How Uncle Fester helped raise more than $1 million for Armenian Genocide Victims

Uncle Fester helped raise more than $1 million ($15 million in 2019) for Armenian Genocide victims.

The actor Jackie Coogan was 10 years old at the time and 3 years earlier had starred in the Charlie Chaplin classic movie, The Kid. He was dubbed “the most famous boy in the world” and had a movie career playing scrappy, lovable orphans. Because of this he was seen as a powerful and effective advocate for philanthropic causes.


During the aftermath of the Genocide, The Near East Foundation approached Coogan’s father who granted approval stating that he wanted “Jackie to see and realize some of the hardships and suffering other children of his own age have had to endure, to bring home to him a realization of the common duty of all mankind to one another.”


In 1924, Jackie Coogan embarked on a national fundraising tour on behalf of Near East Relief. Coogan traveled across the United States in a railroad car collecting clothing, non-perishable food, and financial donations. 



Crowds of fans greeted Jackie at every stop across America. Coogan then traveled by sea to London, Paris, Rome with his tour culminating in Greece at the largest orphanage in Athens, Zappeion. He arrived with more than $1 million in cargo ($15 million in 2019).

The Greek government presented Jackie with the Silver Cross of the Order of Saint George.






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If I’m not mistaken, the campaign began because of the articles, biography, and eventually the author of her tragedy, starring in her own film, Aurora Mardiganian as part of the Near East campaign. She was a victim and survivor of the Armenian Genocide and a heroine. I believe Coogan took over after Aurora had a breakdown given how they exploited her and once the US , UK were in serious talks with Ataturk. The theme of the Christian Armenian girl against the brutal Muslim shifted focus to the ‘starving Armenians’.

Audrey Kalajian on Oct 27, 2019

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