The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Sixty-Four

April 18-25, 1918 

“Enormous Liberty Loan Parade of soldiers and sailors.  Hippodrome employees and elephants, Boy and Girls Scouts and the Motor Girls.”

On April 20, 1918, Kate Roosevelt was watching a sea of servicemen and their supporters sweep down Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Charlie Chaplin rallies in front of New York Public Library

Liberty Loan campaigns were organized throughout the country to promote “one hundred percent Americanism.” It was a marketing idea designed to sell war bonds that raised money and fostered loyalty for the Allies during World War One. Everyone was involved in one way or the other. The battle for freedom effected people from all walks of life. There were no ethnic, educational or financial lines drawn, everyone did their patriotic part and used their talent, persuasion or wealth to do so.

Samuel Koenig, a Jewish immigrant and prominent Republican politician, spoke of serving the cause to the congregation at Orthodox Synagogue Ohab Zedek on the Upper West Side. Wall Street financier James M. Beck donated money and patriots organized parades.

Douglas Fairbanks in front of Treasury Building

Liberty Land with displays of tanks, trenches and displays of battlefields was presented at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue and 25th Street.  Liberty Theater was set up on the steps of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Singers and Hollywood stars entertained large crowds there. Soprano Geraldine Ferrar sang the Star- Spangled Banner and actors, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, climbed on a platform to perform and sell Liberty Bonds.

The Hippodrome

Traffic was snarled and pedestrians stopped in their tracks to watch “Win the War Parades.”  Numbering more than thirty-thousand participants, the parade that Kate was watching snaked through Broadway down to Washington Square. Fifth Avenue, from 23rd to 59th Street was called the “Avenue of the Allies.”

Flag-draped buildings and festooned street signs proclaimed “The public affirmation of the devotion to the American principles of liberty that were being fought on the battlefields of Europe.”

Henry Houdini performing at the Hippodrome

The United Garment Workers of America participated saying, “American labor will continue to do its duty in workshops, factories and in the Army to win the war for freedom.”

The Hippodrome located at Sixth Avenue between West 43rd and 44th Streets was called the world’s largest theater when it opened in 1905.  Several of its employees enjoyed marching along the Liberty Loan Parade Route. Over the years, those working at the Hippodrome included acrobats, dancers, musicians, a baboon named Coco and a Spanish Clown named Marceline. In 1918, the magician, Henry Houdini thrilled crowds when he made an elephant disappear.  But the ten -thousand -pound pachyderm re-appeared as a proud participant in the patriotic parade.

Motor Girls

Also showing their support were the “Motor Girls.” They represented many working in factories on the home front and overseas producing ammunitions and motors and those driving transports and ambulances. French Field Marshal Joseph Joffre said, “If the women in the factories stopped working for twenty minutes, the Allies would lose the war.”

Corinne Roosevelt Robinson and her brother, Theodore Roosevelt

During World War One, even though they were not drafted for active duty, the Roosevelt women did their part. Kate Roosevelt rolled bandages and knitted socks for the troops; her daughter, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer volunteered with the Red Cross, serving coffee and donuts at the debarkation and embarkation stations located at Penn Station and the Greenhut Hospital in Lower Manhattan; their cousin, Theodore Roosevelt’s sister, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, headed New York’s War Preparedness Committee and Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Ethel Roosevelt Derby, went overseas with her husband, Dr. Richard Derby to assist him in running an Army Hospital.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
Liberty Loan Parade
Library of Congress

Photo Two:
Charlie Chaplin rallies in front of New York Public Library

Photo Three:
Douglas Fairbanks in front of Treasury Building
New York Public Library

Photo Four:
Hippodrome on Sixth Avenue

Photo Five:
Henry Houdini performing at the Hippodrome

Photo Six:
Motor Girls

Photo Seven:
Corinne Roosevelt Robinson and her brother, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt Association