I hope everyone has been enjoying the day. I wanted to share this extraordinary poster from 1918 urging Americans to purchase was savings stamps. I think it illustrates–quite literally–that peace, if we can even call it that, was a tenuous thing six weeks after the Armistice. Americans and their allies were occupying Germany. Allied troops were also stationed in remote, freezing Siberia. This was in the wake of the assassination of the czar and his family. These were the early stages of the Russian Civil War.

“Our Soldiers in Siberia!”: This 1918 Christmas poster of a doughboy in Russia accompanied by a Czech or Slovak counterpart reminded Americans at the time of how fragile peace was after the Armistice and, intentionally or not, hinted of strains to come at the Versailles negotiating table.

Theodore Roosevelt returned to Sagamore Hill on Christmas Day afternoon after having spend almost two months in a Manhattan hospital. In early December he had been too infirm even to walk; he was also blind in one eye and still feeling the effects of the jungle disease that had nearly killed him four years earlier on his expedition down the River of Doubt. Despite all this, there was nonetheless talk that Christmas week of 1918 of Colonel Roosevelt traveling to Europe to participate in the peace negotiations. Colonel Roosevelt quickly dispelled these rumors. Franklin Roosevelt, still the assistant secretary of the navy, was scheduled to sail for Europe aboard the Leviathan on December 31 to start wrapping up naval contracts and other business. Already in Europe was Woodrow Wilson, who spent December 25 in Chaumont, France with Pershing and the troops before heading to London. American and allied troops were also in Siberia, and General Pershing was talking over Christmas about transferring an entire division from Germany there to further support them.

The reference in the poster to the Čecho-Slováks–peoples formerly under rule of the now-dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire–hints at the complexity of the task Wilson and other leaders would face when trying to put the world back together. 1919 would be a fraught time.

(image/Library of Congress)