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“They Signal Send Books” was one of many posters issued during World War I to encourage support of the war. This poster features soldiers and sailors using semaphore to signal with flags with the caption, “They signal ‘send books.’” Semaphore is a system of sending messages by holding the arms or two flags or poles in certain positions according to an alphabetic code. The American Library Association initiated a nationwide campaign to secure two million books. 1,349,000 gift books were sent to camps and stations, and 109,403 selected books were sent overseas.The American Library Association sought out a variety of books and reading materials for the servicemen. This included novels, poetry, non-fiction books, training manuals, and magazines. The largest demand was for non-fiction materials that helped servicemen perform their duties and prepare them for obtaining a job back home.Soldiers were interested in books on signaling, drilling, aviation, gas engines, hydraulics, and electrical work. It was also important that the books needed to be up to date and cover advance studies on the topics. All topics and knowledge were in fields that could help a soldier better perform his duties. There was also a demand for books on French customs, demonstrating efforts by soldiers to try to understand the country they were being shipped to. However, not every book was deemed suitable for the camp library. A listing of banned books circulated through the Library War Service, often at the discretion of the War Department. These books were often considered pacifist, pro-German, anti-capitalist, and pro-socialist, and were thought to be inappropriate for American and allied soldiers. Librarians sometimes received orders to remove such books from circulation and to destroy them (American Library Association Archives, 2019). This poster was created by an unknown artist in 1917. The poster was created and reproduced as a halftone photomechanical print at the time of it’s distribution.


WWI, poster, American Library Association