The Atlantic Charter
Washington, DC: Office of War Information, 1943. This 1943 wartime broadside features the text of the Atlantic Charter, designed by W. A. Dwiggins, printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office, and issued by the U.S. Office of War Information. The 28 x 20 inches (71.1 x 50.8 cm) broadside is creased once vertically and thrice horizontally to produce eight panels, presumably for original distribution. The broadside is clean and complete, never framed or hung judging from the folds and absence of any tack holes or evidence of mounting. Negligible wear appears confined to extremities and a tiny hole at the intersection of the vertical and first horizontal fold (conveniently hidden in the "r" of "their" in the fifth line). Condition is very good, certainly framable.
America’s wartime propaganda agency, the Office of War Information (OWI), was founded by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order on 13 June 1942 and dissolved in August 1945. OWI’s mandate to sustain patriotic fervor exemplified the uneasy relationship between democratic ideals and wartime necessity. In the words of an OWI spokesman, OWI posters helped ensure that “…every man, woman and child should be reached and moved by the message.” In designing this OWI broadside, American typographer, book designer, and illustrator William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) joined a cadre of prominent artists, including Norman Rockwell, Ben Shahn, and James Montgomery Flagg, who contributed to OWI efforts. Dwiggins used a style that echoes historic proclamations, fitting for a document containing some of the most aspirational words of the twentieth century.
In August 1941, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill braved the Battle of the Atlantic to voyage by warship to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, where he secretly met with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their agenda included setting constructive goals for the post-war world, even as the struggle against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was still very much undecided and the U.S. had yet to formally enter the war. The eight principles to which they agreed became known as the Atlantic Charter. “That it had little legal validity did not detract from its value… Coming from the two great democratic leaders of the day… the Atlantic Charter created a profound impression on the embattled Allies… a message of hope… and… the promise of a world organization based on the enduring verities of international morality.” (UN) In addition to encapsulating the Allies’ postwar aspirations and catalyzing formation of the United Nations, the Atlantic Charter testified to the remarkable personal relationship between FDR and Churchill.
“Support for the principles of the Atlantic Charter… came from a meeting of ten governments in London shortly after Mr. Churchill returned from his ocean rendezvous. This declaration was signed on September 24 by the USSR and the nine governments of occupied Europe: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and by the representatives of General de Gaulle, of France.” Nonetheless, Atlantic Charter principles were remote from the realities of war in August 1941. Even after Newfoundland, to Churchill’s frustration, America had still “made no commitments and was no nearer to war than before the ship board meeting.” (Gilbert, VI, p.1176) In his live broadcast from Chequers on August 24, Churchill modestly introduced the Atlantic Charter thus: “…a simple, rough-and-ready war-time statement of the goal towards which the British Commonwealth and the United States mean to make their way…” Not until December 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, did America formally enter the war and not until October 1945 was the United Nations established, embodying the lofty principles of the Atlantic Charter. Even then, the Cold War was already nascent, ensuring that a geo-political reality based on those noble principles would remain as remote as it was in Placentia Bay in August 1941. As it remains today. Item #005966