November 30, 2012
SLIDESHOW: “Books are Weapons”
by Christopher King
Formed by an executive order of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, the Works Progress Administration was a signature initiative of the New Deal and the most ambitious employment project in American history. The WPA hired millions of unskilled workers to build and repair infrastructure, parks, and other public works across the nation.
But it also employed writers, actors, and artists to create new books, plays, and murals in an effort to support skilled workers and make lasting contributions to American culture. Among these legacies of the WPA is a collection of hundreds of posters created by graphic artists to inspire and educate the public in an era when posters were still among the most prominent forms of public information.
One common theme is the importance of literacy. Below, check out our round-up of WPA posters about books.
Many of the posters advertise libraries and their services. In particular, the Library of Congress’s WPA collection has a trove of posters for the Chicago Public Library.
Many of the posters were meant to be displayed in libraries themselves. This series informs young patrons about the importance of taking care of library books.
A calendar-themed series of library posters incorporates books into charming seasonal illustrations.
A final set of posters simply illustrates the joys of reading.
Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.