People typically picture various left- and right-wing socio-political groups using stickers to convey their messages, but governments have also produced stickers as propaganda to promote their agendas (sometimes known as “paper bullets,” “paper leaflets,” or, if dropped from planes in the sky, “confetti soldiers”).
A batch of U.S. government stickers was sent to me recently that I learned were made by the War Production Board (WPB) in 1942 during World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in an effort to shore up manufacturing. The Library of Congress has several examples here, here, here, here, and here, stating “The War Production Board (WPB) produced these stickers for distribution in war plants. They were designed for pasting on workers’ machines to stimulate output of vital war materials.” WPB stickers are also listed in the U.S. National Archives here under “208.3.6 Records of the Bureau of Graphics.”
Unfortunately, most of the stickers in my collection arrived in pretty rough shape stuck to each other. Someone had also written “O.E.M Washn 1942” in ink on the backs of most of them, which in some cases shows through to the front of the paper.
O.E.M stands for Office of Emergency Management. It and the War Production Board were both terminated at the end of World War II.
I ended up soaking the stickers in water and drying them in blotter paper to separate them, which worked well. When I scanned the stickers yesterday, I saw that “WPB 1942” was also listed on some in pencil.
Some of the text-heavy stickers communicate strength and a strong work ethic (Tough War Ahead, Look Out, The War Won’t Wait For A Man Who’s Late, Don’t Fiddle On War Time, and We’ve Got What He [a soldier] Takes).
Others equate work with victory and winning the war (Victory Starts Here!, Work Wins Wars, Count Me In This War, and Win The War By Making More!).
And others promote a sense of belonging to the war effort (This Is My War, Don’t Bother Me, I’m Fighting A War,”and If It Isn’t Your War Whose War Is It?)
Not surprisingly, several stickers depicting Hitler and swastikas were used as propaganda to promote work and the war (Hitler Loves Loafers, Give Hitler __[the boot]__!, Shake A Leg Mister!, and Step On It!).
They Don’t Think You Can Do It! depicts cartoon drawings of an Italian fascist with a fasces symbol on his helmet, a German Nazi with a swastika symbol, and a Japanese soldier with a variation of the sun symbol found on the flag of Japan. Similarly, the Tramp sticker depicts overly simplified cartoons of Japanese, German, and Italian men.
Other stickers depict overly simplified racist cartoons of Japanese soldiers (Work Crappy? Jap Happy, Plizz Not To Work So Hard, Set ‘Em On Their Axis, and Wipe Off That Smile!) (See other anti-Japanese propaganda posters on Wikimedia Commons here.)
REMINDER: These stickers at the end are racist U.S. government propaganda from World War II.