- "Death Ray" Discovered! New York: Artwin Service Corp, ca 1920.
- paper, ink
This broadside captures the international fear and excitement ignited by the weapon, which many thought to be real thanks in large part to sensational accounts in the press. It depicts the inventor Harry Grindell Matthews shooting down an aeroplane with the "Death Ray" while J[ohn] Bull (as the personification of the UK), Uncle Sam, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Germany look on in astonishment.
Rumors of the existence of the "Death Ray" swirled around for nearly two decades, and in the tense years following WWI, countries were keen to find technological advancements to improve their weaponry. Paranoia surrounding its development was at a peak in the interim years, and while the invention seemed very much like something straight out of science fiction, no country could afford to assume that another had not already developed it. This paranoia is perfectly evidenced in the accompanying letter sent from Rear Admiral C.C. Bloch of the US Navy to Dr. Whitney, head of the research lab at General Electric. In part:
"I have been much interested, and to some degree concerned, in the various press reports concerning the development abroad in several countries of a so-called "death-dealing ray ... I should be very glad to know if you have received any information beyond that published in the press as to the value of this device and as to its method of operation ... I feel that, even allowing for newspaper exaggeration, the subject may be too important for us to neglect."