The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (ACASR) was established in 1915 to aid Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, and other minorities facing persecution within the Ottoman Empire.
This persecution – commemorated annually on April 24 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day - resulted in countless deportations, forced marches, death camps, and massacres in northern Syria at the hands of Ottoman authorities.
Out of this tragedy launched one of the first modern, mass-media marketing campaigns to generate support in the West for relief efforts. This post highlights some of the iconic campaign imagery. Check it out!
1918 Save the Survivors Map Poster
In response to a plea from Henry Morgenthau, American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, prominent American philanthropists (such as philanthropist Cleveland H. Dodge) and missionaries launched the ACASR. With then-president Woodrow Wilson’s support, they quickly rolled-out relief operations and a massive fundraising and volunteer campaign.
1916 July 1 Telegram from Ambassador Morgenthau to the State Department ringing the alarm to "a campaign of race extermination..."
1917-10-29 - President Woodrow Wilson's Appeal to American People in support of Armenian and Syrian Relief.
Additionally, Morgenthau’s friendship with the NY Times publisher Adolph Ochs ensured ongoing coverage of the massacres which kept the suffering (and outrage) front and center. By 1919, the ACASR changed its name to Near East Relief and received a mandate from the US Congress. Celebrity ‘influencers’ of the day – film stars – took part in promotional efforts and corporate sponsors like Heinz and Campbell donated goods and services.
1924 Child Star Jackie Coogan Milk Appeal. He travelled the country to raise $1 million dollars. Image via the Near East Museum.
From 1915-1930 they raised an astounding $110,000,000 ($1.2B in today’s dollars), mobilized thousands of volunteers, and most importantly helped save a million lives, including 132,000 orphans, by establishing with local communities and organizations scores of orphanages, schools, medical and refugee centers.
1918 American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief Distribution Map
A significant portion of these relief efforts took place across Syria, including Aleppo, Hama, Lattakia stretching to Deir ez-Zor, Institutions such as the Aleppo Orphanage and Aleppo Eye Hospital were launched and supported by the campaign (to name a couple).
1921 Near East Relief Operational Map
The campaign to galvanize Americans (and allies more generally) was truly one of the first mass-media marketing campaigns and utilized powerful art depicting women and children in need, capturing the hearts and stoking the imagination of Americans.
1916 - "You Won't Let Me Starve" - Shushan. One of the early American Committee for Relief Near East Vintage Posters.
1917-19 "Lest They Perish" Vintage Poster. Art by W. B. King captures the human face of the tragedy. Get a hi-res framed reprint.
1917-19 The Child At Your Door American Committee Relief in the Near East - Vintage Poster (artist unknown).
1917-19-Your Bit Saves A Life- Armenian and Syrian Relief Campaign-Vintage Poster
The same poster was adapted for transit advertisements. Truly, an omni-channel marketing campaign!
1917 - Starving - American Committee for Relief Near East Red and Yellow Vintage Posters - Uniquely it mentions Armenia, Caucasus, Syria, Egypt, Persia and Palestine.
Instructions on the back of the vintage posters above with a bit of motivation and context: "The enclosed picture is no ordinary bit of Advertising. An artist put his soul into It. He seeks to create sympathy for a people who hare suffered more than any other in a time when the whole world la torn with anguish."
1918 - Give or we perish - Near East Relief Vintage - Poster. Art by W.T. Bend
1918 - Armenian and Syrian Relief - Western Union Telegram Advertisement
1918- They shall not perish - American Committee for Relief in the Near East - Art by Douglas Volk
1918- Lest they perish Vintage-poster by Ethel Franklin Betts
Do you know of other great examples of campaign relief posters? Let me know!