The British-owned passenger liner Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine off the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, while en route from New York to Liverpool. Of 1,959 people on board, only 764 survived. Among those drowned were 128 Americans. The incident caused outrage in the United States and nearly led to a break in relations between the United States and Germany, which was only averted when the German government pledged to limit future submarine attacks on civilian and neutral ships. This poster, issued by the Boston Public Safety Committee after the sinking, shows a woman submerged in water and cradling an infant in her arms. The image invokes the innocent victims of the Lusitania to urge men to enlist in the armed forces. The United States did not enter World War I until April 1917. However, a “preparedness movement” was led by the former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt and other prominent Republicans who were critical of President Woodrow Wilson’s policy of strict neutrality. This group believed that sooner or later America would enter the war on Britain’s side and they campaigned for policies to expand and strengthen the army and the navy.

Last updated: January 27, 2014