Spectacular American Red Cross First World War fundraising poster

Make good the promise [:] SECOND WAR FUND One Hundred Million Dollars MAY 20th-27th. [New York?: American Red Cross, 1918.]
Chromolithograph, 34”h x 54 ½”w plus margins, backed on linen. Folded in fourths at one time, with minor wear including a few tiny losses along folds, with one small chip reattached.

A mammoth, vibrant and apparently very effective American Red Cross poster exhorting citizens to contribute to its Second War Fund drive in May 1918.

The poster features an outline map of northeastern North America, the Atlantic and northern Europe. The continents are linked by a vibrant rainbow originating in an American pot of gold—bearing the label “Keep It Full”–and terminating at an aid truck crossing from France to Italy, emblazoned with the Red Cross logo. The text is minimal but the message is clear:  The American Red Cross was seeking to raise a “Second War Fund” of no less than $100 million in a single week in May 1918, and viewers had to do their part.

The American Red Cross (ARC) was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, who had gained fame as field nurse during the Civil War. In its early years the mission focused primarily on providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance within the United States, as well as the promotion of public health. Beginning with the Spanish-American War in 1898, the organization extended its reach abroad, supplying aid to American soldiers in Cuba and to victims of wars and natural disasters around the world.

The ARC was involved in Europe from early in the First World War, sending relief ships with medical personnel and supplies to be distributed among the combatant nations.  After the United States entered the war in April 1917, the mission expanded massively to include attending to the needs of American soldiers and even organizing public health and -education projects in war-torn countries. This was all of course hugely expensive and necessitated the First War Fund drive in June 2017, which raised more than $110 million.  These funds had been put to good use but by the Spring of 1918 were almost exhausted:

“Not only every returning traveller from Europe, but the highest military and civil authorities of the allied countries, testify to the fact that the humanitarian and general relief work inaugurated in France last summer and in Italy last fall, by the American Red Cross, was a most potent influence in keeping those countries from collapse….


“Of the first war fund—amounting, with interest, to $110,134,860—there remained available for appropriation on April 15, the sum of $10,515,348. At the normal rate of appropriation this sum will have been virtually all allotted by June 1 [of 2018].” (Red Cross Bulletin, vol. II no. 19 (May 6, 1918), p. 1)

The Second War Fund drive was an even greater success than the first.  The Red Cross Bulletin of June 3 announced that a staggering $166,439,291 had been raised from 47 million American donors…. well over $3 billion in 2023 dollars, by one estimate.

The poster appeared in various sizes and formats, mostly much smaller than the present example, which is roughly 3 feet by 4 ½ feet.

OCLC 651008728 (Univ. of Missouri-Columbia) and 922931394 (Pritzker Military Library, Chicago).


Old folds flattened, areas of expert in-painting to losses (invisible without close inspection), and minor mended tears.