Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, January 9, 2015

100 Years Ago: Rotogravure Helps America Visualize the War

During the World War I-era leading newspapers took advantage of a new printing process that dramatically altered their ability to reproduce images. Rotogravure printing, which produced richly detailed, high-quality illustrations, even on inexpensive newsprint paper, was used to create vivid new pictorial sections. Publishers that could afford to invest in the new technology saw sharp increases both in readership and advertising revenue. The images in this collection track American sentiment about the war in Europe, week by week, before and after the United States became involved. Events of the war are detailed alongside society news and advertisements touting products of the day, creating a pictorial record of both the war effort and life at home. The collection includes an illustrated history of World War I selected from newspaper rotogravure sections that graphically documents the people, places, and events important to the war.

From the 10 January 1915 New York Times

This page of the supplement featured Australian reservists arriving in Britain, the burial on the nation's home soil of the first British soldier killed  and the removal of German seamen from the disabled SMS Emden.

Throughout the war, the first few pages of the Sunday New York Times rotogravure section were filled with photographs from the battlefront, training camps, and war effort at home. For instance, in the weeks following the 7 May 1915 sinking of RMS Luistania many photos of victims of the disaster were run, including a two-page spread in the May 16 edition titled "Prominent Americans Who Lost Their Lives on the S. S. Lusitania". Another two-page spread in the May 30 edition carried the banner "Burying the Lusitania's Dead—And Succoring Her Survivors". The images on these spreads reflect a panorama of responses to the disaster—sorrow, heroism, ambivalence, consolation, and anger.

The Library of Congress has a full collection of the New York Times rotogravures from the war on line at:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. It still amazes me to see rotogravured images in periodicals of the time.