Famous Actor Joins the Big Stage to Promote World War I​ Veterans

Douglas Fairbanks helps promote funding toward World War I veterans at the New Orleans, Fairgrounds.


The Day Douglas Fairbanks Appeared at the Fairgrounds

             November 11, 1918 was a day to remember for New Orleanians, not just because

Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks, Head-and-Shoulders Portrait, Wearing Headband and Earring, as “The Thief of Baghdad”], no date recorded on caption card, 1 photographic print, no date recorded on caption card, http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/195_copr.html.

it brought the armistice that ended the First World War, but it was also the day that Douglas Fairbanks, one of the best known movie stars of the silent film era came to the city. Fairbanks was on a tour of American cities in support of the United War Work Campaign, a special initiative group founded to help veterans. Known for his swashbuckling films, Fairbanks also helped in paying the one of the largest funds for the military troop’s entertainment. He traveled to many different large cities to gather citizens and urge the public to support the drive. On November 11, 1918, Fairbanks had attracted about 10,000 people to the Fairgrounds of New Orleans. He encouraged the audience to “double or triple” the quota of 170 million dollars.

Early November, 1918 was a time of epic events. The crumbling German military signed the armistice on the early morning of November 11th at 5 am, but strangely, the fighting was not supposed to end until 11 am.

United War Work Campaign Organizations
“‘For the Boys Over There’ – The 1918 United War Work Campaign,” accessed November 5, 2018, http://unitedwarwork.com/.

Thus, by the time the morning of the 11th arrived in America, most of the country knew that World War 1 was coming to an end and the Government had told the public that it was planning to fund the soldiers in about 170 million dollars for entertainment. The United War Work Campaign would start collecting money on the 11th until the 18th. The seven main volunteer organizations contributing to the United War Work Campaign included theNational War Work Council of the YMCA, the War Work Council of the YWCA, the National Catholic War Council (Knights of Columbus), the Jewish Welfare Board, the War Camp Community Service, the American Library Association, and the Salvation Army. Through their efforts, the campaign was able to raise 203 million dollars in only a week which is the equivalent of 3.7 billion dollars in 2018. Public support for helping the military in 1917-1918 was overwhelming. These organizations eventually sent over 500 tons of supplies, including “848 million cigarettes, 32 million cigars, 14 million packages of chewing gum, and ten million pounds of sugar.”

Fairbanks Pleads For War Aid Funds
“Fairbanks Pleads For War Aid Funds Moving Picture Star Appears Before 10,000 People at Fair,” Times-Picayune, November 11, 1918.

After touring major cities in attempts to raising the funds of the drive, Fairbanks and other actors like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin acted under director George M. Cohen, who made “Yankee Doodle Boy.” Motion Pictures were also able to produce films with these actors that were watched by 2.5 million a week. Funds raised for entertainment covered all of the cost of actors, cartoonist, and directors.


“Oregon Secretary of State: War Drives and Campaigns Tap the State.” Accessed October 16, 2018. https://sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/ww1/Pages/home-front-war-campaigns.aspx.
“Ten Facts About The Armistice (WW1).” Accessed October 16, 2018. https://www.tenfactsabout.co.uk/0002armistice.htm.
“What-Your-Money-Doing-for-Your-Boys.Pdf.” Accessed October 16, 2018. https://sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/ww1/Documents/what-your-money-doing-for-your-boys.pdf.


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