"Artists: Your Posters are on the Attack, Keep Them Coming!"

In one of his wartime posters, painter Amos Sewell portrays invading U.S. soldiers to generate support for the scrap metal drives, motivating the public to salvage a myriad of metal products. Sewell effectively blended D-Day, propaganda, and a plea for civilian involvement, to obtain support for the war effort. Americans recycled 800 million pounds of tin during the four-year war period.1

Children’s efforts to collect scrap metal were crucial, saving countless hours of adult labor. Moreover, [collecting scrap] was one of the few activities in which children could participate. In one instance, students in a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, elementary school collected 40,000 pounds of metal.2 A wall radiator could be converted into seventeen .30 caliber rifles; one lawnmower could be turned into six 3-inch shells; a shovel could be transformed into four grenades. An estimated 30 million children contributed 1,500,000 tons of scrap metal which, according to the War Production Board, could be used to build 425 liberty ships.3

The subtle message in the poster shines through: Contributing scrap metal to the war effort will increase production of these war materials and, in turn, lead to an Allied victory.

1Terrence H. Witkowski, “World War II Poster Campaigns, Journal of Advertising 32,no.1 (2003): 79.
2Robert W. Kirk, “Getting in the scrap: The mobilization of American children in World War II,” Journal of Popular Culture 225 (1995). [e-journal]http://proquest.umi.com (accessed 15 September 2006).
3Ibid. p. 226.


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