Monday, September 3, 2012

WPA Book-Related Posters

Created by order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of his New Deal, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was funded by Congress with the passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935. The WPA was initially intended to be an extension of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration work program, which funded projects run by states and cities.

The purpose was to offer relief to struggling, unemployed Americans during The Great Depression. Roosevelt and Hopkins (Roosevelt's close adviser who was responsible as the spear-header of the program) felt that the route to economic recovery and the lessened importance of the "dole" would be through employment programs such as the WPA.

Because of the WPA, millions of unskilled workers were employed to carry out public work projects including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

I remember my Grandpa talking about working with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) which was one of the divisions of the WPA. It was one of the most popular of the New Deal Programs. During the time of the CCC, workers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.

Really, this post does eventually have something to do with books. I'm getting there...

The Federal Art Project (FAP) was the visual arts arm of the WPA program. It operated from August 29, 1935 until June 30, 1943. The FAP commissioned unemployed artists to create public service posters, murals and paintings. Jackson Pollack was one of the commissioned artists! Unrelated to the FAP, Paula over at The Culture Enthusiast posted this terrific film of Pollack.

The original silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut posters were produced in the District of Columbia and seventeen states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington. The paintings depict various programs and projects sponsored by the government: health and safety programs, cultural programs which include art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances, travel and tourism, educational programs, and community activities. The posters were printed mainly on poster board, but they were also produced as one-sheet and multi-sheet designs and were sometimes signed by the artist.

Of the 2,000 posters known to exist, the Library of Congress (LOC) boasts the largest collection with 907 in their custody.

Since this is a book blog, I thought I'd highlight some of the bookish posters resulting from the FAP.


Source: LOC
This poster by an unknown artist is titled, In March Read the Books You've Always Meant to Read. It was commissioned for an Illinois statewide library project, and shows a windblown woman with books by authors such as Scott, Dumas, Thackeray, Dickens, and others.



Source: LOC
This great poster, done by artist Arlington Gregg, depicts a group of children holding a sign that says that they are members of the be kind to books club. The title is, as you might expect, Be Kind to Books Club Are You a Member? This piece of art was also done in Illinois for the WPA Art Project.



Source: LOC
How appropriate is this poster? It's titled September. Back to work...back to school, back to books. No artist is listed. It was done for the WPA Illinois Statewide Library Project and shows a boy holding a book in his raised hand. The LOC notes that this poster in their collection is date-stamped on verso: August 30, 1940.



Source: LOC
Also done for the Illinois WPA Art Project. No artist is listed for this poster, which promotes reading and library use with children near bookshelves.



Source: LOC
Titled, The Curtain Rises...Contemporary Plays and Books on the Current Theatre by an unknown artist. It was also commissioned for the Illinois WPA Art Project, and features a conductor standing before an open theatre curtain. The LOC also notes that this poster in their collection is date-stamped on verso: Jan 8 1942.



Source: LOC
This poster by an unknown artist is an ad for bookmobile service provided by the Chicago Public Library. The LOC notes that this poster is date-stamped on verso: Mar 25 1941.



Source: LOC
I love this adorable poster done for the Illinois WPA Art Project by artist Sara Cleo. It promotes the use of libraries by children, showing a child in pajamas and slippers running through a village at night.



Source: LOC
This poster by an unknown artist was designed to promote reading for the Illinois WPA Art Project. The LOC notes a hand-written date on verso: 12/31/40.



Source: LOC
No artist is noted for this poster done for the NYC WPA War Services, encouraging citizens to use the resources at the Shomburg Collection of the New York Public Library to learn more about African and African American history and culture. It is exhibited in American Responses to Nazi Book Book Burning  in the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. One way the Nazis cleansed the country of "un-German" thoughts was through censorship. Books were one of the first casualties of the Nazi regime when Hitler seized power in 1933.



Source: LOC
Another piece done by Arlington Gregg for the Illinois WPA Art Project, this poster shows a boy with an umbrella sitting on an open book.



