everything old is new: ‘green’ posters from wpa

THESE POSTERS FROM THE WPA ERA SEEM SO FRESH, I just had to share them after my friend with a keen eye for vintage, Pam of Retro Renovation, tipped me off yesterday. She emailed me the link to the Library of Congress treasure trove the graphic beauties live on in, called “By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943.” The messages–of conservation, hard work, simplicity, rich with phrases like “preserve food” and “spare our trees”– just struck me as right for now. Have a look at a slideshow of what I found.

The Library of Congress collection includes 908 original posters produced as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Of 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the LOC’s collection of more than 900 is the largest, the site explains. I simply searched by keywords for topics like “trees” and “farms” and “flowers,” but there are nearly 900 more to be enjoyed, on other subjects.

  1. Brenda says:

    I was in El Paso, Texas last month and they had a bunch of these hanging in the Art Museum. Very cool. We think we’re all progressive with our eco-friendly everything, and they were doing it as part of the war effort! We could probably learn a thing or two from the older generation about how to live green!

  2. Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm says:

    Great posters! They had the right idea back then. Where did we stray off the path?

  3. Anne Mallampalli says:

    How can I get a poster like these now? I’m especially interested in “Pennsylvania” – does any one out there know?

  4. Liz Stein says:

    How much fun! I love the graphic impact: “Plains farms need trees”! The British Library has an online gallery of images, but much broader in time, taken from their collection: http://www.imagesonline.bl.uk/results.asp?cat=NATUFRU
    is their gallery of Fruit and Vegetable prints from their books, but they also have wonderful landscapes and gardens, if you search under those keywords. Everything from illustrations from Alice in Wonderland to painstaking aerial views of seventeenth-century palace gardens.

  5. Jane says:

    Pennsylvania stopped me in my tracks; “Only God Can Make a Tree” and “Spare Our Trees” suffused me with delight of color and simplicity and impact. Thank you for finding them, and all the others, and sharing them with us. It must have been so hard to winnow them down.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Jane. Yes, there are some very tender moments here, even if I do not live in PA. I am glad you like. I hope you will come say hello again soon. :)

  6. Earth Girl Knits (Emily) says:

    These posters are beautiful! They are especially exciting to me because I am from DuPage County, and Hinsdale is a couple of towns away from me. (Two of the posters say “DuPage County” and “Hinsdale” on them.) Having a flower show is totally something Hinsdale would do now!

  7. Kitty says:

    Wonderful media collaboration between you and Pam, M, so glad you two have hit it off. The two most ferocious bloggers I have ever had the pleasure to work with.


    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Matt. Aren’t they great — and thank you for the contemporary resource. Nice to “meet” you and hope you won’t be a stranger.

      @Kitty: All your fault. :)

  8. Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings says:

    Margaret, these are just wonderful. However, if we can’t get these, Joseppi has created new images like these. I bought the chickens, of course, and they came on beautiful paper. I plan to buy two more and hang them in my dining room.

    Thanks for the heads up.~~Dee

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rebecca. Now you have my attention! I didn’t even know about this whole world, other than a stray image or two, until recently. I can’t get the miniurl to load, however (but have been through the wonderful catalog already, thanks).

  9. Robin says:

    Thank you Margaret for this topic! I have long been a fan of the WPA posters. There are so many that we gardeners would love. I love the agricultural, farming, putting up your own food, they are countless. And there are a few websites out there where they have the reproductions at an affordable price. The artistry is fabulous.

  10. Ron Kohler says:

    Thanks for the WPA poster resource. I am an elementary art teacher and these are great examples of vintage graphic design that I will use in my classes. For those folks who really want reproductions of the posters, all you need do is download the very high resolution JPEG versions from the Library of Congress website and then take them on a CD or jump drive to a photo printing outlet and ask for color enlargements. For even better quality, find a shop with high-quality laser printing that serves the printing and graphic design community.

    Margaret, I read your peaceful book while the snow was still falling and now it’s off to make war with weeds in the garden!

    1. Margaret says:

      Thank you, Ron, for the smart how-to, and welcome! I am making war with the weeds here already, suddenly, too — and thankful that it’s not war of any other kind; too much of that on the planet! More peace is definitely called for. :) See you soon.

  11. Just wanted to take the time to thank you for sharing the WPA posters. As a designer, gardener and lover of vintage I was so excited to see these and really love the muted color combinations. I know I will enjoy your blog and gardening website. Thanks again!

  12. Marcy says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. I love these posters. I studied Graphic Design in school. I have always thought that I was born in the wrong era. I feel like a kid in a candy shop looking at them.

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