“Keep Him Free” Poster


In time of conflict, national symbols are frequently used to engage the populace and enlist them in the war effort.  Those symbols are particularly effective when they embody strength, stamina, and commitment.

This WWI-era poster, which dates to c.1917, evokes exactly those feelings.  America’s national bird, the bald eagle, towers over a squadron of U.S. airmen as they fly off to engage their enemies in the skies of Europe.  U.S. citizens at home, just like their compatriots abroad, are enjoined to defend the symbol of American liberty and strength.

At the time of this poster’s use, the U.S. government was engaged in a massive fundraising effort to help finance its involvement in the war.  As part of this campaign, it sold a substantial number of War Savings Stamps, which came in denominations of 10, 25, and 50 cents as well in $1 and $5 amounts.  Although the stamps did not collect interest, they were frequently redeemable for war bonds of a value equal to the contributed stamps.

The poster’s creator is Charles Livingston Bull (1874-1932), a prominent American artist and socialite.  Bull was born in rural New York, and was a passionate lover of nature.  His works, which frequently depict various forms of wildlife, earned him the praise of his contemporaries and landed him a job as Chief Taxidermist at the National Museum in Washington, D.C.

Bull’s work was regularly featured in prominent publications life The Saturday Evening Post, LifeCollier’s, and Country Gentleman, among others.  It was characterized by strong curvilinear elements and flat, strong presentation.  Bull furthered the dynamism of his works by closely cropping them, which creates a feel of action and urgency, perfect for wartime solicitations.

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