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New York’s Iconic Photos: WWI Wall Street Rally

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This iconic photo, from April 9, 1918, shows actor Charlie Chaplin being held up by fellow actor Douglas Fairbanks at a Wall Street rally to sell war bonds. The rally took place at the foot of the United States Sub-Treasury Building, which is now known as Federal Hall.

Chaplin was a powerful figure in the silent film era. He gained worldwide fame with his on-screen persona, “The Tramp,” and he continues to be one of the most recognized and important figures in the history of film.

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The photo above shows Douglas Fairbanks addressing the crowd to increase Liberty Bond sales at the iconic Wall Street rally. Fairbanks was known as “The King of Hollywood” and was known for his swashbuckling roles in films such as Robin Hood and The Mask of Zorro.

The following year, Fairbanks and Chaplin (along with actress Mary Pickford and director/producer D.W. Griffith) would start United Artists in order to gain more control over the work that they produced.

The actors were involved in a campaign by the government that enlisted the help of celebrities to increase sales of Liberty Bonds during WWI. The United States had entered the war a year earlier in April of 1917 and although there was widespread support for the war effort, bond sales were in need of a boost. Many Americans had never purchased a bond before.

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Another angle of the Wall Street Rally shows Chaplin raising his hat to the cheering crowd.

Approximately 20,000 New Yorkers flocked to Wall Street to see the stars. The crowd cheered loudly for each actor’s individual appearances, but not compared to the reaction they received when the actors engaged in some lighthearted antics together. When Fairbanks hoisted Chaplin above his head, the enthusiastic roar from the crowd was deafening.

The American public responded positively to the celebrity-endorsed sales campaign. The Wall Street rally, along with many other celebrity rallies and nationwide tours helped rejuvenate war bond sales.

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