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1 Introduction During the early spring in 1918, Fritz Monat, a forty-two-year-old coal miner from Staunton, Illinois, was visiting family near St. Thomas in Cole County, Missouri. For several days, primarily during stops at taverns in Jefferson City, he boasted about having been born in Germany and expressed the hope that his birth country would win the Great War. A “Committee of Citizens” followed his movements throughout the city for several days to gather evidence of his disloyal behavior. On April 5, 1918, twenty-five committee members decided that Monat had expressed enough unpatriotic thoughts and that he should be punished. The incensed committee members nabbed him, took him to McClung Park, removed his shirt, threw several buckets of cold water on his back, and then “whipped [him] with a rawhide” until he apologized for his expressions and agreed to kiss the American flag. The group then took him to the Jefferson Theater and compelled him to kneel before a large audience, to apologize again for his remarks, and to kiss the flag. Members of the audience, who initially thought the incident funny and part of an act, quickly realized its seriousness when committee members warned the audience that they would deal in the same manner with other “disloyal utterances.”1 2 p Degrees of Allegiance Local and regional newspapers reinforced this warning. The editor of the Missouri Volksfreund, the German-language newspaper in Jefferson City, suggested that people should not express opposition to the government during times of emergency and that the government would punish such actions more severely in the future. The Tipton Times, in neighboring Moniteau County, stated that Monat would realize now that “fealty to the Fatherland with an utter disregard for his adopted state and everything that a true American should hold dear is not in keeping with good citizenship.”2 Atfirstglancethisincidentappearsnodifferentfromanyotherincidentinthe widespread frenzy directed against German speakers living in heavily Germanpopulated communities of the Midwest during the First World War. Frederick C. Luebke, still recognized as the leading historian on the subject, argued that during the “strong wave of anti-German hysteria” of World War I “citizens of German origin” experienced persecution and confronted “serious efforts . . . to eliminate German language and culture in the United States.”3 Chicagoans, for example, “spied on, terrorized, investigated, jailed and discharged [GermanAmericans ] from their jobs in an effort to produce ‘100% Americanism.’” Iowa’s governor W. L. Harding proclaimed that no person could speak German in public or on the telephone. Indiana’s State Teachers’ Association urged the elimination of German in elementary schools.4 According to several historians this “hatred and persecution of German cultural manifestations” during the war struck a “sharp and powerful blow” at the German-American community by erasing its distinct culture from the nation.5 The analysis of social, economic, and political relationships at the local level in Missouri, however, reveals a much more complex truth that does not fit well with the bleak portrayal of the German-American experience during the Great War. This case study of Missouri in the context of the Midwest demonstrates that aggression toward German-Americans during World War I occurred in communities where personal relationships and emphasis on local enforcement of national war effort guidelines, not ethnicity itself, created suspicions . (By “German-Americans” I mean those persons, whether U.S. citizens or not, who were born in Germany and those whose heritage included a parent or grandparent born in Germany. By “Americans” and “Missourians” I mean persons whose heritage is other than German.)6 In-depth evaluation of anti-German sentiment in Missouri, such as accusations of unpatriotic behavior , arrests under the Espionage Act, job loss, property destruction, and renaming of businesses or streets, evidenced in public documents and newspapers , revealed that Missouri Germans did not entirely escape charges of disloyalty . Nevertheless, they were not the subject of widespread hate crimes and Introduction p 3 ethnically targeted legislation German-Americans experienced in midwestern states such as Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.7 Missouri was unique in several ways. Its legislature did not meet during the war, and its governor did not perceive the need for an emergency session. Missouri ’s political culture, or “Show-Me” attitude, also encouraged individualism as well as minimal government interference in traditional social and economic structures.8 Therefore, the Missouri Council of Defense, the organization in charge of the war effort, advocated volunteerism, opposed any form of mob violence, and appealed to German speakers to turn hesitant German...


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