Recruiting poster printed with "Volunteers for Mexico."
Broadsides (single sheets of paper usually printed on one side) served as public announcements or advertisements soon after the beginning of printing. Originally issued primarily by governmental, religious, and political bodies, broadsides were later used for advertisements, programs, notices, ballad verses, elegies, and comments on contemporary events. They were read, handed out, or posted in prominent locations and were an inexpensive way to reach a wide audience. Broadsides are documents created for a specific purpose and usually discarded once that initial purpose is accomplished. Broadsides are an important resource for many disciplines because the images and slogans provide snapshots of the events, ideas, and attitudes of their era.
During wartime one common use of the broadside format was for recruiting purposes. Broadsides are considered “ephemera,” that is, items were produced with no intention of preservation. Most were meant to be posted and then discarded when they had served their purpose. That is what makes so many broadsides rare, if not unique.