Uncle Sam,
World War I Poster, 1918


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


World War I brought about great shifts in American society. As the nation was gripped by war, the entire population was mobilized to produce weapons and supplies for the troops. The outbreak of war sent many men off to fight overseas which opened opportunities for women to enter the workforce. The promotion of war stamps was common during World War I. The Department of the Treasury established the War Savings Organization to encourage people to buy several kinds of war stamps through marketing to different groups in American society. Children were encouraged to participate by buying war stamps with their nickels, dimes, and quarters. There were also massive campaigns to recycle materials which children were given the opportunity to participate in to earn money which could then be used to purchase war stamps. The hope was to encourage people to invest in the war effort by purchasing war bonds and war stamps. The whole country was encouraged to be part of the overall effort to help win the war. Posters like this, using patriotic imagery, was meant to inspire participation in investing in the war effort. 

As part of national campaign, posters like this one would have been seen in Virginia. They might be found in post offices, stores, train stations, and in other public areas to ensure that they would be seen by a wide audience.  

Citation: Boys and Girls! You can help your Uncle Sam, World War I Poster, 1918, Prints and Photographs, Special Collections, Library of Virginia


Social Studies: USII.1, USII.4 USII.5,WHII.9 VSU.9
Art: 4.18, 4.19, 5.18, 5.19

Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Look at It: Look at the poster, what do you think is the message of this poster? Who is the intended audience?

Post Activities

Analyze: This poster reflects ideas about gender which are consistent with the World War I period, but which today we may find outdated. Specifically, Uncle Sam appears to have a very different relationship to the boy featured in the poster from that of the girl. What message do you think was being sent about gender roles? Why would this type of imagery be used in this type of poster?

Social Media Spin: Create a social media past, tweet, or short video describing the poster and why they were produced during World War I. 

Current Connection: Posters were a popular way to encourage people to participate in the war effort. How do you feel about this poster and its message? Are there examples of how multimedia is used today to encouraged to support a national cause? List three and explain how they encourage people to support a national cause.