We love the design and artistry of WPA-era posters—many of which celebrate American history and its natural wonders. These posters were designed and drafted by professional artists and illustrators, who found work through the WPA during the Great Depression. At first the WPA posters were hand-drawn and colored; later, silk-screening the poster artwork to speed production. But even during the highest production years the posters were a hand-made process. (Read more about the history, below.)
In the spirit of celebrating American history, and the graphic style of the WPA Posters, The Pursuit of History has commissioned the first in a planned series of limited-edition posters to celebrate historic sites—which the WPA project did not depict. (We like to think that if the program had lasted longer, they would have, eventually!)
For this design, we commissioned artist Larry Stuart to envision what Fort Ticonderoga, one of our favorite historic sites (and very much in ruin during the WPA poster era), would look like as a WPA poster. Stuart’s art is inspired by history and his original design follows the spirit of the original series from reference photographs to create an entirely new design.
The magnet: Printed in the US on a thin, flexible magnet.
Size: 3.25” x 4”
Also available, the second in our series of original fine art prints, Gettysburg Battlefield limited edition print.
About the Artist
Larry Stuart is an illustrator and lettering-artist who incorporates a sense of history and the well worn into his work. He loves the patina of rural America and enjoys wandering back roads looking for inspiration. He's been to more Civil War sites than you’d think is possible. You can see more of his work at larrystuartstudio.com
About Fort Ticonderoga
"Fort Ticonderoga, formerly Fort Carillon, is a large 18th-century star fort built by the French at a narrows near the south end of Lake Champlain, in northern New York, in the United States. It was constructed by Canadian-born French military engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière between October 1755 and 1757, during the action in the "North American theater" of the Seven Years' War, often referred to in the US as the French and Indian War. The fort was of strategic importance during the 18th-century colonial conflicts between Great Britain and France, and again played an important role during the Revolutionary War.
Fort Ticonderoga, overlooking Lake Champlain (2015)
"The site controlled a river portage alongside the mouth of the rapids-infested La Chute River, in the 3.5 miles (5.6 km) between Lake Champlain and Lake George. It was thus strategically placed for the competition over trade routes between the British-controlled Hudson River Valley and the French-controlled Saint Lawrence River Valley.
"The terrain amplified the importance of the site. Both lakes were long and narrow and oriented north–south, as were the many ridge lines of the Appalachian Mountains, which extended as far south as Georgia. The mountains created nearly impassable terrains to the east and west of the Great Appalachian Valley that the site commanded.
The name "Ticonderoga" comes from the Iroquois word tekontaró:ken, meaning "it is at the junction of two waterways".
"During the 1758 Battle of Carillon, 4,000 French defenders were able to repel an attack by 16,000 British troops near the fort. In 1759, the British returned and drove a token French garrison from the fort. During the Revolutionary War, when the British controlled the fort, it was attacked on May 10, 1775, in the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Green Mountain Boys and other state militia under the command of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, who captured it in the surprise attack. Cannons taken from the fort were transported to Boston to lift its siege by the British, who evacuated the city in March 1776. The Americans held the fort until June 1777, when British forces under General John Burgoyne occupied high ground above it; the threat resulted in the Continental Army troops being withdrawn from the fort and its surrounding defenses. The only direct attack on the fort during the Revolution took place in September 1777, when John Brown led 500 Americans in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the fort from about 100 British defenders.
"The British abandoned the fort after the failure of the Saratoga campaign, and it ceased to be of military value after 1781. After gaining independence, the United States allowed the fort to fall into ruin; local residents stripped it of much of its usable materials. Purchased by a private family in 1820, it became a stop on tourist routes of the area. Early in the 20th century, its private owners restored the fort. A foundation now operates the fort as a tourist attraction, museum, and research center."
About the National Park Posters whose style inspired this original art
"In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (the name was changed to Work Projects Administration in September of 1939), as part of his New Deal program to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work. In July of 1935, Federal Project Number One (Federal One) was established within the WPA as a central administration for the arts-related projects. Federal One provided funds specifically for artists, musicians, actors, and writers through the Federal Art Project (FAP), the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, and the Federal Writer's Project. FAP employed more than five thousand artists in various art projects including the many poster divisions that were created throughout the United States.
