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The World Cannot Live Half Slave Half Free – The Prussian Blot…

  • Publisher: Committee of Public Safety, Connecticut ? (Publishers)
  • Date: 1918
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 51 x 76.5 cms


Striking 1918 US homefront propaganda poster, incorporating a map of Europe stained by the blood red “Prussian blot”

About this piece:

The World Cannot Live Half Slave Half Free – The Prussian Blot…

Some old hairline tears within image, expertly and invisibly closed & reinforced on verso, with minimal touching in of black line border colour. Small area of light toning within image centrally. 

As President Woodrow Wilson’s United States entered into the First World War in April 1917, he announced in his war message to Congress that the country was embarking on a crusade “to make the World safe for democracy”.  It is perhaps one of the greatest ironies of America’s democratic crusade against German despotism and barbarism abroad that, according to many critics, it initiated one of the most draconian attacks on American domestic civil liberties & constitutional freedoms since the time of the Sedition Act of 1798, concluding with its very own Espionage & Sedition Acts (June 1917 & May 1918). It also saw the US government embark on an intensive & wide-ranging propaganda campaign to “sell” the war to its citizens through the press, speeches, leaflets, posters & movies.  This striking poster, dating from early 1918, forms an interesting and integral part of that campaign. The principal vehicle for Wilson’s crusade was the Committee for Public Information (CPI), established on April 13th 1917 & chaired by George Creel, a former crusading journalist and longstanding Wilson loyalist.  The aim of the CPI was to convince & educate American citizens of the righteousness of American war aims, based upon the principles of national self-determination & social justice in international affairs.

Under the umbrella of a Federal Council of National Defense, individual State Councils of Defense (sometimes known as Committees of Public Safety) were now also established & staffed by volunteers. Committees assisted with the implementation of many federal and CPI policies & in some cases operated as local vigilantes, ferreting out & punishing citizens who displayed supposedly “disloyal” or unpatriotic behaviour.

A product of one such State Committee, possibly Connecticut, this poster adapts Abraham Lincoln’s famous Civil War era pronouncement that: the nation cannot live half slave, half-free. The Prussian Blot is a symbolic blood-red scar on the face of a map of Europe & Middle East. With its text, it demonstrates the growing demonization of Germany & rising domestic hysteria against all things German evoked by these US poster campaigns of 1918.