This afternoon, a new library exhibit opened to the public at the Wolfsonian dealing with the visual display of statistics. The display in our third floor foyer highlights the use of graphic statistics by three distinct groups: European imperialists attempting to “sell” their colonial projects to their own citizens; American “New Dealers” looking to win popular support for programs aimed at addressing social problems brought on by the Great Depression; and, Soviet propagandists intent on winning converts to the Socialist cause in the depths of the world-wide depression. Since our exhibition space is relatively small, I thought I’d use this blog post to show off some more of the materials that we couldn’t fit into the cases.



In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Portuguese government responsible for her overseas possessions employed sophisticated and colorful pie-charts, graphs, and tables in their publications. These reports were intended to win over government decision-makers, administrators, and bureaucrats of the time-saving potential of costly colonial railway projects. By the 1930s, printed works promoting colonial endeavors of populist dictators like Italy’s Benito Mussolini represented numerical data with easily identifiable pictorial figures  that even semi-literate populations could understand.

The Soviet Union made excellent use of graphic statistics to propagandize the successes of their own five-year plan for industrial, economic, and social development under the Socialist model.


American publishers and book designers in the New Deal era also made use of simple pictorial figures to represent statistical trends. Given the tough economic times, however, most of these visual graphics were done using standardized pictographs, or by supplementing simple statistical tables with photographic illustrations to humanize the numbers.

~ by "The Chief" on August 25, 2011.

One Response to “LET’S GET GRAPHIC!”

  1. I like the pictures of the exhibit coming together. I think it would be interesting for others to see how an exhibit is put together and how items are chosen.

    ~Miriam K.

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