Do You Know What Part Of The Country You’re From? The Lost Archive Of Civil War-era Military Recruiting Advertisements

At the outset of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Americans on both sides of the conflict expected that it would be a short war. Even after the initial battles, and their foreshadowing of a long and bitter war, men still rushed to join both armies. As the war dragged on, into 1862 and then 1863, the horrors of battle and the lack of any clear end in sight, discouraged many from joining the ranks.

On both sides, an effort was made to convince their populations to enlist in their armies and march to the sound of the guns. This book presents a small but historically important selection of propaganda that, until now, has been lost to the world. These archives are an invaluable resource for understanding and decoding an important part of American history.

About The Archives
Artists and historical researchers Harvey Loves Harvey have painstakingly collected and restored the archives presented in this book. The story of the archives, and how they arrived in the hands of Harvey Loves Harvey, is a very interesting one.

Little is known about who saved and stored these photographs, videos, posters and other propaganda pieces during the war. The only clue to their identity is a handwritten “454″ in the margins of one image. Yet, whoever they were, they were able to capture some of the most telling elements of their time.

It was not until 2009, while researching their abandoned performance art piece “The Pre-Emption Road” that they uncovered this trove of Civil War-era advertisements.

Sadly, many of the pieces were too far beyond repair, and only fragments remain. Others, through extensive research, recreation, and expansion, can be found here and show the depth and breadth of Civil War marketing. As Harvey Loves Harvey restores more of these lost treasures, they can be viewed and enjoyed online at www.harveylovesharvey.com

Recruiting Soldiers During The War
The two majors battles of 1862 at Shiloh and Antietam did more than any other to stifle the recruiting efforts of both north and south. Men, reading the long lists of casualty counts in the papers, must have realized the grave danger of battle and the uncertainty and decided to stay with their families.

It was up to the marketing teams of the Union and the Confederacy to convince them that fighting was worth their time, and maybe their lives. The archives only contain a handful of truly propagandistic pieces, but they certainly show clear branding on both sides.

The Union marketers focussed on two overt themes, which can best be seen in the surviving television advertisements. These themes are fear of the traitorous south, expemlified by a sneering Confederate raising his rifle to the camera, and an appeal to honor, freedom and liberty. The marketers for the Union cause position their cause as righteous and the other side as evil, irrational and insane.

For the Confederacy, whose Southern values would have chafed at such overtly manipulative tactics, marketers sought to engage viewers in a more neighborly way, presenting common soldiers talking about their experiences. The implication that someone was fighting for your rights, and the invitation to stand beside him, would have played into Southern codes of honor in an appealing way.


These videos were created for the exhibition “The Typhoon Continues and So Do You” at Flux Factory, April 1- May 8, 2011.

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