Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.
Remember Dec. 7th poster, designed by Allen Saalburg, Pennsylvania State Archives

Remember Dec. 7th poster, designed by Allen Saalburg. Pennsylvania State Archives

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Congress’ declaration of war on Japan the following day, the U.S. officially entered World War II. As the nation moved into full-force mobilization, the government initiated a propaganda effort to boost morale and patriotism. Several wartime agencies produced and disseminated propaganda, including the Office of War Information (OWI) established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1942. The poster Remember Dec. 7th was one of OWI’s earliest and most popular productions.

Posters became an effective means of communicating to the public during the war. They conveyed calls for recruitment (most famously I Want You for U.S. Army, retained from the previous war), home-front conservation (such as Save the Wheat and Help the Fleet), production efforts (We Can Do It!) and secrecy (Loose Lips Might Sink Ships). Thousands of different poster designs were printed during the course of the war, and they were displayed in public places such as local businesses, schools, post offices and railroad stations.

Remember Dec. 7th was designed by Allen Saalburg (1899-1987), who had previously headed a Works Progress Administration mural project and created art for the covers of popular magazines, including Vogue, Vanity Fair and Saturday Evening Post. In the 1940s Saalburg moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to live in an artists’ colony. After the war in 1947 he settled in a house in Uhlerstown and established a studio, the Canal Press, across the Delaware River in Frenchtown, New Jersey, where he continued painting and screenprinting.

In Remember Dec. 7th Saalburg references words and imagery grounded in America’s honored wartime past to strike a nerve in the collective conscience. The most potent line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” – at the top of the poster equates the fatalities of Pearl Harbor with those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” for their cause during the Civil War. The image of a war-torn American flag with a hole in the middle and shredded hoist recalls the battered Star-Spangled Banner that Francis Scott Key wrote about after the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

With the observance of Pearl Harbor 75, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launches Pennsylvania at War, a multiyear commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 75th anniversary of World War II. Remember Dec. 7th is held in the Pennsylvania State Archives’ collection of posters from both wars, and it will be on display in the exhibit Pennsylvania at War: The Saga of the USS Pennsylvania, opening December 4, 2016, at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.


Kyle R. Weaver is the editor of Pennsylvania Heritage.