Sold for $9,000 on November 13, 2006 by New York’s Swann Galleries, the largest specialist auctioneer of Works on Paper in the world.
"Many New Deal administrators believed that art could be a part of the daily lives of all Americans, not just the elite, and could enrich the lives of all who came in contact with it. The main objective of FAP was the employment of out-of-work artists, but this was not its only goal. The activities of FAP also included art production, education, and research. The project employed artists in the fields of easel painting, sculpture, photography, mural painting, and graphic arts, and it also held exhibitions and organized community arts centers through which many Americans were first introduced to the arts. Another well-known, well-received FAP project, the Index of American Design, created a survey of illustrations of American decorative and folk arts from colonial times through the late nineteenth century.
The Poster Divisions
"A year before FAP was organized, in 1934, New York City had created the Mayor's Poster Project within the Civil Works Administration. Posters were already being produced by this group for some of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's favorite projects. In 1935, this department was absorbed by the federal government and became the country's first FAP poster division.
"The New York poster division was headed by Richard Floethe, a German-born internationally known industrial designer who was educated in the fundamentals of the aesthetic movement known as the Bauhaus. The freedom given to project artists under the enlightened leadership of Floethe enabled them to experiment with bold colors and many different styles. In an essay written in the 1930s and later published in Art for the Millions: Essays from the 1930s by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project, edited by Francis V. O'Connor (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society ), Floethe wrote, "...the government unwittingly launched a movement to improve the commercial poster and raise it to a true art form.
"By 1938, there were FAP poster divisions in at least eighteen states. New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia had thriving poster divisions, with New York City's being the largest division. The poster divisions designed posters mainly for the Federal Art, Music, Writer's, and Theatre Projects. In addition, other New Deal programs (such as the Civilian Conservation Corps), as well as departments of city and state governments, needed posters to promote and advertise their programs.
The Creative Process
"At first, posters were created by hand, individually painted and lettered. Later on, the divisions' artists usually used the silkscreen process, which was adapted and refined for the mass production of posters by project artist Anthony Velonis in 1936. Before he came to FAP, Velonis used this process in his work at Stern Brothers Department Store in New York City, where he designed show cards and other promotional materials. Realizing that the output of the New York poster division could be greatly increased using the silkscreen method, he sought the approval of the division's administrator, John Weaver, to set up a silkscreening workshop to produce posters and teach others the process.
"The printing of a poster was a collaborative effort. Artists were responsible for the poster's design, color selection, and sometimes the cutting of the stencils used to print the poster. The workshop's technical staff screened the posters. The exchange of ideas between the designers and the printers resulted in a technically and artistically well-balanced poster. With this silkscreening process, as many as six hundred posters were printed in a day.
"Due in part to congressional opposition, the New York City FAP and its poster division were once again placed under Mayor La Guardia's sponsorship in 1939. By 1942, all the remaining WPA art projects were transferred to the Defense Department to become the Graphics Section of the War Service Division. In the history of the WPA art projects, over two million posters were printed from thirty-five thousand designs. Today, only about two thousand of the posters produced by all the poster divisions are known to exist.
"In a 1938 issue of Signs of the Times, a journal of advertising and design, it was said: "The poster division … is doing a valuable service to the profession in general and the consumer in particular, in trying to combine good craftsmanship and design with original ideas …it is to be hoped that these beneficial WPA productions may act as a stimulating influence to poster artists in all parts of the country." Richard Floethe, in Art for the Millions, stated that the divisions' goal was to "preserve the skill of the unemployed artist" and return artists "to private industry … with more knowledge in their profession and greater confidence in themselves." Not only did the poster divisions succeed, but government support of the arts through the Federal Art Project gave new impetus to American artistic expression. The different approaches to poster design of the many artists associated with the WPA combined to create a truly original, American poster style.
"Today, the Library of Congress holds the largest collection of the WPA Posters. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress collection consists of 907 posters produced from 1936 to 1943."
Note: The print offered here is of original art commissioned by The Pursuit of History. It is copyrighted by The Pursuit of History and the artist, Larry Stuart.