Come On, Lad! Make History As I Did In The Navy was produced in Detroit, Michigan. The clue to its authorship is found in the words “Cozzy” and “EN. Coleman” at the lower right of the poster’s image. “EN. Coleman” was U.S. Navy Ensign D. J. D. Coleman, who was responsible for recruiting Michiganders into service at his office at 161 Griswold Street, Detroit. Ensign Coleman took up his duties in August 2017 (“Navy Recruiting Officer Relieved”). “Cozzy” was Julius Gotsdanker (1892-?). Gotsdanker (sometimes spelled Gottsdanker), born to Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, served in the United States Navy Reserve. According to a Detroit Free Press article dated 24 May 1917, “Cozzy Gottsdanker” was working “in a lithographing establishment for just about enough to keep body and soul comfortably together.” Gotsdanker contributed patriotic cartoons to the Detroit Free Press; these likely led to his hiring by the newspaper as a cartoonist in 1918. During this time he also produced posters for New York’s Jewish War Relief Committee.
Come On, Lad! summons in the viewer a possible connection to the American Revolution or the War of 1812. It’s interesting that military recruiters invoked the nation’s founding war(s); Chicago military recruiter Captain Franklin R. Kenney employed General George Washington’s “call” for men to join the Continental Army in his poster. Perhaps they saw in Kaiser Wilhelm II the same despotic power displayed by King George III in his detested taxes on American colonists. Too, military preparedness was, for many, both a political stance and patriotic duty after the war’s commencement in August 1914. The appeal to patriotic duty had been especially effective after May 7, 1915, when 128 Americans lost their lives when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act, authorizing an increase in the U.S. Army and the U.S. National Guard. By the time Ensign Coleman led an intensive recruitment campaign (including a visit by marching band king John Philip Sousa) in mid November 1917, Americans were well aware of the nation’s need for a large and well-trained fighting force.
References to the American Revolutionary-era Continental Army and Navy in military recruitment posters were relatively short-lived in the Great War. At another level, these early recruitment posters share visual design features. Come On Lad! is striking in its use of only three main colors–black, white, and red also created tints, tones, and shades of grays and pinks. With streaks of white smoke swirling around him, the male figure, with bandaged head, turns away from the battle and looks at and points directly at the viewer. The expression on his rough-hewn face is wide-eyed shock and fear: both represent what he has experienced. Arrested as it is in the moment the viewer apprehends the figure, this “power gaze” is also intended to engage and persuade. From the deck of a ship under siege, the sailor’s outstretched arm and pointing finger are much more urgent and beseeching that those of a determined–even intimidating–Uncle Sam in James Montgomery Flagg’s recruitment poster, I Want You For U.S. Army, the first issued by the Committee on War Information’s Division of Pictorial Publicity after the United States declared war. Flagg also uses but three colors (red, white, and blue) to portray the main figure of a chiseled-faced Uncle Sam.
Gotsdanker’s posters for other World War I activities featured allegorical figures. For example, in April 1919 he created and painted the 30-foot-tall “Victory” that served as a focal point for Detroit’s celebration of the Great War’s end. By that time Gotsdanker had been discharged from the United States Naval Reserve. According to the Detroit Free Press (23 April 1919), “This young artist come to Detroit some time ago, virtually unknown. His work during recent Liberty Loan campaigns, and during the campaign for Jewish Relief, earned him both a Detroit and national reputation.”
Part of Gotsdanker’s reputation was based on cartoons he created for the Detroit Free Press, at least one of which appeared in a newspaper beyond Michigan. As he did in his posters, he relied on allegorical figures in his cartoons. Gotsdanker’s cartooning also reminds us that newspapers did some heavy lifting of propaganda work.
Gotsdanker’s July 1918 image of Kaiser Wilhelm II being joyfully ridden by a sailor reveals just how much confidence Americans had during European battle successes in the summer of 1918. It’s such a stark contrast to his earlier recruitment poster.
So many excellent studies of World War I propaganda posters are based on the works produced for nationwide campaigns through the Committee on Public Information’s Division of Pictorial Publicity. As I have previously written, however, many posters were produced for the needs and activities of patriotic local and state efforts. More focus on these works will aid much in understanding the nation’s visual network of propaganda art during the Great War.
As for Julius Gotsdanker: I have yet to find his death date or learn much more about his life after the war. He offered art lessons to convalescing soldiers at the United States Army General Hospital No. 36 and volunteered in Detroit’s Patriotic Fund campaign, established to raise funds for a variety of social and educational activities in the city. He also supplied a painting, Supposed Nobody Cared, for the campaign. In 1919, the Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record notes “Julius Gotsdanker, better known under the ‘pen name’ ‘Cozzy’—if an artist may be said to use a ‘pen name’—has opened an advertising art studio at 303 Absopure building, Grand River and Third avenues, Detroit. He will furnish advertising illustrations in oils, color, pen drawing and wash drawings. Gotsdanker was formerly identified with the Meinzinger Studio.” In 1920, he joined Howard-Garfield-Gray Advertising Agency (founded in 1919). He was also a member of the city’s famed Scarab Club and Adcraft Club. Julius Gotsdanker, as Cozzy, fought the Kaiser, and in so doing won for himself public acclaim and an immediate postwar career.
Cohen, Irwin J. Echoes of Detroit’s Jewish Communities: A History. Detroit: City Vision Publishing, 2003.
Coleman, D. J. D. “Our Navy: Greatest Fighting Force in the World, Whose Men Are Clean and Fit–Their Training Is Based Upon Ideals of Manliness and Honor.” Detroit Free Press, Part Nine: Navy Section, 9 December 1917, 1.
“Detroit Free Press Artist Paints Victory Loan Sign.” Detroit Free Press, 23 April 1919, 3.
“Gets Navy Recruits By Using His Teeth.” Detroit Free Press, 12 May 1918, C10.
“Head Lites and Tail Lites at the Auto Show.” Detroit Free Press, 5 March 1919, 19.
“Jewish Boy’s Poster, His Share of War Relief.” Detroit Free Press, 24 May 1917, 3.
“Navy Recruiting Officer Relieved.” Detroit Free Press, 8 September 1917, 5.
“Paints Tribute to Boys in Khaki.” Detroit Free Press, 24 April 1919, 13.
“The Final Appeal.” Detroit Free Press, 3 June 1917, 16.
“The Scarab Club Ball.” Detroit Free Press, 5 February 1922, E24.