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Liberty - part 3 of 4
The depiction of the actual Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor was also widely employed on American military cards. It played a duel role here as both symbol and landmark. New York was a major debarkation port for soldiers departing for France, and many cards capture the troops final goodbyes. These tend not to be excessively sentimental but simple farewells to loved ones, reminding them that they have important work to do and that they will be back soon. The same sort of image was also used in conjunction with troops returning home; only here the captions were often more celebratory, though simple. This theme is also represented on real photo cards taken from the decks of actual troop transports in New York Harbor.
The sentiment on most American military themed cards is lighthearted, because they were largely created by many of the same artists that designed greeting and holiday cards. The War however brought about the formation of The Committee on Public Information under George Creel, to provide government sponsored propaganda. Within it was the Division of Pictorial Publicity headed by Charles Dana Gibson, who recruited some of America’s best artists and illustrators to the cause. While many of the pictures they created were meant to inspire enlistment, those promoting the sale of war bonds sometimes took on a more ominous tone. A good example comes from Joseph Pennell who depicts a German attack on New York with U-boats and bombers streaming past the ruins of Liberty. It is not just a statue that is imperiled from lack of public support for the War, it is liberty itself. The connection between statue and allegory could not be greater. The name Liberty Loan only enhances the association.
Deutschland made two unofficial visits to America to pick up essential materials. These events were captured on many postcards by American and German publishers, but perhaps the most unusual is the one pictured above from E.P. & Co. While her two ports of call were Baltimore and New London, this German postcard commemorates the visit with the vessel pictured at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Here Lady Liberty is used to represent the United States, not New York; but it still seems to function here as much as a landmark as a symbol.
Many cards were made over the years depicting the statue of liberty with aircraft flying above her, whether it be an airplane or Zeppelin. While this connection to the most modern aspects of the 20th century helped her from turning into a 19th century relic, many actual air shows and demonstrations did take place around the statue probably as much out of opportunity as from symbolism. During World War One such images took on additional meaning as it became impossible to divorce airplanes from combat. Even in the simple reward card above from 1918, we must ask are these planes friend or foe? The card is rendered both playful and ominous at the same time.
Worries over the statue’s destruction were not so far fetched. At the end of July 1916 German saboteurs blew up the giant Leigh Valley Railroad pier known as Black Tom that extended a mile out from the Jersey shore just south of Communipaw. This facility held two million tons of munitions bound for the Allies in Europe, and when it exploded it caused havoc and destruction around the entire harbor. The Statue of Liberty, just to the south, was riddled with bomb fragments. Her arm was so badly damaged that the practice of allowing visitors up to her torch had to be suspended. I do not know if there are any postcards that include Lady Liberty in this story, but this incident put an end to everyday photographs being taken from this unique perch.
While the Statue of Liberty achieved a more prominent status in the Great War that most were reluctant to diminish, she could still be used in informal settings, provided it was in a patriotic fashion. The real photo card above from 1918 above depicts the Corn Palace in South Dakota, a community pavilion that was traditionally decorated with murals made of corn at harvest time. One of its chosen motifs is the colossus in New York, obviously no longer just a local tourist attraction.
Despite the growing presence of Uncle Sam and the redefining of the Statue of Liberty, the allegory of Columbia had not yet died off during World War One. It was still a potent image in many peoples minds, which allowed its continual use in propaganda. On the card above from 1917 we are presented with a solitary woman; and even without a caption we can tell who she represents and that this is a patriotic image by the few symbols that accompany her. In the fundraising preparedness parade pictured in the real photo postcard below, liberty is also represented by Columbia. In contrast the much more festive real photo card from Bavaria pictured further below shows a parade float carrying a large cutout of Lady Liberty. Even though it was published at a much later date, it is a reminder that representations of Columbia are not suitable for overseas cards. The statue in New York Harbor was becoming the universal symbol of liberty.
The United States was represented by more then one female symbol in a time when a plethora of personifications were widely in use. Adding to this confusion was the lack of adherence to classical symbolism in their presentations, and sometimes the mixing of symbols as well. On the German card above from World War One we are presented with a woman in flowing robes holding a torch in her outstretched arm. If an American card there would be no doubt that this was a rendering of Liberty, but we can no longer rely on looks alone. Here the same pose represents Victory, but we are left wondering if the visual connection between the two was purposeful.
