13 Great Posters From When Driving Was Considered to Be Almost a War Crime

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Black and white poster showing a damaged ship sinking

Northwestern University

There are many who complain that our geopolitics are all about the oil. Peter Maas wrote in his introduction to Crude World:

If we become less reliant on oil--which means becoming more conservation-minded and efficient, as well as developing renewable energy on a broader scale than is already underway--we will not feel a need to go to war for oil's sake, or to support a dictator for oil's sake.

They said the same thing in World War II; I just discovered this poster that lays out the question so graphically: Should brave men die so you can drive...? Next: When You Ride Alone....

credit: American Legion

If you do have to drive, do you have to do it alone? Car sharing and car pooling can save a lot of fuel as well. We were thinking of a modern remix here, "When you drive alone, you drive with Harper" - the Canadian Prime Minister promoting the tar sands. Next: Another ride!

credit: Northwestern University

Other riff on riding with Hitler. Next: Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work we go...

credit: American Legion

Before there were seat belt laws, I suppose you could do this. Next: Breaking the Bottleneck

credit: American legion

Sometimes they weren't very subtle. Next: You can trust Texaco!

credit: American Legion

This is like Exxon telling you not to drive today because you might put out CO2; Texaco saying that you should drive under 35 miles per hour- and not grouse about it. You should cut out pleasure driving- with pleasure For good measure, you should turn down your thermostat and live in a colder home - with a warmer heart. Next: Getting serious.

credit: American Legion

When nothing else worked, there was always the direct emotional plea from the soldier in the field. Next: amodern remix

credit: Micah Wright/ The Propaganda Remix Project

Today it is a different world; as Micah Wright notes in this remix, oil is the lubricant that keeps America running. Next: Don't waste it!

credit: American Legion

Really, you shouldn't waste anything, including transportation. Next: I'll carry mine!

credit: American Legion

This is one of my favorites, promoting the idea that you should walk and you should carry your stuff home. Next: The British version

credit: St Andrews

Here is the British version of the walk, don't drive poster. Next:Is your trip really necessary?

credit: American Legion

Then there was the whole question of whether you should travel at all, whether by car or whether you should be clogging up the trains as well. Next:Millions on the move

credit: American Legion

There were a number of versions of this in America and Britain. Next: A modern remix

credit: Donna Catanzaro

There have been some great remixes too; I like this one from Donna Catanzaro; she writes:

I’m amazed by our society’s constant disregard for the environment. We are in a war that is directly related to the amount of oil we import. We are also battling to save our environment. Yet we behave as if nothing is wrong, as if no sacrifices need to be made. I looked at old posters from WWII, when the government communicated that sacrifices were required for the common good in order to defeat the enemy. I based my piece on an old war poster but I added vintage cars and people from the 1960’s. I changed the text to “climate change” and included several solutions or suggestions to combat needless travel.

If the print is too small, her suggestions include combine trips, carpool, use mass transit, drive a smaller car, bicycle and walk. She's right. Next: the Journey's end

credit: Weapons on the Wall

In Britain, they didn't use the word trip, perhaps it had a different meaning there like it did in America in the sixties. They used journey, which doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily. Next:The bumper sticker

credit: Lloyd Alter

They still do; my sister sent me this bumper sticker that updates the message. It was on my car for years. Want to see more posters? Here are some more sources: Northwestern University Poster Collection Weapons on the Wall - British posters The vast and wonderful American Legion Poster Collection See earlier collections: 13 Great Posters on Preserving Food, When It Was Life or Death 11 Great Posters from When We Used to Care About Wasting Food