chapter  V
91 Pages

1914-1940

The attitude of New Yorkers to the First World War was as equivocal as had been their attitude to the Civil War. Elsa Maxwell, a pudgy young woman from Keokuk, Iowa, returning to New York in 1915 after a prolonged tour abroad as a vaudeville accompanist, found the city totally changed: "The New York I remembered was a raucous, provincial town trying too eagerly and self-consciously to assume the air and attitude of a metropolis. The metamorphosis was almost complete in the summer of 1915. In seven short years New York had graduated from shirtsleeves to white piping on the vest."3 But she was shocked to find her hotel flying the German flag and Count von Bernstorff himself, the German Ambassador, standing in the lobby. There was a surprising amount of proGerman sentiment, and New Yorkers seemed irrepressibly gay and indifferent to the war, or actually irritated by what seemed to the "social leaders" to be an inconvenience.