Tag Archives: depression

Fun and inspiring: The Library of Congress online archives

My trip to the Library of Congress building later led me online to explore their equally amazing catalog of images. They have thousands of high-resolution images, from baseball cards to Japanese prints to Spanish civil war posters. And that’s just the prints and photographs section.

I preferred the collection of WPA posters. They combine beautiful design with period topics that can seem wacky today. Ride the El! Get tested for syphilis! Beat the Germans! Children’s piano competition! Over 900 governmental exhortations paint a vivid picture of 1930s life. I was amazed by the number of posters for illness: tuberculosis, syphilis (31 posters alone!), diphtheria, scarlet fever.

The posters are also great sources of design inspiration. Most have playful typography and engaging graphics. Many of them are available as high-resolution TIFFs, so you can print them out and have instant decor. My bathroom now has posters about syphilis and pneumonia. I’m sure my guests will feel safer.

And without further ado, some favorites:

As old as creation, Syphilis is now curable.

pneumonia strikes like a man eating shark led by its pilot fish the common cold.

The Art Institute of Chicago international exhibition of water colors

An orderly line is a safe line!

Stop and get your free fag bag– careless matches aid the Axis.

14th Illinois Cattle feeders meeting.

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Artists: Thomas Hart Benton

Previously I have talked about depression era posters and Soviet propaganda posters. Thomas Hart Benton was a depression era painter and muralist from southwest Missouri. Growing up in St. Louis, I was exposed to his art from a young age. His shading brings the people in his paintings to life. He often depicts scenes of work, as suits the depression. (Both of the images in this entry can be found on Wikipedia.)

Cut the Line (Wikipedia)

If you for some reason find yourself in Jefferson City, Missouri (unlikely), the capitol building has many of his murals. Then stop by Central Dairy, where you can get a pile of amazing ice cream for very little $. Then you have seen all there is to see in the illustrious capitol.