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James Montgomery Flagg

James Montgomery Flagg
James Montgomery Flagg, 1915, photographed by Arnold Genthe
Born (1877-06-18)June 18, 1877
Pelham Manor, New York, United States
Died May 27, 1960(1960-05-27) (aged 82)
New York City, United States
Nationality American
Occupation artist and illustrator

James Montgomery Flagg (June 18, 1877 – May 27, 1960) was an American artist and illustrator. He worked in media ranging from fine art painting to cartooning, but is best remembered for his political posters.[1]


  • Life and career 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Gallery 3
  • Notes 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Life and career

Flagg was born on June 18, 1877 in Pelham Manor, New York.[1]

He was enthusiastic about drawing from a young age, and had illustrations accepted by national magazines by the age of 12 years. By 14 he was a contributing artist for Life magazine, and the following year was on the staff of another magazine, Judge. From 1894 through 1898, he attended the Art Students League of New York. He studied fine art in London and Paris from 1898–1900, after which he returned to the United States, where he produced countless illustrations for books, magazine covers, political and humorous cartoons, advertising, and spot drawings. Among his creations was a comic strip that appeared regularly in Judge from 1903 until 1907, about a tramp character titled Nervy Nat.[2]

In 1915, he accepted commissions from Calkins and Holden to create advertisements for Edison Photo and Adler Rochester Overcoats but only on the condition that his name would not be associated with the campaign.[3]

The grave of James Montgomery Flagg in Woodlawn Cemetery

He created his most famous work in 1917, a poster to encourage recruitment in the United States Army during World War I. It showed Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer (inspired by a British recruitment poster showing Lord Kitchener in a similar pose) with the caption "I Want YOU for U.S. Army".[4] Over four million copies of the poster were printed during World War I, and it was revived for World War II. Flagg used his own face for that of Uncle Sam (adding age and the white goatee), he said later, simply to avoid the trouble of arranging for a model. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt praised his resourcefulness for using his own face as the model. By some accounts though, Flagg had a neighbor, Walter Botts, pose for the piece.

At his peak, Flagg was reported to have been the highest paid magazine illustrator in America.[5] In 1946, Flagg published his autobiography, Roses and Buckshot. Apart from his work as an illustrator, Flagg painted portraits which reveal the influence of John Singer Sargent. Flagg's sitters included Mark Twain and Ethel Barrymore; his portrait of Jack Dempsey now hangs in the Great Hall of the National Portrait Gallery. In 1948, he appeared in a Pabst Blue Ribbon magazine ad which featured the illustrator working at an easel in his New York studio with a young lady standing at his side and a tray with an open bottle of Pabst and two filled glasses sat before them.[6]

James Montgomery Flagg died on May 27, 1960 in New York City.[1] He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.


Ft. Knox Kentucky has a parade field named and dedicated to James Flagg. It is called Flagg Field and located behind the Ft. Knox Hotel.

Flagg spent summers in Biddeford Pool, Maine and his home, the James Montgomery Flagg House, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.[7]



  1. ^ a b c "James Montgomery Flagg Dies. Illustrator and Author Was 82. Artist Was Noted for Patriotic War Posters and Magazine Drawings of Women".  
  2. ^ Marschall, Rick (May, 1985). "The Comic Obsessions of James Montgomery Flagg". Nemo, the Classic Comics Library, No. 11.
  3. ^ Bogart, Michele Helene (December 18, 1995). Artists, advertising, and the borders of art (first ed.). University Of Chicago Press. p. 444.  
  4. ^ "Lest Liberty Perish from the Face of the Earth - Buy Bonds".  
  5. ^ , April 11, 2006. accessed May 8, 2009.Antiques And The Arts OnlineSmith, David S., "A Stately New Exhibition Space For New Boston Museum Of American Art",
  6. ^ the (2013-05-01). Portrait by 'Monty' Flagg...or You!", ''LIFE'', May 3, 1948, Old Beer ads. accessed May 1, 2013""". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  7. ^ "National Register of Historic Places in York County, Maine". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 

Further reading

  • Flagg, James Montgomery. Roses and Buckshot. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1946. OCLC 517299
  • Flagg, James Montgomery, and Susan E. Meyer. James Montgomery Flagg. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1974. ISBN 0823018350

External links

  • Works by James Montgomery Flagg at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about James Montgomery Flagg at Internet Archive
  • James Montgomery Flagg's 1917 "I Want You" Poster and other works at the Wayback Machine (archived October 28, 2004)
  • James Montgomery Flagg on JVJ Publishing site
  • James Montgomery Flagg artwork can be viewed at American Art Archives web site
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