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WWII Propaganda and Print Collections

Identifier: 04-exws_wwii

Scope and Contents

The WWII Propaganda and Print Collection consists of six series (subcollections) comprised of the donations by Proffessor Howard Mowen, Edwin W. Polk, Robert C. Anderson and others which have been integrated to form a single collection of Nazi German and Allied Forces publications, photographs, and ephemera.

Howard Mowen donated some 50 newspaper titles, photographs, books and contemporary currency for the period of 1933-1945 in Germany. Mowen was a Professor of History at WMU (retired 1982) and was a veteran of WWII; US Army, European Theater. Certain items in this series are extremely rare, as much of this material was destroyed after the war, during the Denazification programs or has ended up with private collectors rather than in libraries.

Edwin W. Polk's donation consists of World War II German serials, American serials, pamphlets, leaflets and other ephemera. Mr. Polk's own war experiences as a skipper of a PT boat in the South Pacific prompted his interest in collecting these publications while serving overseas. Mr. Polk was an Alumnus of Western State Teachers College (Class of 1937), now Western Michigan University. He was also a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools for 40 years and continued to remain active in several military oriented associations and groups.


Series 1 of WWII Propaganda and Print Collection contains the combination of ephemera, photographs and publications collected by both Mowen and Polk. Items in the series that were donated by someone other than Howard Mowen have been labeled with the donor's name (e.g. donated by Edin W. Polk) otherwise everything else in this series was a gift of Prof. Mowen.

Series 2 contains runs of German serials collected by Polk and Mowen. Publications donated by Howard Mowen are denoted in the finding aid. All of the other publications were donated by Polk or others. Robert C. Anderson served in the US Army during WWII. His son, a WMU employee, donated a collection of Yank, Stars and Stripes and other serials, as well as GI ephemera. This donation has been designated as Series 3.

The miscellaneous ephemera category includes several small donations of materials made by various donors: WWII period maps and post cards from Germany and Eastern Europe and ephemera from the post-WWII American occupation of Japan (the former donated by WMU Librarian, Maira Bundza, and the latter donated by WMU alumnus (Class of 2012), Tyler Baker. In 2015, we received a donation of German military insignia (cloth patches) from Frans van Liere. This entire group of materials has been designated as Series 4. Each donor's name has been entered in the description field of each item where the provenance is known.

Series 5 consist of miscellaneous German and American serial publications, either incomplete runs or even single issues. Some of these serial issues were donated by Prof. Howard Mowen. The items donated by Mowen have been labeled in this series (e.g., donated by Howard Mowen).

Series 6 is a collection of photocopied illustrations by US Army Air Force graphic artist George Withers which originally appeared in the magazine Army Talks, in posters or in US Army manuals. There are also photocopies of original sketches and paintings. The copies were donated by George Withers' son, Brian Withers. Mr. Withers also donated original correspondence between his relatives Frank Tobitsch, an American enlisted man in the US Army, serving in Prisoner of War camps in the American South, and Mary Dirnthaler of Bronx, New York.


  • Creation: 1904-1964; bulk 1918-1945
  • Other: Date acquired: 1986, 1988, 2010


Conditions Governing Access

Many of the newspapers are extremely brittle. For this reason, the Special Collections staff may prohibit the opening or handling of certain items. Some item have been digitized and are available for viewing online.


156 boxes

Language of Materials

Multiple languages


Nazi-period German serials, photos and ephemera, as well as American and some North African serials, as well as ephemera. This collection also contains books (the books are cataloged individually and searchable through the WMU Libraries catalog: Library Search).

Arrangement Note

The WWII Propaganda and Print Collections are divided into four separate collections or "series" following the order in which they were received by Western Michigan University Libraries Special Collections. Series 1 (The Howard Mowen and Edwin Polk Collection), Series 2 (Polk-Mowen Publications), Series 3 (Robert C. Anderson Collection), Series 4 (Miscellaneous Ephemera), Series 5 (Miscellaneous Publications) and Series 6 (George Withers Collection).

Physical Access Requirements

WMU Special Collections. Non-circulating. Contact department for access.

Source of Acquisition

Howard Mowen, Edwin W. Polk, Edwin and Mary Meader, Robert C. Anderson, Tyler Baker, Maira Bundza, Carolyn Hardman, Brian Withers.

Method of Acquisition


Accruals and Additions

Additional donations in 1988 (Edwin W. Polk), 2010, and 2012 (Brian Withers).

Related Materials

The World War II Propaganda Digital Collections at Western Michigan University from holdings in Special Collections and Rare Books, Waldo Library.

Related Publications

Physical Description

Overall, the six series that make up the WWII Propaganda and Print Collection spans approximately 290 linear feet. Series 1 (The Howard Mowen and Edwin Polk Collection) is housed in 17 archival boxes. Series 2 (Polk-Mowen Publications) is housed in 120 archival boxes. Series 3 (Robert C. Anderson Collection) is housed in 3 archival boxes. Series 4 (Miscellaneous Ephemera) is housed in 2 archival boxes. Series 5 (Miscellaneous Publications) housed in 9 archival boxes and Series 6 (George Withers Collection) is housed in 1 archival box. Materials in English, German, French, and Italian.

WWII Propaganda and Print Collections Finding Aid
Issa Braman, Ira Esch, Neil Chase, and Erin Lynch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2012-07-11: Major revision in the summer of 2010 by Issa Braman, with revisions to the German by Issa Braman and Maria Benson. Revised and formatted for Archon by Ira Esch in the summer of 2012. Edited and uploaded into Archon by Marianne Swierenga on July 11, 2012.
  • 2015-08: Additions made by Neil Chase, August 2015. Migrated to ArchivesSpace in August 2016.

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Special Collections Repository

Western Michigan University Libraries, Special Collections
Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490