E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Announcements

 World War I & World War II Canadian Posters


705 Canadian war posters, in English and French, created during the First World War and the Second World War..

WWI & WWI Canadian Posters DISC

As a dominion of the British Empire, Canadian participation in World War I was nearly automatic, when Britain declared war on Germany and its allies. The size of Canada's expeditionary force reached 620,000. By the end of the war 67,000 had been killed and 173,000 wounded. On September 10, 1939, the Parliament of Canada declared war on Germany. 1.1 million Canadians served in uniform during World War II. 45,000 Canadians were killed during the war, and another 54,000 were wounded.

This set contains 245 World War I and 460 World War II Canadian posters. The posters focus on the justification for war, war bonds, recruiting, productivity, morale, and home front war effort promotions. The posters often appealed to the English, French, Irish, and Scottish heritage of the majority of Canadian citizens. Posters often gave reminders of the suffering and peril of those in the nations from which Canadians descended.      

Canadian World War I posters were heavily influenced by the posters being produced in England. Union Jacks and "John Bull" like characters were often used. The posters demonstrate that many English-speaking Canadians saw no conflict between their Canadian identity and their status as British subjects. At the beginning of World War I, the Canadian posters contained much textual material. As the war raged on, Canadian war posters began to rely more on illustrations to convey a basic message. Greater use of blunt graphic images occurred as the protracted war became bloodier.

Canadian World War II posters from the beginning used strong graphics to carry a single message within the subject matter of the poster. Canadian posters put to use lessons learned in First World War about the effectiveness of dramatic and emotional war time appeals. According to Marc Choko, the author of "Canadian War Posters," the Canadian government consulted the Toronto advertising firm Young and Rubicam in 1942. The firm told the government that the most effective posters would be purely emotional, "appealing to sentiment through realistic images with photographic details, accessible to millions of middle-class citizens."

Highlights from this collection include:

"Victory Bonds Will Help Stop This. Kulture vs. Humanity"
This poster shows a Canadian soldier holding a drowned Red Cross worker and raising his fist at the sailors on a nearby German submarine. The poster is a reference to the sinking of the Canadian Red Cross transport ship Llandovery Castle.

"Are You Breaking the Law? Patriotic Canadians Will Not Hoard Food."
This poster shows a man and woman with bags of hoarded flour and sugar looking at the silhouette of a policeman walking by their blind-covered window. A Canada Food Board statement, detailing fines for hoarding, hangs on the wall.

"Once a German? Always a German!"
A strongly anti-German propaganda poster depicting stories of the atrocities committed by Germans during World War I. The illustrations include the occupation of Belgium, the bayoneting of a baby, the execution of civilians, the murder of Nurse Edith Cavell, and unrestricted submarine warfare that targeted innocent civilian ships. This non-government poster encouraged citizens not to hire Germans or buy German goods.

"If You Cannot Put the "I" Into Fight, You Can Put the "Pay' Into Patriotism by Giving to the Canadian Patriotic Fund"
A poster showing a soldier, and a worker side-by-side contributing to the Canadian Patriotic Fund.

"Canadiens Francais. Venez avec nous dans le 150ieme Bataillon C.M.R. Aider a la victoire du coq Gaulois sur l'aigle" Prussien
A poster showing, against backdrop of the tricouleurs, hero Lt. Col. H. Barré pointing to a scene of a rooster, "France," attacking an eagle, "Allemagne."

"All in One with the Irish Canadian Rangers 199th Overseas Battalion"
A poster appealing to Irish Canadians to put aside Irish/British conflict and join the war effort. The poster shows a map of all of Ireland and the battalion insignia of the 199th.

Canadian War Poster 1
Canadian War Poster 2
Canadian War Poster 3
Canadian War Poster 4
Canadian War Poster 5
Canadian War Poster 6
Canadian War Poster 7