Source: LOC
Arlington Gregg is the artist for this poster encouraging careful handling of books which was also done for the Illinois WPA Art Project. It shows a boy walking on a book with gummed up hands.



Source: LOC
Sara Cleo did this poster in Chicago for a book about African American history, showing a man holding broken chain and lamp. It was done for the Illinois WPA Art Project, 1940.



Source: LOC
"Freedom of expression, of religion, from want, from fear everywhere in the world." Done by an unknown artist between 1936 and 1941, this poster promotes President Franklin D. Roosevelt's four freedoms, showing a globe, two books, and the hand and torch from the Statue of Liberty. This piece is also displayed in the American Responses to Nazi Book Burning collection at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.



Source: Art Institute of Chicago
Books for Young America by an unknown artist commissioned by the Illinois WPA Art Project, Chicago for the Statewide Library Project.



Source: Art Institute of Chicago
"Books are the legacies that genius leaves to mankind...Addison" Done by an unknown artist and commissioned by the Illinois WPA Statewide Library Project.



Source: Art Institute of Chicago
"Big books, little books, medium sized books too; all kinds of story books for you, and you, and you." Unknown artist commissioned by the WPA Illinois Statewide Library Project.



Source: LOC
Arlington Gregg did this poster for the Illinois WPA Art Project. A recurring theme I'm seeing in his work, this piece again focuses on careful handling of books.



Source: LOC
I especially adore this poster, again by Arlington Gregg for the Illinois WPA Art Project. I detest dog-ears. So yes. A bookmark would definitely be better!



Source: LOC
Isn't this adorable? This poster done by Arlington Gregg promotes reading among children. The LOC notes a date stamped on verso: Mar 27 1940.


Source: LOC
The artist is unknown on this poster promoting reading commissioned by the Iowa WPA Federal Art Project. LOC notes a date stamped on verso: May 25 1939.



Source: LOC
Artist unknown. Commissioned by the Illinois WPA Art Project featuring times of book talks at the Chicago Public Library. LOC notes stamped date on verso: Nov 1 1940.



Source: LOC
This poster done by artist, Shari Weisberg, promotes the study of science by featuring a microscope, an open book, and an eye. It was commissioned by the Illinois WPA Federal Art Project. The LOC notes a date stamped on verso: Sep 7 1939.



Source: LOC
This poster was also commissioned for the Illinois WPA Statewide Library Project. "October's 'bright blue weather' a good time to read!" done by artist, Albert M. Bender shows a boy reading a book surrounded by a bat, ghost, witch, and other Halloween images. LOC notes a date stamped on verso: Aug 30 1940.



Source: LOC
Also done by artist Shari Wiesberg  this adorable poster was commissioned by the Illinois WPA Statewide Library project. "A trip around the world at story hour time - story hour club" shows two children on a large book, looking down at mountains and trees. LOC notes date stamped on verso: Nov 28 1940.



Source: LOC
"Funny Side Up" by Albert M. Bender is a poster promoting reading, showing a boy's smiling face and an open book. It was commissioned by the Illinois WPA Federal Art Project. The LOC notes a date stamped on verso: Sep 7 1939.



Source: LOC
This poster, done by an unknown artist, was done to promote Chicago public library week. Commissioned by Illinois WPA Art Project features a globe and a book on North America. LOC notes date stamped on verso: Mar 25 1941.


Source: LOC
"Story Hour" commissioned by the Illinois WPA Federal Art Project was done by Shari Weisberg. This poster shows a girl sitting at the knees of a woman holding an open book. LOC notes date stamped on verso: Apr 1 1939.

I've pinned the images here on Pinterest, if you're interested.

That's all I have for now. Have a terrific week!
Talk to you soon,
Angela






4 comments:

  1. Great posters! Thanks for sharing them with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure Alex. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  2. This post makes me like President Roosevelt and all the unnamed artist's even more... the posters are lovely!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you like, barefoot. I agree, it was a terrific opportunity for out of work artists. Thanks a million for coming by.

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