Workers Lend Your Strength to the RED Triangle

As part of the ongoing exhibit of posters in Special Collections for Veterans Day, the students who created the exhibits also created entries for this blog. We will be posting these over the rest of the month of November.

Workers.  Lend Your Strength....

1992.004.5.10 Workers Lend Your Strength to the RED Triangle. Help the “Y” Help the Fighters Fight.

During World War I, posters were used to garner support for a wide range of causes. They relied on emotional appeal to engage those on the home front as active participants in the war effort. Workers Lend Your Strength to the RED Triangle: Help the “Y” Help the Fighters Fight was produced in 1918 by Gil Spear for the YMCA as part of the United War Work Campaign. The United War Work Campaign was a group of seven separate organizations that were tasked with fundraising for the war effort.
Distributed on the home front, this poster aimed to remind Americans that they and their labor were crucial to America’s success in World War I. The underlying message of the poster is one that emphasizes the importance of all Americans working toward a successful war effort. Spear conveys this message by showing the central figure moving a block emblazoned with the Red Triangle logo of the YMCA. Though the poster depicted but one worker moving one block, the viewer would have been left with the impression that many workers each doing their small part could have made a difference in the war. The poster also conveyed its message by encouraging the audience, the American public, to visually compare the three figures in the poster. The central figure is depicted as a laborer in traditional civilian clothes; behind him is a man in a uniform with a YMCA Red Triangle patch on his sleeve; below and beside these two men is the silhouette of a soldier in combat gear. By placing all three men in the poster Spear is suggesting to the audience that though they may have different uniforms they are all crucial to the war effort. By encouraging members of the audience to visualize their role in the war, this poster was successful in conveying its message of the importance of all citizens doing their part.
There are several World War I posters that are comparable with the Spear piece in Special Collections. The YWCA produced both Back our Girls Over There by Clarence F. Underwood and For Every Fighter a Woman Worker by Adolph Treidler. These works are thematically similar to the Spear poster in that they depict Americans in uniform doing their part. However, they do differ by making a direct appeal to women rather than men. A poster that better combines the importance of both genders is Strong in the strength of the Lord we who fight in the people’s cause will never stop until that cause is won by David Stone. It depicts upraised arms that belong to a male, a female, and a soldier with each arm holding a different tool. The implication being that all tools can be used as weapons and all Americans can participate in the war effort. This work also strikes a more religious and defiant tone than those produced by the Y.M./Y.W.C.A.


Primary Sources:

Spear, Gil. Workers Lend Your Strength to the RED Triangle: Help the “Y” Help the Fighters Fight.
University of Tulsa: Special Collections, 1918.

Stone, David. Strong in the Strength of the Lord We Who Fight in the People’s Cause Will Never Stop
Until That Cause is Won. University of Tulsa Special Collections, between 1910-1920.

Treidler, Adolph. For Every Fighter A Woman Worker. University of Tulsa: Special Collections,

Underwood, Clarence F. Back Our Girls Over There. University of Tulsa: Special Collections,

Library of Congress. “Posters: World War I Posters.”
(accessed October 11, 2012).

Secondary Sources:

Aulich, James. War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication. London: Thames & Hudson, 2011.

Colorado College: Tutt Library. “World War I Poster Collection.”
(accessed October 11, 2012).

Franklin and Marshal College Library. “F&M: World War I Poster Collection.” Booklet. (accessed October 11, 2012).

Paret, Peter, Beth Irwin Lewis, Paul Paret. Persuasive Images. Princeton: Princeton University Press,

Pearl, James. Picture This: World War I posters and Visual Culture. Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 2009.

Rawls, Walton. Wake Up, America! : World War I and the American Poster. New York: Abbeville Press,

University of North Carolina. “Documenting the American South.” North Carolinians and the Great
War. (accessed October 11, 2012).

University of Washington: University Libraries. “War Poster Collection.” (accessed October 11, 2012).

Guest post by Arley Ward


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *