Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.
There are a number of types of propaganda, but for this post I will be only looking at examples from Canada during World War I. The purpose of propaganda is to influence or manipulate the actions, thoughts, and/or beliefs of a population towards a particular cause. Intended to further the agenda of a person or group, the information presented is selective (sometimes even skewed) in order to produce an emotional reaction.
Propaganda generally carries a negative connotation as it is commonly associated with Hitler and the Third Reich. However, the term and its usage has been around long before both world wars. According to ancient world historians, the oldest example of propaganda comes from the Persian Empire in 515 BC!
Please click on the pictures below to learn more about the tactics, themes, motifs, and history behind Canadian WW1 propaganda.
Loosely based off of the far less judgemental looking Uncle Sam poster/Britain’s 1914 Lord Kitchener poster, the Canadian government decided to create their own version given the success of the two aforementioned posters.
For those who were unable to go overseas, buying victory bonds was a way to support the war effort.
To get the not-so-eager to enlist, recruitment offices had a number of tactics including guilt, peer pressure…
…questioning one’s character and masculinity. These kind of posters also help to instill negative attitudes in the general public towards men who chose not to fight.
Following the initial first waves of volunteers, recruitment became harder and harder until conscription became a reality in 1917.
Women were targeted in wartime propaganda too. This is one of the few examples regarding women working. Most posters about women were not about them physically joining the war effort.
Rather, women-geared propaganda was largely about men, either getting them to enlist…
…or performing “housewife duties” for the benefit of men such as food rationing.
Another example from the Canada Food Board.
The image of families was popular in WW1 propaganda. Behind the mother is a Canadian Patriotic Fund office, which was an organization that raised money to support soldiers’ families.
If women weren’t housewives or mothers in wartime posters, usually they were victims instead. Images of murdered, beautiful women were popular as they were meant to stir up anger and hopefully get men to enlist. French-Canadians were the least likely to enlist, so over-dramatic and rhetoric heavy posters were common in Quebec.
If an innocent, dead woman wasn’t enough to piss people off, propaganda makers generally threw a dead baby in there as well.
Just what every little girl wants, victory bonds!
Not sure who the government was targeting with this poster unless beavers could purchase war bonds as well.
I don’t even know what to say about this one.
Excluding the previous poster, I actually had a hard time finding racist/jingoistic examples from WW1 that were made in Canada. WW2 is where everyone really stepped it up. Most of the anti-German posters were about presenting their war tactics as cruel and evil, as opposed to reducing the population to negative stereotypes.
“Canadian Wartime Propaganda,” Canadian War Museum (Online Exhibition). Accessed from: http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/propaganda/index_e.shtml
“Canadian War Poster Collection,” McGill University. Accessed from: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/warposters/