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"Wake Up, America," 1917

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Poster showing a woman symbolizing America sleeping.
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Flagg, James Montgomery, "Wake up America! Civilization calls every man, woman and child!" 1917


This poster shows a woman dressed in stars and stripes, and symbolizes a sleeping America. After two and a half years of neutrality, the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. James Montgomery Flagg created this poster, which was featured in "Wake Up, America" Day in New York City just 13 days later on April 19, 1917. Actress Mary Arthur was Flagg's model for Columbia, who is a personification of Liberty and America. The woman on the print was shown asleep, wearing patriotic stars and stripes and a Phrygian cap — a symbol of freedom since Roman times. While she sleeps against a fluted column, another visual reference to western classical antiquity and civilization, sinister storm clouds gather in the background.

Transcript of "Wake Up, America" Illustration 

Source-Dependent Questions

  • Why did the artist symbolize America as a "sleeping" nation?
  • What visual imagery did the artist use to show the immediacy of the threat posed to civilization?
  • How was the artist trying to create a sense of urgency for the United states with words and the imagery used?

Citation Information 

Flagg, James Montgomery, "Wake Up, America! Civilization Calls Every Man, Woman and Child!" 1917. Courtesy of Library of Congress