Columbia Calls

August 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

World War I Posters often feature images of Women, not women fighters, not women workers, but women as a source of inspiration, as victory, liberty, freedom and justice personified.  Columbia Calls by Frances Adams Halsted is the perfect example.  In this image, Columbia, dressed in roman garb, carries the American Flag and beckons young men to enlist in the Army.

The poster was created in 1916, a full year before the US joined the war.  Battle had been underway for two years in Europe, and the little war which was supposed to last four months was now becoming the great war, and the US needed to prepare to do more than watch it unfold.

Columbia is a quasi mythological figure, first referenced in a poem by Phyllis Wheatley during the revolutionary war.  The name is said to be an amalgamation of Columbus and America.  Many cities, ships and institutions took on her name such as the District of Columbia, Columbia University, etc.

The Poem on the Poster, which was written by the artist himself, reads

Awake! ye men from dreams of Peace
Nor sleep when danger’s near,
But flight Old Glory to the breeze –
There are no cowards here!

Our fathers fought; like heroes died,
For years their blood they gave
That honor, home and Peace be ours:
Awake! Thy country save!

Our flag for honor ever stands
To lift the weak, to lead the free.
America, our blessed land,
Is calling, calling thee.

From North to South; from Sea to Sea
I hear the answering cry;
‘Thy sons forever shall be free
For thee will live and die!’

Then flight Old Glory to the main
Beneath her stars enroll,
For cowardice shall never stain
The glory of her folds.

The Stars and Stripes shall lead us on
A mighty host for right –
That Peace shall reign forevermore
And war from Earth take flight.

The poster is also adorned by a swastika, which at the time was a Native American symbol of Peace.

Eventually, the Statue of Liberty replaced Columbia as the most popular symbol of the United States.

That Liberty Shall Not Perish by Joseph Pennell

This original poster and many other World War One posters are available to view and purchase on our website

Elizabeth Norris


Vintage European Posters

established 1997

2201 Fourth Street

Berkeley, CA 94710

510 843 2201


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