A crowd of 50-100,000 people (reports vary) gathered on Wall Street in New York City to hear Charlie and Douglas Fairbanks make speeches on the steps of the Sub-Treasury Building. “There was a roar as Charlie mounted the platform and announced that he had just come from addressing a Liberty Loan meeting in Washington [where the tour officially started] and that his ‘British heart was 100 percent American today.'” He appeared without his famous costume, wearing a blue suit & black derby. But with the help of a cane he performed his celebrated Tramp walk for the crowd, lest some of the folks may not have recognized him. Noticeably suffering from stage fright, he was the first to address the crowd:
“Now, listen, I’ve never made a speech in my life, but I believe I can make one now. You people out there, don’t think of the percentage of the loan, think of the lives that are being sacrificed. America’s richest blood is now being given up for democracy. The Germans are now in an advantageous position and we must get them out of it….Money is needed—money to support the great army and navy of Uncle Sam. This very minute the Germans occupy a position of advantage, and we have got to get the dollars. It ought to go over so that we can drive that old devil, the Kaiser, out of France.
Next up was Douglas who asked the audience what they thought of Charlie’s speech. They answered, “Fine!” “Good, I wrote it!” responded Doug. This produced a roar of laughter from the crowd. At the end of his speech, and with an arm flung over Charlie’s shoulder, he led the crowd in “Over There” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Then, in a typically acrobatic move, Doug grabbed Charlie around the waist and hoisted him above his head–creating one of the most famous photos from the rally:
Chaplin spent one month touring the southern states selling Liberty Bonds before quitting early due to illness & fatigue. As time allows, I may focus on some of these stops over the next month. Chaplin’s Liberty Bond tour provides an interesting peek into Charlie Chaplin-mania which was at its height in 1918. He was hunted, swarmed, and mobbed everywhere he went. Stay tuned…
Chaplin’s War Trilogy by Wes Gehring, 2014
New York Evening World, April 8, 1918
New York Tribune, April 9, 1918