Washington, DC: Work Projects Administration (WPA), circa 1942. This vividly hued original Second World War poster features U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. It was produced by FDR’s Works Projects Administration. Originally measuring 16 x 20.5 inches (40.6 x 52.1 cm) and printed on heavy ivory stock, the poster features portraits of Roosevelt and Churchill linked in twin gold ovals. Extending up from the ovals at an angle forming a steep “V” are U.S. and British flags. In the V between them is a rendering of the Statue of Liberty backed by a “LIBERTY | FOR ALL” design, and above that the title banner “United for Victory”. Below the twin portraits is further decoration and two banners declaring “Democracy Shall Not Die” and “God Gave Us Courage | America Gave Us Strength”. Between the two banners in small print is the name of the artist, “Glen Osborn”, who was apparently active in the world of hand-drawn first day stamp covers for the U.S. Postal Service.
Condition would be near fine but for one major defect. While the poster has no fading, loss, tears, or appreciable soiling, approximately one inch of the blank left side margin has been trimmed, reducing the dimensions to approximately 15 x 20.5 inches. Fortunately, this affects only the unprinted margins, stopping short of the U.S. Flag that denotes the left edge of the image itself. We discount the price steeply in view of the loss and despite its being confined to a blank margin.
Few relationships between world leaders proved as important and world-defining as the relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. On 11 September 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had already been President of the United States for six and a half years. By contrast, Winston S. Churchill had only been re-appointed as Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty a week prior, after the outbreak of the Second World War.
While Roosevelt had been leading his own nation, Churchill had spent most of the 1930s out of power and out of favor, warning against the growing Nazi threat and often at odds with both his Party leadership and prevailing public sentiment. But on 11 September, President Franklin Roosevelt initiated what would become a world-defining relationship and correspondence. FDR wrote, “My dear Churchill, It is because you and I occupied similar positions in the [First] World War that I want you to know how glad I am that you are back again in the Admiralty… I shall at all times welcome it if you will keep me in touch personally with anything you want me to know about.” (ed. Kimball, Complete Correspondence Vol.I, p.24) Churchill responded with the amusingly transparent code name “Naval Person” which he changed to “Former Naval Person” when he became prime minister in May 1940.
It was FDR who, in response to a direct appeal from Churchill, conceived the notion of Lend-Lease, providing the material and morale lifeline Britain needed to resist the very real threat of Nazi invasion – notionally the “Strength” to which the final banner in this poster refers.
During the war, both men balanced and strove to reconcile and constructively align the often disparate strategic perspectives and imperatives of their two nations. Neither man would be permitted to preside over the peace they fought so hard to secure. Roosevelt died at the beginning of his unprecedented fourth presidential term on 12 April 1945. Churchill lost his premiership when his wartime government fell to Labor in the General Election of July 1945.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA), the publisher of this wartime poster, was created in 1935 in the depths of the Great Depression as part of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. The WPA ultimately employed more than 8.5 million people on 1.4 million public projects. Some of those projects and people were those with skills in the arts. The WPA was renamed in 1939 and disbanded in 1943, by which time wartime production had eliminated the need for the agency. Item #006224