Working with Hoover's poster collection, I came across a poster with a striking image of a bazaar and "Hero Land" in a huge typeface reminiscent of a movie poster, illustrated by J. Carl Mueller. As I noticed similar posters, I began to wonder, what was Hero Land?
Assuming from the poster that it was a movie, I conducted a Google search. Finding Hero Land in a New York Times index from 1918, I went to the New York Times historical full-text database (most public and academic libraries have this newspaper database available from ProQuest).
I discovered that Hero Land was a World War I Allied war relief benefit bazaar held in New York at the Grand Central Palace from November 24 to December 12, 1917. And what a benefit it was!
As an advertisement in the November 24, 1917, New York Times noted: "Hero Land is a 16-Day Military Pageant, Theatrical Entertainment, Oriental Wonderland and Charity Mart; Devised, Created, Managed, and Financed by One Hundred Approved National War Relief Organization for the Benefit of American and Allied Relief."
Sounding more like a world's fair than a relief benefit, "the object … is to bring home in vivid pictures to the American people some of the actualities of warfare as carried on by the Germans."
The Grand Central Palace itself was transformed. The first floor included a grand ballroom modeled after Versailles and the third floor was given over to a re-creation of the streets of Baghdad. There were reproductions of forts, trench lines, bomb shelters, and battlefields, including a British tank and a German submarine. There was also entertainment: five moving picture theaters, an ice skating rink, restaurants, bands, dancing, and shopping, as well as special events every evening.
More than 250,000 people attended Hero Land, creating a net profit of $571,438 (about $10.3 million today) to be dispersed among one hundred war relief charities, including the Commission for Relief in Belgium, whose records are also at Hoover. Hero Land was surely an amazing sight to behold, as was my discovery of its beautiful publicity posters among Hoover's trove of more than 100,000 posters.