In 1831 Samuel Francis Smith borrowed the well known melody of God Save the Queen and put his own words to it. The result, My Country, ’Tis of Thee grew so fast in popularity that it began to be used informally as the national anthem of the United States. By the 20th century this patriotic song was so ingrained in American society that any number of its lyrics could be siphoned off for other purposes without loosing the original reference. On the card above from 1918 the most notable line from the song is printed out but it plays tribute to the nation not the song. The United States is not just the sweet land of liberty, it has come to represent liberty.
The arrival of Christopher Columbus during his first voyage to the Americas on October 12, 1492 was first marked in the United States by a celebration in New York City in 1792. Many more commemorations followed, but they were very sporadic. By 1906 Columbus Day was only celebrated as an annual holiday in Colorado. During the First World War, the 426th anniversary of his arrival was celebrated in 1918 as Liberty Day so that it could be better tied into the war effort. This event did not focus on Columbus as much as the evolution of liberty in America so that it could be used to raise money for war bonds. Posters were produced but it seems that postcards only played a minor role in its promotion. Since Liberty Day was propaganda driven, it faded away in the postwar years. Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1937.
Many of the Allied victory cards issued at the end of the Great War depict the Statue of Liberty, which is often paired with a portrait of President Wilson. It is interesting that that even when all Allied leaders are represented on a card, it is the Statue of Liberty that is most often used to represent their overall cause. While this sort of representation might be expected from American publishers, it is the Europeans, most notably the French that use this symbolism the most often.
While the Statue of Liberty was already becoming universally recognized as a symbol of America, it was the French who retained its original meaning the longest. To them this gift still represented the friendship between America and France that was manifest in Lafayette’s assistance to the American Revolution and in Pershing’s recent arrival in France. Although Liberty was used to express friendship on many cards, we see it achieve greater meaning on another French victory card by A. Noyer where the Statue of Liberty is paired with the Lion of Belfort praising the fruits of a successful alliance. The lion symbolizes French resistance in the Franco-Prussian War, but Lady Liberty represents all of Allied resistance to the German Empire. Though the Lion of Belfort is suitable here as a military symbol, it was probably chosen for this pairing as both colossal statues were the work of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.
Perhaps a more obvious pairing is New York’s Statue of Liberty with the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Both structures not only share the same engineer, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, they are both colossuses of modern technology that became popular symbols of their home countries. While the two were most often paired on transatlantic steamship advertising, they could also be used on cards with political overtones. On this souvenir card of the post-WWI occupation, the personification of victory, welcomes an American soldier signaling all is well in Europe again.
In the immediate postwar years it is easy to find the idea of liberty carried on many postcards. While some of these were celebrations of the return of liberty, others represented hopes for liberty as the Allies decided the fate of nationalist struggles for independence. Some of the best examples come from Czechoslovakia, which may have as much to do with their strong printing industry as their independent spirit. The card above clearly evokes the spirit of the French Revolution, perhaps to help remind the French deciding their fate that the Czechs also embrace the same republican ideals. On the more complex card below we are presented with a skyline of Prague with the Statue of Liberty rising out of the mist. While the stars and stripes of America are displayed to honor the role it played in achieving Czech independence, The text refers to the French revolutionary slogan of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
During the Great War the emotional resonance still attached to the Statue of Liberty by countless numbers of immigrants was exploited on propaganda by various official state agencies. This can easily be seen on cards where a direct appeal is made for immigrants to show their gratitude and allegiance for being allowed to enter the United States. In some cases they are asked to support the War by purchasing Liberty Bonds. On the card above from the U.S. Food Administration a more general appeal to conserve food is requested. The sharp decline in immigration during the postwar years led to fewer customers for similarly themed cards. Liberty was still pictured in conjunction with ocean liners, only now they had more to do with high end travel.
In many Kingdoms the right of association was suppressed directly or subject to official approval to thwart any anti-government conspiracies. In France, the Associations Act of July 1901 abolished all restrictions on the right of association except where the leadership resides abroad. This act was specifically designed to strengthen the civil side of the republic at the expense of the Catholic Church. While some saw this as a blow for liberty within the anticlerical framework of the French Revolution, others demanded that this law be repealed in the name of liberty as in the card above. It seems quite unusual that a French publisher was using the Statue of Liberty as a symbol in a political cartoon, especially at this early date. She more naturally began to appear on American political cards as she turned into a national symbol and representative of the nation’s ideals. As such she became ideally suited for satire and protest, and was used this way for years to come. On the card below published by the Religious Liberty Bureau in 1921, the Statue of Liberty is bound in chains to remind us that the ideals we value and even the republic itself can be taken away if we do not remain vigilant.
