15 Amazing Motivational Workplace Posters From The ’20s And ’30s

In light of today’s polarized wealth and generally miserable, stuttering economy, it might seem a cruel joke to tell someone that as long as they are loyal, diligent, honest, hard-working and cooperative with their peers, they will succeed–and be duly rewarded for their efforts–in the work place. And given what awaited workers in the early 1930s after these posters were made, it was equally cruel to say then.

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Seizing on the fascination with efficiency and productivity brought on by the Second Industrial Revolution and the success of a previous World War One motivational poster campaign, Chicago-based printers Mather & Company created poster after poster that effectively tied one’s worth and sense of self with their relative output. In other words, Mather economized Frederick Douglass’s “self-made man” to scale. This proved a great mechanism when market optimism was high and futures seemed endlessly bright, but when the economy tanked a handful of years later and unemployment rates hit the roof, the posters proved little more than a blaring reminder to those formerly employed of their own inadequacy. Looking back on these posters now at a time of similar economic malaise, their quixotic sayings are pretty haunting.


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