The WPA, or Work Progress Administration, formed in 1935 as part of the New Deal. Over the eight years it existed, it created over 8 million jobs. While the main purpose of the WPA was to put Americans to work on projects like building roads and such, it’s better known for its art deco-style poster art.
The WPA did all kinds of posters on all kinds of topics like public heath:
…and war propaganda:
Posters range from very creepy:
…to fantastically bizarre:
And there is an alarming volume of syphilis posters:
A few years ago a coworker of mine made me vicious with jealousy—in her cubicle hung a calendar of WPA poster art aimed at generating public interest in the national parks. I plotted ways to steal it, but it would so obviously been me that I instead settled for begging her to give it to me once the year ended. The large 9 by 13 inch size made it perfectly legitimate wall art.
Since then I’ve ordered the calendar each year, building my collection of WPA poster art the cheapskate way—12 posters for $16? Yes, please! While I’d love to support Ranger Doug’s legitimate business of selling USA-printed glossies at $40 a pop, I’d rather put that $38.67 savings towards a trip to another park. Sorry, Ranger Doug. If I have extra bucks some day I’ll send them your way. Promise.
The goal is to collect a poster for each park visited, frame them, and hang them in my very own Hall of Parks. Trophies of my travels. Pretty vintage images of pretty places.
There are quite a few posters for tourist destinations, making them great reminders of places you may have visited if you have the patience to hunt around a bit for them.
And guess what? Since these are government-owned images, you own them too! Thanks, government! If you can find images of places you’ve been on the Library of Congress site, you are free to make your own prints, postcards, t-shirts, or mugs to commemorate your travels. Or to spread the word about syphilis. Whichever.