William “Bill” D. Leary didn’t know he had stumbled upon a new career as a public speaker when he unrolled the huge collection of posters his late father had stored in an old outbuilding, but when he viewed them, he found they told the story of a nation at war.

Bill’s father, William R. Leary, worked for the Worcester Electric Company during World War II, and later moved to Haverhill. Part of his job was to set up the colorful patriotic posters which decorated the windows of the company building, starting in the early 1940s. As the old posters were no longer wanted, he took them home and just stored them in the wooden shed behind his house. Upon William R. Leary’s death in 1971, his wife found the forgotten collection and gave it to her son.

Surprisingly, the posters were in fine condition. What to do with them was an unanswered question, until Bill Leary’s wife, Linda, saw an article in the Newburyport Daily News looking for program presenters for the Living History Program. A grant from the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities paid for the mounting of 33 posters, and then invitations to speaking engagements started coming in.

Leary has since done a great deal of research on the numerous forms of patriotic posters of the war, their artists, and the messages the government wanted the posters to convey to the American people.

The messages ranged from urging folks at home to buy war bonds and savings stamps, to collecting metal to be recycled into armaments. And, of course, to “Support our troops!”

Leary enjoys sharing his love of the genre with people, and even makes new additions to his collection at speaking engagements. At his talk at the Haverhill Universalist Unitarian Church, one guest presented him with a ration card, used by her family in World War II. She wanted it to go to a place where it would be appreciated.

This Week's Circulars