Saturday, July 7, 2012

Flagg Day

James Montgomery Flagg's iconic image of Uncle Sam turned 96 years old yesterday.

Although most of us know the stern, finger-pointing Uncle Sam from the 1917 U.S. Army recruiting poster, he first appeared on the cover of Leslie's Weekly magazine over the caption, "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?"

Among the artist's other patriotic characters was the distaff Columbia. Flagg's Uncle Sam personified American power, authority and resolve, both at home and abroad, while his Columbia evoked Liberty, industry, unity, complacency -- human qualities, human aspirations, human failings.

In short, Uncle Sam embodied the U.S. government and everything it represents. Columbia stood for the People.

Of Flagg's many propaganda illustrations, perhaps my favorite is a menacing-looking Uncle Sam holding a pistol, from a 1917 Leslie's cover. It was captioned, "Get Off That Throne!"

I'll close with one more American propaganda image from the World War I years. This one was created not by James Montgomery Flagg but by renowned illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, a poster promoting the Boy Scouts of America's 1917 Liberty Loan Campaign.