While the Statue of Liberty opened with great fanfare in 1886, little was done afterwards to provide for its maintenance. Bedloes Island was still under the Army’s jurisdiction though the statue was turned over to the Light House Board as a navigational beacon, and neither was interested in making improvements or repairs. Congress ever fearful that appropriating funds for monuments to national glory was beyond their constitutional mandate, made everything but the most dire repairs impossible. Tourists were only able to visit the island through a private ferry run by the American Committee. The Great War softened attitudes, and as the statue gained status as a national symbol reformers found limited funds to at least illuminate the statue in 1916. On October 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the Statue of Liberty a National Monument but not much work was done on the island until 1931 when proper lighting was installed. This new look inspired many publishers to create postcards of the statue at night as on the linen card below from Curt Teich.
Things began to change at a faster pace once the Roosevelt administration created the National Park Service in 1934 and all of Bedloes Island was put under their jurisdiction in 1937. Fort Wood by this time was a cluttered mass of old army barracks and warehouses, some in a state of collapse, and now they began to be demolished. Only the old stone fort that served as the statue’s base would remain and be repaired. While the reluctance to spend money on public projects under New Deal politics had vanished, there were little funds to be had during the Depression. Work on the island would continue once turned over once labor was turned over to the Works Projects Administration.
Although the Statue of Liberty was not as widely used on propaganda cards during the Second World War as in the First, many of the same time tested themes were revived. On the French card above we see that the individual Allied nations are all represented by their soldiers and flags, but it is the Statue of Liberty that represents their cause. On another French card by Jipe from 1944 below, we find a playful expression of Franco-American friendship through another familiar pairing. It is interesting that the Eiffel Tower is presented very much like a steel structure while Lady Liberty is more womanlike than statuesque. This type of representation was very common on early cards where a hybrid was created between liberty personified by Columbia and the famed statue. Columbia was largely supplanted by both Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam by the end of the First World War, but the visual fusion was so complete in so many peoples minds that the symbol could still be easily read without ever knowing the reference.
On this tribute to American servicemen above, we are provided with a young woman posing as a makeshift Statue of Liberty along with a lengthy quote by Daniel Webster, which in part reads, “God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it.” On the poster card below captioned “Work to Keep Free!” issued by the U.S. War Production Board, we are also reminded by more official voices that liberty comes with a price. Though one card has more religious overtones and the other is more ideological, both are ultimately attempting to stir up patriotic feelings.
Other familiar uses of the Statue of Liberty can be found on many postcards issued during World War Two. Liberty representing the United States and her cause abound on cards produced by small publishers like the one above from Hilborn Novelty Advertising in New York. While solders promise that “Her Torch Shall Not Dim,” that they will protect her values; it also seems that these types of cards now say that the values embodied by Lady Liberty are also a weapon that protects us.
The real photo postcard above from 1942 captures U.S. servicemen posing to create an image of the statue of liberty. The vast amount of men employed shows it must have taken much time to create and many rehearsals to accomplish, which also indicates the project had official approval. What is interesting is that despite its presentation as a playful novelty, the image of liberty remains strong enough to still convey an obvious patriotic message.
On the Dutch Card above, we find liberty invoked in a call for honor and world freedom. Though nearly all the traditional symbolism attached to liberty is missing here, we are still presented with a warrior, though armed with a pistol rather than a sword. The old classical allegories that were still popular during World War One will no longer do. The picture’s meaning resembles that found in the card further above in which liberty is both a virtue worth fighting for and simultaneously a weapon in that defense. The multitude of flags remind us again that the struggle for liberty is what binds all the Allies together.
Just as after the Great War, the Statue of Liberty was placed on many European cards at the end of World War Two for the promotion of various ideas and causes. She features prominently on the card above commemorating the one year anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. By 1946 the facility was being used as an internment camp for former members of the SS and Wehmacht. This card seems to have been published by the Internment Information Office as a way to emphasize the contrasting values between those serving on the military courts held here and those on trail for war crimes.
This article consist of four parts; click on the links below to continue reading.Liberty part 1
Liberty part 2
Liberty part 4