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World War I: Finding Images in the Library of Congress

Selected Collections

Collection Strengths

Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Corp., Bristol [fighter] assembly. 1918. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress holds many collections with large numbers of images related to World War I. American involvement in the war is well represented. In addition, the collection has many items, primarily of German origin, expressing the point of view of the Central Powers. Many of these items came to the Library of Congress with the Third Reich Collection [view a summary of the Third Reich collection]. The German materials include photos of soldiers on the front lines and in non-combat roles, as well as examples of German ephemera such as stamps, postcards, and sheet music.

Aviation is a particular strength of the photo documentation. Many of the materials came to P&P from the former Library of Congress Division of Aeronautics. The photographs show airplanes from nearly every country involved and some examples of dirigibles. Some photographs show aircraft construction, including women working in aircraft factories.

The collections highlighted below are a great place to start when looking for pictorial materials representing World War I and give a flavor of the types of materials found in the collections. Many additional materials exist in groups (LOTs) based on subject, provenance, or format. Sample groups (LOTs) are listed below the collection categories.

Collection Categories

News photographs cover homefront activities, military training, prominent participants, scenes before and after battles, and ships. In many cases, caption and date information is limited. Negatives from the following collections have been digitized:

Photographic formats, often marketed commercially at the time, suited to depicting large groups, places, and activities, especially:

Posters from the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany and other countries, highlighting recruitment, bond drive, war work and other campaigns. The relevant materials are primarily found in two collections (World War I posters and Artist posters) that are searchable together in one online grouping:

Prints that depict the war and reactions to it, are particularly found in these collections:

Drawings created for periodical illustration or as fine art, including items in these collections:

Cartoons both in the form of original drawings and newspaper clippings, highlight War War I era issues. Political cartoons were used by both sides to shore up support for their cause while mocking their enemies. Artists such as Clifford Berryman, Rollin Kirby, and Oscar Cesare are well represented in the cartoon drawings. The newspaper clippings cover both Pro-Allies and Pro-Central Power positions and originate mainly from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. For more information about the cartoon collections in general, see the research guide: Cartoons & Caricatures: Finding Images at the Library of Congress. Collections particularly strong for World War I era cartoons are:

Visual materials from the papers of prominent American military officials (visual materials are frequently transferred from papers in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division). Among the most relevant are visual materials from the papers of: Gen. John J. Pershing, Woodrow Wilson, Josephus Daniels, and William “Billy” Mitchell.

Visual materials from organizations involved in the war. Pre-eminent in Prints & Photographs Division collections in this category is: 

Sample Groups (LOTs)

The groups listed below give a flavor for the variety of formats and subject matter represented in the Prints & Photographs Division's World War I holdings. Selecting the link to the online description will provide further details about the quantity, formats, and subject matter included in the group, as well as an indication of any online content and notice of any limitations on access to originals.