In March 2012 eight wooden crates of WWI posters and ephemera were transferred from the Mead Art Museum to the Archives & Special Collections. These WWI materials all came from John P. Cushing, Amherst Class of 1882, and a complete guide to the collection is now available.
John Pearsons Cushing was born in Lansingburgh, New York on September 5, 1861. He attended high school in Lynn, MA after which he studied for two years at Boston University. He transferred to Amherst College in 1880 and finished his B.A. with the class of 1882. He went on to receive his M.A. from Amherst in 1885. During the time he spent working on his masters degree he also taught at Holyoke High School. He acted as Vice-Principal of Holyoke High from 1889-1892.
From 1892-1894 Cushing attended the University of Leipzig. His dissertation, ‘The Development of the Commercial Policies of the United States’ was published in 1894. Cushing received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Leipzig that same year. Upon his return to the United States, Cushing became a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, IL from 1894-1900. He returned to New England in 1900 to begin serving as headmaster of Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT. In 1911 Cushing left Hillhouse in order to begin his own country day school for boys. Hamden Hall opened in Whitneyville (what is now Hamden) CT in 1912 where Cushing acted as headmaster until his retirement in 1927.
While headmaster of Hamden Hall School for Boys, Cushing encouraged his students to collect WWI posters. The above newspaper clipping reads “Posters of all sizes and descriptions, posters large and small, posters gray and sad, posters artistic and lurid, in fact every kind of poster that has in any way to do with the conflict of nations now raging is what [the students] are interested in. One of the objects of their collection, of course, is to obtain as great a variety and as many hard-to-get posters as they are able to, and competition is among them, though the spirit of friendly rivalry prevails.”
During the outbreak of the first World War, governments across the globe realized that they needed an effective way of communicating their needs to the general populace. Through the production of propaganda posters, they could reach a wide audience and create a unified cause for citizens to get behind.
Citizens contributed to the war effort by enlisting, constructing military supplies, conserving food, and buying war bonds. Artists contributed by donating their work to various government agencies for the propaganda posters. These colorful works of art appealing to patriotism and nationalism grabbed the attention of the viewer and communicated a message powerfully and succinctly.The visual appeal of the posters was made possible by the printing process known as choromolithography. In this process, a flat piece of limestone is used. The positive part of the image is applied with an oil-based ink. The rest of the stone is washed with a water-based solution. The oil repels water so that when the paper is applied, only the oil sticks and the rest of the sheet is kept clean by the water. This process can be done multiple times with different colors in order to achieve a poster print with as many colors as the artist desires. The most difficult part of this process is keeping the same alignment during multiple prints on the same poster.
This collection contains more than 700 World War I posters, ephemera, and propaganda collected by John P. Cushing (AC 1882). The collection includes work from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Canada and Spain. The finding aid for this collection includes item level detail about each poster. Many of the posters in this collection have been photographed and the images are available on the Archives’ Flickr page. To view items from this collection in the Archives, please contact the department in advance to request access at firstname.lastname@example.org.