Propaganda and Patriotism: the Art of Financing America's Wars

Propaganda and Patriotism

Explore the interactive timeline.
Every image has a story to tell.

Journey through World Wars I and II and discover the emotional stories and powerful pictures that called on Americans to "Fight or Buy Bonds" to support the war effort. And learn about the Fed’s role as America’s bank.

War Spares No Expense

That’s what the founders of our country discovered when they began fighting the Revolutionary War. In fact, financing the war was the start of our country’s debt.The Continental Congress didn’t have the authority to levy and collect taxes, so in 1775, its delegates issued paper money, called Continentals. These were bills of credit to be redeemed in coin “on the faith in the revolutionary cause.”

To manage the nation’s money, the Department of Finance, led by Robert Morris, was created in 1781. The Treasury Department, created in 1789, named Alexander Hamilton as its first Secretary.

By 1790, US debt was $77.1 million, $75.5 million of it incurred by the Revolutionary War. To raise money, the government issued loan certificates, much like federal bonds, through which it borrowed money from France and the Netherlands.

After the Revolutionary War, the value of paper Continentals decreased so rapidly that the money became worthless, and angry citizens coined the phrase “not worth a Continental.”

The First Bank of the United States, the nation’s first central bank, was formed in 1791. It loaned the government money to pay the deficit that had been accrued by the military, issued bank notes, and controlled the nation’s money supply. But in 1811, when the Bank’s 20-year charter ran out, it was not renewed.

To finance that war, the Legal Tender Act of 1862 authorized the sale of $500 million in bonds.

When the government had problems marketing the bonds, it hired a banking house to do so. However, the arrangement was discontinued because of public opinion that the banking house was making too much profit. In 1863, Congress passed the National Bank Act to handle the Treasury’s transactions.


The Galleries

Click the links below to visit the galleries or use the timeline below to find out more about how the war bonds posters fit into history.

World War I Posters | World War II Posters

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Timeline Map of Propaganda and Patriotism 1775 1775 1781 1789 1783 1791 1791 1816 1816 1820-1870 1863 1861 1865 1862 1863 1865 1880-1930 1913 1917 WWI War Posters 1914-1918 1917 1918 1919 1929 1933 1939 1941 - FDR's Four Freedoms speech 1943 1941 1941 WWII War Posters 1941 1942 1942 1941 War Bonds - Tim Daley 1941-1942 War Bonds - Geraldine Daley 1944 War Bonds - Kathleen Hastir 1944 1945 1945 1950's 1776-1976 1966 1980 2012 2002-2003

Money Museum Lending Library

Discover the tales money can tell — Borrow our traveling exhibits—for free! The Learning Center and Money Museum has exhibits for your organization to borrow. The exhibits are easily transported on sturdy collapsible stands. Loan periods can range from two weeks to 3 months depending on availability. All exhibits come with complimentary educational materials. There is never a fee to borrow our exhibits, however borrowing organizations may be asked to pay for shipping costs. Contact us at 216-579-3188 or

Propaganda and Patriotism: The Art of Financing America's Wars

Propaganda and Patriotism: The Art of Financing America's Wars shares the powerful stories and images of America's war bonds and American citizens' role in supporting the war effort. And learn about the Fed's role as America's bank. Perfect for museums and schools along with history, social studies, civics, arts, and veterans' programs.

Power to the People: Regulation and Change

Power to the People: Regulation and Change focuses on history, the regulatory process, and the public's role in advocating for change. A compelling resource for museums, schools, and community organizations and for history, social studies, and civics programs.

Questionable Issue: Currency of the Holocaust

Questionable Issue: Currency of the Holocaust shares the gripping and seldom-told story of "money" inside Nazi concentration camps and ghettos. Stories of camps where prisoners were forced to "exchange" their money for worthless Nazi-issued paper provides a wrenching lesson in betrayal and loss suitable for museums and schools as well as history, social studies, diversity, and civics programs.

Money of the World Today

Money of the World Today features the fascinating facts and images of currency from all over the world. The exhibit also features stories that explain the unique role money plays in the culture and history of the world's people. Great for museums, schools, scouts, and collectors, as well as history, social studies, and civics programs.

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