PROPAGANDA: "Free Labor Will Win"

Introduction / Research / Analysis
The goal of history is to break down, then understand, the past. That was the goal of this project, to understand “Free Labor Will Win,” one of the largest and most unique posters in the Collection. However, the message is not as clear and understandable as the others. One must think about, and interpret, the meaning of this poster.

Evocative Meaning / Interpretation
The sheer size draws attention. The bottom section is a bright yellow with large black text. The top is very different. There are no words, only a large, main image. The photograph by Anton Bruehl features a man in full welding attire in front of a large American flag.

Posters like this were all about being able to serve one’s country. There was a war to be fought at home, too. The man in welding attire presents the audience with an average Joe in war work, handsome and attractive.1 There is sweat on his brow, symbolizing how hard he is working to help his country win the war. The poster shows the importance of the blue-collar worker.

The primary goal was to induce people to join the labor force. This poster suggests that “Free Labor” is labor that is not forced, that those who complete the labor do it by choice. With time, and much research, [our] ideas on what the poster means have shifted. [We] now feel that the theme has something to do with America being a free nation where democracy reins supreme, defeating the Fascists and Nazis who used slave labor in the production of goods for the war effort.

The poster portrays a sense of patriotism, of pride in being an American. The poster does not portray just the soldiers as heroes. It also portrays the workers in factories as heroes.

1Bob Irving. “Welding's Vital Part in Major American Historical Events,” The American Welding Society. Available from; Internet; accessed 21 October 2006.


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