Alonzo Earl Foringer’s Greatest Mother in the World: The New Jersey Roots of the Most Famous Poster of World War I


  • Nicholas P. Ciotola



Despite renewed interest in the illustrated posters of World War I brought about by the commemoration of the war’s centennial, few extant works in either the academic or public history sectors offer comprehensive explorations of individual posters. This article provides a microhistory of The Greatest Mother in the World (1918), an impactful lithographic poster designed by New Jersey muralist Alonzo Earl Foringer and inspired by a slogan from a Princeton graduate turned advertising executive named Courtland Smith. Printed and distributed in the millions, Foringer’s poster reached a level of mass appeal unsurpassed by any other piece of American visual propaganda produced in the war years. A detailed look at the background and impact of this important poster explores a lesser-known and understudied aspect of World War I history, while also affording an interdisciplinary research model that can be utilized for future studies of additional posters and their place in American visual culture.






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