Mysterious New England: Wartime Posters Discovered

By Carla Charter

ROCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – A project to organize and archive a storage area at a local library has led to the discovery of World War Posters and Red Cross records from the same era.

“One of staffers found the posters in the basement storage room where we store items such as bound periodicals, about a year ago. We believe that they may have belonged to the American Red Cross Rochester Chapter, as many were Red Cross specific,” said Brian Sylvester, Library Director.   The 190 posters are all from the World War I and World War II era.  “A lot look like they were fold out inserts from a magazine.  It is a fascinating collection, most were in great condition.  It was really neat to find.” Sylvester continued.   Also found at the same time were Red Cross records documenting their war time efforts to knit gloves and roll bandages for World War I.

The posters, all created to support the war efforts, include themes of saving food, Victory gardens and rationing. A handful were also library themed, showing libraries being set up in war camps and promoting the donation of books to the library who then sent them to the front line for soldiers to read.   After the posters were discovered the library moved them to a more secure spot then hired a person to photograph them, research the artists who created them and date them.

Reprints of several of the wartime posters are currently on display at the library.  “The originals would fade,” Sylvester explained.  “The library is launching a new website the first of the year and the collection of posters will be available to view on line then,” Sylvester said

The long-term plan is to keep the posters at the library in archival storage as there are no local Red Cross chapters in the area.  The Wright Museum of WWII in Wolfeboro, Maine, which has a similar collection, will be coming to the Rochester library to give a talk entitled Propaganda:  Patriotism, Posters & The Art of Persuasion on Nov. 29 from 6:30-8 p.m.  The Rochester Library’s collection of World War I posters will be on display at that time.

Those interested in accessing the Red Cross World War I Archives found at the museum or who would like more information on the upcoming talk can visit the library’s website at www.rpl.lib.nh.us