Who gathered together the Legion’s vast collection of war posters?
Verna Grimm, the first head of the Legion library at National Headquarters in Indianapolis. Born in Iowa in 1892, she moved to Washington state as a young child. She received an A.B. from the University of Washington College of Arts and accepted a librarian job in Centralia, Wash. There, she met and married Warren Grimm, a star football player and soldier who had lived in Centralia since his childhood.
Warren had served in Siberia with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. While overseas, he had engaged Bolsheviks while helping to protect the Trans-Siberian Railroad and found similar tensions when he returned to his hometown. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an international union organization linked by many with communism, was in the midst of a long-standing feud with authorities and business figures in the region. In response to an attack on their Centralia lodge during the 1918 Memorial Day parade, local IWW members spent the run-up to the Armistice Day 1919 parade preparing for a recurrence of violence. What happened during the parade has never been conclusively proven, but this much is true: suddenly, there were gunshots and struggles; and Warren, who was leading the parade along with other local Legionnaires, had been shot dead by a "Wobbly."
After attending the IWW trial over her husband’s death, Verna went to New York and earned a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University. In 1923, she accepted the position of head librarian at the Legion and moved herself and her young daughter to Indianapolis. She kept this position until her retirement in 1957. In the intervening 34 years, she oversaw the growth of the library; traveled throughout the United States and Europe helping to organize the yearly national convention; and formed the Legion’s poster collection.
Verna played a leading role in collecting the posters. She got many from private parties and bought more from the American Library Service. Her main objective in amassing the collection, which includes posters with titles like "Junk Rains Hell on Axis" and "Sink a Sub From Your Farm," was to humanize war for future generations by showing how those on the homefront dealt with it. She wrote in a 1937 exhibit guide:
"Students and children will be interested in learning of these phases of the World War not found in history textbooks. They will learn that the war was not just a series of battles, but that with it life had to be lived as gallantly as possible and these personal associations helped make the ordeal endurable."
The collection is mostly of World War I and World War II posters. Many are today displayed on the walls of National Headquarters. Verna died soon after her retirement, in 1958, and was buried in Indiana. After her death, an National Executive Committee resolution confirmed the memorial section of the library as the Verna B. Grimm Memorial Book Collection.
Click here to learn more about the Legion’s poster collection.