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Liberty Bond Rally, U.S. Capitol, photograph, 1918

During World War I, the federal government recruited celebrities to sell Liberty Bonds throughout the country, energizing large rallies like this one at the U.S. Capitol. Here House Speaker James Beauchamp Clark appears with the movie actor Charlie Chaplin. Also in attendance were movie stars Marie Dressler, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Liberty Bond Rally

Liberty Bonds

The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war, but how does the nation pay for it? Eighteen days after Congress declared war against Germany in 1917, it passed the Liberty Loan Act, authorizing the treasury secretary to issue $5 billion worth of bonds to raise war funds. By the war’s end, 20 million Americans had purchased more than $21 billion of Liberty Bonds, funding two-thirds of the cost of the war. New taxes covered the remaining costs.

We act with the belief that the debt we are about to incur, stupendous though it is, is no greater than this, the greatest Republic of all time, owes to human civilization.

Representative Nicholas Longworth of Ohio, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, April 13, 1917