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“Sir Don't Waste While Your Wife Saves” was one of many posters issued during World War I to encourage support of the war. This poster features a plump man, cigar in hand, sitting over a table with an array of plates full of leftover food. The man’s butlers are in the background with their hands full of plates returning to the kitchen in disbelief. The image is accompanied by the caption, “Sir-don’t waste while your wife saves, adopt the doctrine of a clean plate- do your share,”. This poster was commissioned by the United States Food Administration from American artist William Crawford Young in 1917. To combat starvation in Europe, the United States Food Administration was established on August 10, 1917 as part of Executive Order 2679-A of the Congressional Lever Act introduced by President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). Wilson also created the Committee on Public Information (CPI) which released information in pamphlets, posters, etc on different topics concerning the war. The CPI had a dedicated wing to food information and conservation that created over 1,500 posters and buttons (McCowen, 2017). The main message was clear: “Food will win the war. Waste nothing.” Wilson and others in the administration worried about the toll on morale that forced rationing would take, so these organizations acted to coax Americans into voluntarily cutting back rather than directing them by law. Homemakers (and even schoolchildren) were asked to sign pledges to conserve food and eat less meat, wheat, sugar, and fats, and peer pressure—Hang your sign in the window! Wear your pin!—applied the heat to keep promises. The poster was created and reproduced as a lithographic print at the time of it’s distribution.


WWI, poster, United States Food Administration, United States Government, photomechanical print, President Woodrow Wilson, William Crawford Young