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John P. Cushing (AC 1882) World War I Poster Collection

Identifier: MA.00300

Scope and Contents

This collection is arranged into seven series by country of origin, then organized by the creating organization or institution. The eighth series contains ephemera from the collection. The ninth series contains material restricted for preservation.


  • Creation: 1914-1926
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917-1919


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the The John P. Cushing (AC 1882) World War I Poster Collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

This collection is stored off-site - all requests for materials from this collection must be made in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the The John P. Cushing (AC 1882) World War I Poster Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

John Pearsons Cushing was born in Lansingburgh, New York on September 5, 1861. He attended high school in Lynn, MA after which he studied for two years at Boston University. He transferred to Amherst College in 1880 and finished his B.A. with the class of 1882. He went on to receive his M.A. from Amherst in 1885. During the time he spent working on his masters degree he also taught at Holyoke High School. He acted as Vice-Principal of Holyoke High from 1889-1892.

From 1892-1894 Cushing attended the University of Leipzig. His dissertation, ‘The Development of the Commercial Policies of the United States’ was published in 1894. Cushing received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Leipzig that same year.

Upon his return to the United States, Dr. Cushing became a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, IL from 1894-1900. He returned to New England in 1900 to begin serving as headmaster of Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT. In 1911 Dr. Cushing left Hillhouse in order to begin his own country day school for boys. Hamden Hall opened in Whitneyville (what is now Hamden) CT in 1912. Dr. Cushing acted as headmaster until his retirement in 1927.

During the outbreak of the first world war, governments across the globe realized that they needed an effective way of communicating their needs to the general populace. Through the production of propaganda posters, they could reach a wide audience and create a unified cause for citizens to get behind.

Citizens contributed to the war effort by enlisting, constructing military supplies, conserving food, and buying war bonds. Artists contributed by donating their work to various government agencies for the propaganda posters. Unlike mass-produced ‘Notices’ of the same time period, these colorful works of art grabbed the attention of the viewer and communicated a message powerfully and succinctly.

The appeal of the posters was made possible by the printing process known as choromolithography. In this process, a flat piece of limestone is used. The positive part of the image is applied with an oil-based ink. The rest of the stone is washed with a water-based solution. The oil repels water so that when the paper is applied, only the oil sticks and the rest of the sheet is kept clean by the water. This process can be done multiple times with different colors in order to achieve a poster print with as many colors as the artist desires. The most difficult part of this process is keeping the same alignment during multiple prints on the same poster.


Approximately 750 items

Language of Materials






Collection of more than 700 World War I posters, ephemera, and propoganda collected by John P. Cushing (AC 1882). Propaganda posters (chromolithograph) commissioned by seven different governments during World War I exhorting the populace to enlist in the military, conserve food, produce supplies supporting the war effort, and buy war bonds. Unlike mass-produced public notices of the same period, these were colorful works of art that attracted popular attention and communicated powerful but succinct messages. The collection includes work from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Canada and Spain.


This collection is organized into nine series:

  1. Series 1: Canada
  2. Series 2: France
  3. Series 3: Germany
  4. Series 4: Italy
  5. Series 5: Spain
  6. Series 6: United Kingdom
  7. Series 7: United States
  8. Series 8: Ephemera
  9. Series 9: Restricted for Preservation

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In March 2012, eight wooden crates of posters and ephemera were transferred from the Mead Art Museum to the Archives and Special Collections. There was no accession paperwork on file at the Mead Museum, but it was determined that these materials all came from John P. Cushing, Amherst Class of 1882.

Physical Condition

Three boxes of posters are too fragile to be either unrolled or unfolded. These items could not be identified because they could not be fully opened without risking damage to the material. All the items in boxes 8-10 need conservation treatment before they can be used by researchers.

Megan Brantley
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299