State Historic Site
Detail from Poster, "Wake Up America," 1917 (LOC)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2017 through December 2018
AS BAD AS it might sound, the war years were good for musicians and artists. There was a seemingly endless market for popular music addressing war themes, and the government kept illustrators – both the popular and the unknown ones – busy creating propaganda posters.
Thousands of patriotic songs were published between 1916 and 1919. Few of them sold more than a couple of hundred copies, but two of America’s most popular tunesmiths of the early 20th Century had massive hits with war-themed songs. While Over There was George M. Cohan’s patriotic tribute to the thousands of soldiers heading overseas to fight, Irving Berlin’s plaintive song, Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, accurately told the tale of a raw recruit getting used to the rigors of army life:
Oh! how I hate to get up in the morning.
Oh! how I’d love to remain in bed.
For the hardest blow of all,
Is to hear the bugler call;
You’ve got to get up, you’ve got to get up,
You’ve got to get up this morning!
In 1915, neutrality was popular in America, and so was the hit song by Bryan and Piantadosi, I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier. After America went to war, however, such pacifist sentiments were scorched by the flames of patriotism that lit up the land. As a result, the original tune was replaced by multiple versions of I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Slacker.
WHILE MAKING AND listening to music were considered recreational activities, reading was an essential pastime and Americans had scores of magazine titles to choose from. Some, like The Literary Digest and The Saturday Evening Post, provided solid reporting about war conditions.
Many others were aimed toward homemakers and contained recipes and tips on how to run a household. Before the war, most were illustrated with idealized images of women. During the war, covers became much more patriotic. Some were still illustrated with beautiful women, but these women were dressed in Red Cross uniforms or performing patriotic duties.
Four of the most popular magazine illustrators at this time were Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell. They also created some of the most influential propaganda posters of the era.