Museum's new exhibit features original WWII posters

U.S. government issued posters rallied support for the war and urged Americans to unite to meet the challenges of wartime. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe this spring, The Fairfield Museum and History Center presents a new exhibition Mobilizing the Home Front: Posters from World War II.

On view Jan. 16-May 10, Mobilizing the Home Front speaks to issues we still face today: sacrifice, responsibility, and the use of limited resources. It features original wartime posters from the Museum’s collection, by artists including illustrator Norman Rockwell, Jean Carlu, Victor Keppler, H. Price, and others.

Among the most recognized posters are Norman Rockwell’s series, illustrating the “Four Freedoms,” outlined by President Franklin Roosevelt address to Congress in January 1941: freedom of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear. These four fundamental freedoms defined the values central to American life and explained the ideals behind the country’s war aims.

Although the federal government initially rejected Rockwell’s images, explaining that they sought the work of “real artists” rather than illustrators, Rockwell’s finished paintings eventually appeared in four consecutive issues of the “Saturday Evening Post” in 1943 and went on to become some of the most widely-reproduced images of the era, adopted by the U.S. Treasury as the centerpiece of a massive drive for war bonds.

Shortly after the U.S. entered the war, the government hired Young & Rubicam, a leading advertising agency, to study the public’s reaction to different poster designs. It was determined that abstract and symbolic designs, such as Jean Carlu’s “Give ‘em Both Barrels” (1941) tended to be misunderstood and that in general, fine artists were unable to communicate as simply and clearly as commercial artists. Consequently wartime posters became more commercial in their style and messaging. A number of artists and illustrators from Westport were among those who contributed their talents to the poster campaign.

“One of the chief aims of the government’s poster campaign was to define the enemy, explaining why the U.S. needed to fight the Axis powers,” explains Fairfield Museum Curator Andrea Renner. Other messages included transforming the U.S. economy to all-out war production and appealing to women’s desire to serve their country, work in home front factories, and run efficient wartime households.

In 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt observed, “The many thousands of women who are…running their houses quietly and efficiently are contributing more to the war effort than they themselves realize.”

Dick Williams’ poster, “Of Course I Can” (1944) urges women to ration and can their own food in order to relieve pressure on the canning industry, which was dedicated to preserving food for soldiers. Women were also asked to raise “Victory Gardens” which became immensely popular and effective. At its peak, nearly 20,000,000 gardens accounted for roughly 40% of all vegetables produced in the United States.

The exhibition also includes a number of objects including war ration books issued to each American family, dictating how much they could buy to ensure the limited supply of goods were fairly distributed. Guides on How to Write Interesting Wartime Letters and Can War Marriages Be Made to Work? are also on view.

About the Fairfield Museum and History Center

The Fairfield Museum and History Center is a community cultural arts and education center established in 2007 by the 103-year old Fairfield Historical Society. Located at 370 Beach Road in Fairfield, CT, the Museum is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for students and seniors. Members of the Museum and children are free.

For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit

Norman Rockwell, (1894-1978) Freedom of Speech, 1943. War bond poster. Collection of the Fairfield Museum and History Center

Norman Rockwell, (1894-1978) Freedom of Speech, 1943. War bond poster.
Collection of the Fairfield Museum and History Center


Dick Williams, “Of Course I Can,” 1944

Dick Williams, “Of Course I Can,” 1944

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