At the onset of American involvement in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson had to persuade the American public that neutrality could no longer be maintained, and that everyone’s constant support and sacrifice were required to win. To do this, he created a task force that produced over 25 million copies of 2,500 different posters. The United States produced more propaganda posters than all other countries involved in the war combined, even though it was only engaged in the war for 20 months.
The striking thing about this World War I-era poster requesting donations of spy glasses for the war effort is the promise that the spy glasses will be returned after the war. Apparently this wasn’t an empty promise,
Before World War I, America imported most of its optical goods from Germany and Austria. Following the nation’s entry into the war, the US Navy faced a severe shortage of binoculars, telescopes, and spyglasses. Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Secretary of the Navy, initiated the “Eyes for the Navy” program to which American citizens loaned their glasses, binoculars, and telescopes. In his appeal to the public, Roosevelt alluded to German U-boat attacks, stating that “more ‘eyes’ are needed on shipboard than ever before to maintain the constant and efficient lookout for the submarine.” Americans donated over 51,000 glass objects to the program. The US Navy recorded the name and address of the donor and engraved a serial number on each object. As the government was required to pay for all services and materiel, donors received one dollar for the rental of their glasses. After the war, the glasses were returned to their owners with an engraved certificate signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.