Delivering the Message

Poster with caption "Someone Talked"
Poster with caption "Victory Bonds"
Poster with caption "I'll carry mine too!"
Poster with caption "Every Canadian Must Fight"

Posters played a major role in convincing Canadian men and women of their duty to enlist in the armed forces by focusing on the adventure and excitement of war. During WWII, women became more involved in the military and in wartime production industries. With slogans like "do the job he left behind" , posters encouraged women to seek employment in defence industries, positions previously considered to be suited only for men.

Female war workers were typified by the fictional "Rosie the Riveter" : confident, determined and with her sleeves rolled up, ready to do the work required. Homemakers, farmers and munitions plant workers were all urged to help "finish the job" , an euphemism for destroying the enemy.

War poster designs generally delivered one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Symbols - rather than depicting the horrors of war, such as the lone man dying because "someone talked" , implying even small amounts of information might aid the enemy and be leaked by spies
  • Dark colours and frightening imagery - brought the realities of war closer to home
  • Requests for public discretion and secrecy - often using a story format to illustrate how careless talk about troop movements can lead to acts of sabotage
  • Emotional appeals - to stir feelings of patriotism, hatred or revenge, as seen in the many American posters that appeared following the bombing of Pearl Harbour
  • Caricature - to ridicule and vilify the enemy or to dehumanize the target of attack.
  • Importance of everyone contributing something to their country - from working in war industries and food production to donating blood and conserving and recycling in the home. With the rationing of fuel, posters called for car-pooling and the reduction of unnecessary travel. Salvage efforts included saving waste paper, old tires, scrap metal, bones and fat for munitions production, and tons of materials were collected during scrap drives.
Poster with caption "Remember December 7th"
Posters with caption "Save Waste Bones" and "Housewives Wage War"


Exhibition Areas

Posters with caption "It's oue War" and "Fight"Select a link below to learn about this online exhibition: