The Great War at Home in Wisconsin: Part I

The Great War at Home in Wisconsin: Part I

Record date: Oct 28, 2017

Richard L. Pifer, Retired Director of Reference at the Wisconsin Historical Society, discusses "Patriotism in the Traitor State;" Kevin Abing, Archivist at the Milwaukee Historical Society, presents “Milwaukee Goes to War;” and Leslie Bellais, Curator of Social History at the Wisconsin Historical Society, discusses “Wisconsin’s Hyper-Patriots.”

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Episode Transcript

- Good morning,

my name is Matt Blessing.

I am the state archivist

and I am with the Wisconsin

Historical Society,

one of the organizers

of this symposium.

The historical society is

very proud to be a cosponsor.

It's my job today to

welcome you to this session

but I'm particularly pleased

because I've known each

of the three presenters

for many years.

I first want to start

by thanking Wisconsin

Public Television

for recording each of the three


sessions today.

They will be rebroadcast

at a later date.

I know Wisconsin

residents all agree

that public broadcasting in

both Madison and Milwaukee

does a superb job sharing

state and local history.

The impact of the

first world war

in Wisconsin of

course was profound

and I know that each

of the presenters

will clearly tease out

those complexities.

And I'll be introducing

each of the speakers

in the order of

their presentation

and then I'll get

out of the way.

First up is Rick Pifer,

my friend and former colleague

at the Wisconsin

Historical Society.

Dr. Pifer has studied

the Wisconsin home front

during World War I and

World War II for over 40 years.

In retirement, he has

returned to writing history.

His recently released book,

"The Great War

Comes to Wisconsin,"

discusses the many ways

Wisconsin residents

met the demands of the war.

In his comments today,

he explores the meaning

and the manifestations

of patriotism.

Second will be Kevin Abing.

Dr. Abing is the

senior archivist

at the Milwaukee County

Historical Society.

His remarks focus

on the home front

in the state's largest city.

Kevin earned his MA

and PhD in history

from Marquette University

and his interest in

Milwaukee during World War I

stemmed from his early work

processing the papers of

socialist mayor Dan Hoan.

He became intrigued by the

extent and the ferocity

of the anti-German and

anti-Socialist hysteria

during the war

and that interest snowballed

into his new book,

"A Crowded Hour, Milwaukee

During the Great War,"

published this past May.

Leslie Bellais will

close this session.

Ms. Bellais is the

curator of social history

at the Wisconsin

Historical Society,


which include curation

of the society's important

textiles collections.

Previously, her work

at the College of William and

Mary's unique graduate program

included numerous museum

management apprenticeships

at colonial Williamsburg.

While continuing to work

at the Wisconsin

Historical Society

Leslie has returned

to graduate school

at the University of


She completed her thesis

"Bringing Up the Rear,

"A History of Late

19th Century Bustles"

and is currently working on

her dissertation "Trader State,

"A Crisis of Loyalty in

World War I Wisconsin."


- Thank you, Matt.

I've titled my paper today

"Patriotism in the

Traitor State."

In response to the Russian

Revolution of 1905,

Mark Twain wrote

The Czar's Soliloquy

which contains my favorite

definition of patriotism.

Twain wrote,

"Remember this,

take it to heart,

"live by it,

die for it if necessary.

"Our patriotism is

medieval, outworn, obsolete.

"The modern patriotism,

the true patriotism,

"the only rational patriotism,

"is loyalty to the

Nation all of the time,

"loyalty to the Government

when it deserves it."

Wisconsin was the traitor state

or so it seemed to

many observers in 1917.

And look at the record.

The people of Monroe, Wisconsin

voted overwhelmingly

against going to war.

Wisconsin's prominent

Socialist Party

ejected participation in any

way the capitalist conflict.

Nine of Wisconsin's

11 representatives

voted against the war.

Senator Robert M. La Follette lead a filibuster

to prevent arming

American merchant ships.

He was one of six Senators

to vote against the war.

He lead opposition

to conscription,

the sale of bonds

to finance the war

and repression of free speech.

Everywhere they looked,

the Wisconsin Loyalty Legion

believed they could

see ample evidence

of disloyalty, sedition

and unpatriotic behavior.

On March 21, 1918,

the Wisconsin Loyalty Legion

graphically portrayed the

state's traitorous reputation

in the "Sedition Map,"

published in the New York Sun.

The map showed seditious

areas of the state,

places where Socialists

and La Follette progressives

had polled well in the Senate

primary in the spring of 1918.

In that primary,

especially in German areas,

the progressives and

the socialists did well.

Not surprisingly,

the legion identified the

areas that had voted that way

as pro-German and seditious.

Visiting pundits

from out of state

repeatedly joined

Wisconsin super-patriots

to question the state's loyalty.

All too often, instead

of critiquing reality,

critics saw what

they wanted to see.

Wisconsin, the traitor state,

was a mirage of their

own imaginations.

In response, Governor

Emanuel Philipp

routinely told audiences,

"There is nothing

wrong with Wisconsin."

He would then

launch into a litany

of Wisconsin wartime

success stories,

stories that demonstrated

the patriotic nature

of the state.

Patriotism fueled self-sacrifice

in the name of God and country,

it motivated young men

on the battle field

and civilians who volunteered

for the Red Cross or YMCA.

It motivated those

who bought war bonds

to help finance the war.

But in the wrong hands

it also motivated attacks

on those who were

culturally different

or who disagreed as La Follette

did with government policy.

In many cities and towns, patriotic rallies and parades

fulfilled a basic need

for community expression

of loyalty and unity,

and a public affirmation

of faith in the nation,

but we need to keep in mind

that most expressions

of patriotism

went unheralded by public notice

because they were

small personal actions.

The emphasis on loyalty,

duty, and patriotism

permeated wartime life.

Flags flew on street

corners, in window displays,

and on newspaper mastheads.

The war was the topic of

discussion everywhere.

In the days immediately

following the

declaration of war,

Wisconsinites quickly

fell into line

supporting the war effort.

Congressman John

Esch from La Crosse

had voted against the war.

The next day he

told a constituent,

"Now that we are at war,

"it becomes the duty

of every citizen

"to loyally support

the government."

Bob La Follette took

the same position.

The draft provided one of

the earliest opportunities

for Wisconsin to

show its true colors.

Fearing draft riots in Wisconsin

because of the

German population,

Army officials offered

to send federal troops

to maintain order on

draft registration day,

which was set for June 5, 1917.

Governor Philipp replied

to the federal offer

with a polite, "No, thank you."

He had full faith in

the people of Wisconsin.

Without fuss or fanfare,

218,700 young men registered

for the draft in Wisconsin,

106% of the number

estimated as eligible.

On the home front,

activities such as

food conservation

provided one of the

most universal ways

in which civilians

displayed their patriotism

and support for the war effort.

Herbert Hoover enlisted

millions of American housewives

to create food surpluses for

Europe through conservation.

For most housewives and

families conserving food,

eating wheatless or

meatless meals, felt good.

These daily sacrifices gave

meaning to the term patriotism.

High participation resulted

from patriotic fervor

but also from social pressure.

The two really

went hand in hand.

For example, on the

last day of a drive

to encourage women to

sign the Hoover pledge,

an intimidating "automobile

parade" drove through Madison.

The caravan stopped

at every house

not sporting a Food

Pledge Card in the window.

A woman from the parade

would get out of the car,

go up to the house and precede

to convince the housewife

that she needed to

sign the pledge.

And as one would

expect, most complied.

Wisconsin farmers responded

to the call for more food

by bringing approximately

94,000 additional acres

under cultivation

during the war.

By 1918, production of corn,

potatoes, oats, and barley,

all substitutes for wheat

which was going to Europe,

they increased production

by 10 to 15 percent

over prewar output.

As agricultural workers

entered the military

or took industrial

jobs in cities,

rural communities

showed their patriotism

by providing stopgap solutions

for the shortage in farm labor.

In Ashland County, for example,

the schools closed for a

week in the fall of 1917

to help bring in the harvest.

At home, war gardens

brought squash,

carrots, turnips, spinach,

and a panoply of other

produce to the family table,

easing some of the strains

on commercial agriculture.

Perhaps the most important

aspect of war gardens, however,

was not what they produced,

but the sense of participation

in the war effort

that gardeners felt when

they grew their own food.

In a society so totally

committed to the war effort,

gardens gave the young and

the old a sense of belonging,

of participating,

of doing something on

their own to win the war.

The purchase of war bonds offered another opportunity

to express community

and personal patriotism.

The Liberty Loan drives

to sell war bonds

were intense affairs that

once again drew on patriotism

and social pressure to

encourage bond purchases.

By the third liberty loan drive which was in the Spring of 1918

an army of volunteers

canvassed the state,

armed with information

about each person or family

and their ability to buy bonds.

Let me say that again.

An army of volunteers

canvassed the state

armed with information

about each person or family

and their ability to buy bonds.

If a subscriber refused

to buy the proper amount,

the volunteer would

reply regrettably

that the slacker's

unpatriotic behavior

would have to be referred

to the county Counsel

of Defense for action.

This was patriotic

fervor's dark side.

The language of public discourse

created a clear dichotomy

between the righteous

people of the United States

and the bestial Hun,

between us and them.

As Congress assembled

for Wilson's war message

in the Spring of 1917,

an article in the

Wisconsin State Journal

helped create the emotional

foundation for going to war.

It quoted two legislators

from the south.

Senator Furnifold

Simmons of North Carolina

stated in the paper,

"The interests of America

demand that tyranny be beaten."

Texas Representative Joe Eagle

made the struggle more

basic and visceral,

"The Kaiser is a cave man

with murder in his heart.

"He is bent on the

unwavering course of

brute force and pillage.

"He must be put down or the

democracies of the world

"are doomed."

What else do you

put down but a dog?

The language of peace,

neutrality, and forbearance

had given way to the language of war, bellicose, dehumanizing,

and designed to create

a noble enterprise

worthy of the sacrifice

of thousands of lives.

The language of the congressmen,

tyranny, cave man,

put down, doomed,

made it clear the nation

faced a subhuman rival

determined to

subjugate its enemies

under a brutal and

tyrannical regime.

According to the State Journal,

a war in defense of

"humanity and democracy"

was the only choice.

Nothing less than the future

of the nation was at stake.

A flippant comment could bring

social retribution instantly.

A Brown County farmer

stopped in a local saloon

for some refreshment.

According to the bartender,

the farmer stood at the bar

"decrying the strength of

the American Navy and Army,

"and sneering at the fighting

ability of the soldiers."

The barkeep found the

remarks intolerable,

perhaps in part because

the farmer was an alien.

As he told the municipal

court officials the next day,

"I reached over,

I grabbed him, I hit him.

"I hit him again and

threw him out of my bar.

The story came to light

because the saloon keeper had

gone to the municipal court

to find out if a warrant had

been sworn for his own arrest.

Having admitted to

assaulting the farmer,

the barman walked away from

the courthouse a free man.

The farmer was unlikely

to be as lucky.

Municipal court officials were

going to report the matter

to Federal authorities.

During the war,

90 people in Wisconsin

were indicted under

the Espionage Act

for praising Germany,

criticizing the United States,

or calling the conflict

a rich man's war.

Additional indictments

were handed down to others

for criticizing Liberty

Bonds, the Allies,

charities such as the Red Cross,

or food laws, obstructing

military recruiting,

insulting the flag or uniform,

or praising the

sinking of a ship.

The culture of war

eventually had an impact

on children as well.

Across Wisconsin the

study of anything German,

especially language,

became suspect as a vehicle

for insinuating "German

Kulture" into American life.

In Milwaukee the number

of German teachers

dropped from two

hundred to just one.

All over the state English

was the language of patriots.

Into this hostile environment

came young Bobby

Bizzell of Kaukauna.

One day he was

playing with friends

when two workmen walked by,

speaking to each

other in German.

Bobby picked up a large club

and struck one of

the men a hard blow.

When taken into the

house for punishment,

his little sister, as little

sisters will do, chided him,

"Bobby, you shouldn't

have hit that man.

"How do you know but that he

was Jesus in working clothes?"

To which Bobby replied,

"Jesus, do you think

he'd be talking German?"

Governor Emanuel Philipp

believed in the loyalty and

patriotism of the entire state

regardless of ethnicity.

He had little patience

for the vigilante justice

or for super patriots

determined to find traitorous

behavior in their communities.

In his most strident

denunciation of super patriots,

Governor Philipp

told an audience

that the willingness to

charge others with disloyalty

"is a type of impudence

that is indulged in

"by a class of

self-asserted patriots

"who are the greatest

menace to the country today,

"because they discourage

what the country needs

"above all things

during a crisis,

"and that is the hearty

cooperation of all the people

"in support of the war."

Most Americans drew

great satisfaction

from volunteer work, food

and fuel conservation,

bond and fund-raising drives,

and farm and factory production.

The true mark of patriotism

on the home front

was not the great heroic act

or the super patriot worried

about imaginary

traitors in Wisconsin.

It was the small

sacrifices made every day

by average people

to win the war.

Thank you very much.

(audience applause)

- Right, well, thank you

everyone for attending,

appreciate that.

I've titled my talk

"Milwaukee Goes to War."

And, World War I brought

out the best in some people

but also the worst in others.

My book delves

into these extremes

and everything in between

from the local perspective

of Wisconsin's largest city.

The war's anti-German hysteria

certainly was not

exclusive to Milwaukee,

but as one of the country's

most Teutonic cities,

it certainly suffered from

the cloud of suspicion

that patriots cast over it.

The presence of a

strong Socialist Party

which, in general,

opposed all wars

as capitalistic conquests

to dominate world markets

heightened Milwaukee's

taint of treason

and added a sense of

urgency to patriots' efforts

to redeem the city's reputation.

Milwaukee was governed by a

Socialist mayor, Dan Hoan,

and was also home of one of

the party's guiding forces,

Victor Berger, a native

of Austria-Hungary

and the first Socialist

elected to the U.S. Congress.

Despite this double curse,

Milwaukeeans answered every

call to support the war.

They easily fulfilled

the city's draft quotas

and they oversubscribed

its allotments

in all four Liberty Bond

drives by millions of dollars.

Milwaukee factories churned

out every conceivable product

for the military with only

minor labor disturbances.

Women demonstrated their loyalty

by moving into factory jobs,

thus avoiding a potentially

severe labor shortage,

and ordinary citizens

planted victory gardens,

they did Red Cross work and

abided by government meatless,

wheatless, lightless and

gasolineless restrictions.

Nevertheless, these


did not quiet the pro-war

clamoring in Milwaukee.

President Woodrow

Wilson's administration

fueled the drive

for 100% Americanism

through a barrage of

movies, posters, pamphlets

and speeches by Four Minute Men.

Every American was

encouraged to do their part

to defeat Germany,

whose soldiers were demonized

as raping, child-butchering,

cannibalistic apes.

Wilson's message

found a receptive home

among many city residents,

and the bluster of its most

rabid patriotic citizens

was alarming.

The Socialist newspaper,

the Milwaukee Leader,

reported that John Stover,

a member of the American

Protective League

and Wisconsin Loyalty Legion,

told a crowd he

feared some traitor

would cause him to

take his revolver

and "kill him like a dog."

And former Socialist

Algie Simons argued that,

though he desired peace

and freedom of speech,

he was willing "for the time

to fight under military orders

"and to gag all those who would

destroy free speech forever.

"We are at war.

"War means killing.

"We are as much justified

"in killing those who stab

our soldiers in the back

"as those who spray liquid

fire upon their faces."

Clearly, zealous

patriots did not allow

for any gray areas

in their thinking.

Any dissent was fused

into an all-encompassing

anti-American bogeyman

that had to be stamped out,

no matter what the cost.

And it's that misguided and

misspent time and energy

to prove the city's loyalty

that I'd like to examine today.

This time undoubtedly was

a bitter pill to swallow

for Milwaukee's


For years, they had been praised

for being industrious

civic and business leaders.

German theater, music and

intellectual endeavors

were at the pinnacle of the

city's cultural landscape.

But the war turned

everything upside down.

Patriots viewed these

beloved traditions

as treacherous plots

to Prussianize America.

By 1917, most

German-Americans in Milwaukee

were 2nd or

3rd-generation Americans

and certainly loyal to the U.S.,

but even those who

were natives of Germany

recognized their obligation

to their adopted homeland.

Frederick von

Cotzhausen, for example,

came to Milwaukee after the

1848 revolutions in Germany.

And in July 1918, he

celebrated his 80th birthday

and looking back, he was

satisfied that he had returned

a full equivalent

for the opportunities

and advantages

the U.S. provided.

He acknowledged it was difficult

to suppress sympathy

for his homeland,

but that in no way detracted

from his allegiance to the U.S.

"I do not need to drop

the hyphen, he wrote,

"as I dropped it

many years ago."

"He was not ready

"to accord to any one

of my fellow citizens,

"whoever he may be, a higher

standard of patriotism

"and Americanism than

I claim for myself."

But the war's

unsettled circumstances

certainly distressed

many German-Americans.

The prospect of seeing

his sons fighting in a war

weighed heavily

upon Julius Gugler,

a founder of a successful

lithographic company.

He confided to a friend that

since the U.S. declared war,

he had "been praying for

an altered state of mind.

"One that would permit me

"to become enthusiastic

concerning the issues

"involved in this strife,

"a state of mind that

would kindle in me

"the spirit of sacrifice

for a great object."

But it was all in vain

because he failed "to feel

the driving power in my heart

"that I experienced on other

occasions during my long life."

It was best, he thought, to

avoid discussing the war at all.

But maintaining

an uneasy silence

placed Gugler and

fellow German-Americans

in a no-win situation.

If they did not enthusiastically

support the war,

they were deemed unpatriotic.

But if they embraced

the Allied cause,

they were suspected

of being hypocrites.

That conundrum as well

as the tensions between

Germans and other ethnic groups

was expressed by

Michael Kruszka,

editor of the Polish

newspaper Kuryer Polski.

Shortly after the

U.S. declared war,

Kruszka informed the

U.S. Attorney General

that he had many German friends

who were "so honest

and so trustworthy

"that I would without

hesitation trust them

"with everything I have."

But at that particular

time, he added,

"I would not trust them

"with the guarding of a

five "foot American bridge.

"Though they may swear

loyalty to the U.S.,

"the slightest discussion

of war with Germany

"changes them into the most

fanatic Germano-maniacs

"and Americanophobes,

"and then some of them are

ready to kill every American

"and every anti-German on sight,

"even if they should

die for it on the spot."

Given this mentality,

it's not surprising that

war's first casualty

was toleration for

anything German,

and Milwaukee Germans

were unprepared

for the firestorm that

scorched the community.

German enemy aliens,

defined as anyone over 14

who was not a

naturalized citizen,

could not live, work

or even pass through

restricted industrial zones

unless they carried a pass

authorized by the U.S. Marshal

after they had been

photographed and fingerprinted.

German theater was

essentially shuttered.

German music was torn

out of school books,

and teaching of

the German language

was eliminated from

elementary schools.

A patriotic organization

even tried to rewrite

the city's history.

In 1918, the Wisconsin

Loyalty Legion

tried to stop a local

publishing company

from circulating a

Milwaukee guide book

that praised the

Germanic influence

on the city's development.

"Milwaukee is not the

German Athens of America,

"and we do not wish it to

be advertised as such,"

was the Legion's decision.

The toxic environment motivated

many Milwaukee Germans

to deny their ancestry.

Within four months of

the declaration of war,

250 people shed their

German-sounding names,

and that trend continued

throughout the war.

In June 1918,

Edward Lutzenberger

changed his name to Edward Lutze

because his friends

ridiculed him

for having a name

with berger in it.

And Judge John J. Gregory

granted Emma Carson a divorce

as long as she changed her

maiden name, Emma Kaiser.

This trend did not sit well

with some German-Americans.

Anita Nunnemacher

Weschler was angered

when she learned her neighbors

had changed their name

from Schwartzburg to Harrison.

To Anita, this was an insult

to everyone bearing

a German name.

As though one had to change

their name to be patriotic.

"I feel I am as loyal to

my country as anyone else

"and I am doing as

much as I can to help

"but I can't see the use

of changing one's name."

German-Americans weren't

the only ones to suffer.

Socialists were

inviting targets.

Patriots decorated Victor

and Meta Berger's lawn

nearly every morning with

garbage and broken milk bottles.

Mayor Hoan received

enough violent threats

that he carried a

gun wherever he went.

The party's right

to peaceful assembly

was flouted as government agents

and police broke up

several Socialist rallies,

and during the spring

1918 mayoral campaign,

Wheeler Bloodgood, a leader

of the patriotic camp,

threatened to defy

the will of the people

if Hoan were reelected.

He vowed to prevent

Hoan from taking office,

calling upon the federal

government to indict the mayor

for violating the Espionage Act

and declare Milwaukee

a military zone

under the control

of military courts

to eliminate all treasonable

talk and printed material.

Fortunately, Bloodgood's

demands went unfulfilled.

Milwaukee's labor movement was

also subjected to harassment.

Factory owners labeled

any worker agitation

for increased pay or

improved conditions

as pro-German plots

to disrupt production

and government agents

were quick to silence

any troublemakers.

In July 1918, a manager of

the Wisconsin Gun Company

met with John Stover

about some labor troubles

he suspected was caused

by disloyal influences.

Stover interviewed four

suspected ring leaders

and all four asserted

that Stover badgered them

and accused them of

trying to incite a strike.

Moreover, they claimed

that Stover threatened

to change their

draft classifications

and send them to the military,

give them 30 years in prison,

or, one said, "To back

you up against the wall."

On a more personal level,

war-time tensions shattered

families and friendships.

Jeanette Fillman, for

example, divorced her husband

because he lived in the

"twilight zone of patriotism"

and wouldn't allow

her to participate

in any patriotic demonstrations

or display an American

flag in the window.

Erich Stern was a

well-respected lawyer,

a member of the Progressive

wing of the Republican Party

and a member of the celebrated

Wisconsin legislature

that passed the nation's first

workers' compensation laws

as well as measures that

reined in child labor.

But he also was a pacifist

a stand that cost him

professionally and personally.

In January 1918,

students at Marquette

University's Law School

circulated a petition

trying to have Stern

removed as a faculty member

because of his

anti-war position,

but Stern's forceful defense

of his First Amendment rights

saved his job.

Even more dismaying was

the loss of his friendship

with Arthur Van

Dyke and his mother.

"With all our beautiful

common memories

"as recent as last

summer," he lamented,

"how can they

judge so harshly,

"condemn without giving

me a hearing of any kind."

Not even religious convictions

shielded people from

overly zealous patriots.

During the fall 1918

Liberty Bond drive,

flying squadrons or

trains of automobiles

carrying anywhere

from 35 to 100 people

visited Milwaukee County

farmers deemed "slackers"

because they had not purchased

their designated share

of Liberty Bonds.

On one occasion,

a squadron stopped at the

farm of William Eschrich.

The squad leader asked Eschrich

if he would invest

$200 as his fair share,

but he refused because,

as a member of the

Russellite religious sect,

he would not in good

conscience as a Christian

contribute to any purpose that

violated God's commandment,

"Thou shalt not kill."

The squad leader remarked

men had been imprisoned

for less than what

Eschrich had said

and claimed that anyone

who did not buy bonds

was "no better than

a worm of the earth."

Others in the crowd called Eschrich a "dirty dog,"

and someone yelled

that he should be hung.

Despite the pressure,

Eschrich refused to compromise

his religious principles.

As a result, he

suffered the indignity

of having a yellow placard

posted on his home that read,

"The occupant of these premises

"has refused to buy his

fair share of liberty bonds.

"Do not remove this notice."

Even after the war ended, this

rage was not easily let go.

In February 1919, the acting

company at the Pabst Theater

decided to stage plays in German

to raise funds for destitute

actors and actresses.

The theater manager

thought, with the war over,

resuming plays in German

would not cause any problems.

But he was sorely mistaken.

At a public meeting James

Stover, father of John Stover,

wondered why a benefit

performance was necessary.

Couldn't these people, he asked,

have worked in Milwaukee

shops and factories?

Instead, he added, they

"loll around here

and drink their beer

"and talk their language

and help to carry on

"propaganda of Germanism

here in Milwaukee

"and then ask us to

give a benefit for them

"in their own language,

that they may have some money

"with which to live

a little longer."

Every shot fired at his sons

in France, Stover charged,

was ordered in the

German language.

His blood boiled "at the idea

that this miserable language

"in this country

should be assisted."

Not surprisingly, the

benefit was postponed.

The continuation of the

war's feverish repression

helped spawn a profound


among many Americans.

Victor Berger summed up that

mood in a fall 1919 speech.

"I'll tell what you got

out of this war," he said.

"You lost your liberties.

"About 700,000 spies

were watching you.

"Men were arrested for saying

things to their neighbors.

"Well you got

prohibition and flu,

"all you got out of this

war, prohibition and flu."

He oversimplifies things a bit, but the post-war failure

of President Wilson's

peace efforts,

widespread race riots

and labor unrest,

the frightening

specter of Bolshevism,

the onset of Prohibition,

and foundering of

Progressive ideals

all contributed to a

sense that the war,

a crusade to make the

world safe for democracy

fell far short of that goal.

Thank you very much.

(audience applause)

- My presentation today

is based on research

from my dissertation

which is called "Traitor State:

"The Crisis of Loyalty

in World War I Wisconsin"

and my primary focus is

on those zealous patriots

that Kevin just mentioned.

My questions about them were--

Well first off there was

a national perception--

How did a national

perception form

that Wisconsin had a unique

issue with disloyalty.

And then how did that perception

affect the Wisconsin self-

described patriotic leaders

that are sometimes

called super

or I tend to call

them hyper-patriots?

I wanted to know who

were these patriots

and what were their

motivations, their fears

and obsessions?

We know that as you've heard

hyper-patriots in Wisconsin

worked hard to quell

disloyalty and dissent,

sometimes resorting to violence.


And this is the sedition

map that Rick mentioned.

And threats. And this is a piece from a West Bend newspaper

stating that names of those

who failed to subscribe

to their fair share of

the Fourth Liberty Bond

would be printed

in the newspaper.

I've actually looked

in this newspaper

and they were not.

So this is what they,

how they reacted.

This is what they

were reacting to.

These are quotes from newspapers from around the country

that helped create

a national perception

of Wisconsin as disloyal.

So these hyper-patriots

felt the need

to make an aggressive effort

to clear Wisconsin's name

and subdue disloyalty

in the state.

They probably-- The worst

epitaph they heard was this one,

"Traitor state."

The earliest I could find

traitor state mentioned

in regards to Wisconsin was

this quote from July 17, 1917

in the Princeton

Indiana Daily Democrat

which asked "Will Wisconsin

be known when the war is over

"as the traitor state?"

My research shows that this

editor was primarily responding

to the perceived disloyalty

of Wisconsin's national


not its German population,

pacifists or socialists,

who came under attack

internally within the state.

So the hyper-patriots

made their primary goal

to remove from office

those who they believed

stained Wisconsin's reputation.

So who were these hyper-patriots

who organized to

defend the state

against these slurs

to its reputation?

And that's been really my

main focus of my research.

You can identify them by

who their enemies were

who we heard about

to a certain extent

but who are well

recognized in this cartoon

that's titled, "How Long

Would Germany Stand For It?"

So this is Uncle Sam

throwing out the enemies

which include labor

and union agitators,

conscientious objectors,

pacifists, spies,

German sympathizers, the

Irish who were anti-British,

food speculators,

of course socialists

and then some strange category

called sentimental


who I need to do

more research on.

But what I have found out

is these hyper-patriots,

Wisconsin's hyper-patriots

who you heard a little

bit about so far

were generally business leaders and white-collar professionals.

They were men and women

used to being in power

and having their word obeyed.

They were definitely not used

to having their leadership

and authority questioned.

I find that in Wisconsin,

they were predominantly

of New England and

New York ancestries

and that they generally felt

they knew how to be American

better than any

hyphenated immigrants

or their descendants,

especially German Americans.

This Wisconsin Yankee population

from descendants of New

England and New York

appeared to have

used the war effort

to reinforce their

definitions of Americanism

patriotism and loyalty.

Their number one

target during this time

was Robert M. La Follette, Wisconsin's senior senator.

Early on, he became

a national symbol

of treasonous and

seditious behavior,

primarily first

for not supporting

the arming of

merchant marine ships

in March of 1917.

This made the paper

in quite an angry way.

And for voting against,

a few weeks' later,

America's participation

in the war.

And as you've heard, unlike other Wisconsin congressmen

who voted against

entrance into the war

but later supported the war

effort once war was declared,

La Follette continued to

speak out against the war

and all of its supposed

concerns for the war's duration.

Anger against La Follette

came to a head

in September of 1917

when he was misquoted

by the Associated Press

as saying to the

nonpartisan league

in a speech to them

that America had, "no

grievance against Germany."

Actually he had just

said the opposite

however this got published,

that he had no grievance

against Germany

all over the United States.

The United States Senate

immediately considered

expelling him from Congress

and state legislators here in

Wisconsin urged them to do so.

Governor Philipp, a couple

weeks after this came out,

publicly stated that

Wisconsin's loyalty problems

primarily stemmed from

Robert M. La Follette.

And then in February of 1918,

this round robin that you're

seeing here on the right,

this round robin petition

was sent among UW faculty

condemning his behavior.

The petition protested

"against those

utterances and actions

"of senator Robert

M. La Follette

"which have given aid

and comfort to Germany

"and her allies in

the present war.

"We deplore his failure loyally

"to support the government in

the persecution of this war."

400 of the 404 faculty at UW-

Madison signed this petition.

Strangely, in the end--

strangely from a

hyperpatriotism point of view--

he remained in office

because the senate realized

he had been misquoted

and eventually he was vindicated

in this round robin

which had originally

one of his friends

had wanted to burn

on the grounds of

the state capital,

was preserved as Robert

La Follette asked it

to go to the historical

society to be preserved

for future generations

to see what had happened

during this tense time.

Their second major target

which you've also heard about

and here's pictures of them now, are the Milwaukee Socialists.

Milwaukee had the largest

and most vocal group of

socialists in Wisconsin,

perhaps in the United States,

and Victor Berger,

who you've heard about

who is on the right here

was probably the most

harassed of them.

In September of 1918,

the postmaster general

denied his newspaper which

was the Milwaukee Leader,

a socialist newspaper, second class mailing privileges

and this meant that

most of their papers

which were sold by

subscription through the mail

could not get out to

their subscribers.

He also finally in

February of 1918

suffered probably the worst,

the worst of these harassments

when he was indicted

by the U.S. government

for treason and sedition.

He was later convicted

and was told he would be serving

three years in Leavenworth.

But more about him later.

You've also heard

about Daniel Hoan,

the mayor of Milwaukee,

another socialist,

and you can see maybe why

the hyper-patriots would

have a problem with him

with this quote that I

have up here that says,

"The American

people did not want

"and do not want this war.

"They were plunged

into this abyss

"by the treachery of the

ruling class of the country."

So interestingly,

and you've heard about

Wheeler Bloodgood

so I won't go too much

more into that anymore

that Wheeler Bloodgood

asked the federal government

to impose martial law

if Hoan won the election

in April of 1918.

As you heard, Hoan did win

and there was no martial law.

So in the end, the socialists

remained in power in Milwaukee

for several more decades,

meaning that these


in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin

did not successfully

get rid of this group.

The third group,

which you've also heard

about, are German Americans.

German Americans posed a problem

to their Yankee neighbors

because in many ways they

considered themselves

at least equals, if not

better, than these neighbors,

especially as you've heard,

in arts and education.

And World War I gave

the hyper-patriots

a chance to change this dynamic.

So you see war propaganda

like keep back the

Huns with Liberty Loans

from the federal government.

This is from the committee

on public information,

that left many nervous about

German spies and traitors.

And as we've noted before, Germans were often portrayed

as monsters or

subhuman creatures

like this Hun in this picture.

hyper-patriots attacks

against German-Americans

seemed to primarily be

about suppressing

German-American pride,

and as you've heard,

eliminating the German language

from schools, churches

and other institutions.

And in this picture

on the right,

It says, "here lies the

remains "of German in BHS,"

which is Baraboo High School.

We're now beginning to

think that this picture

which was taken the day

after high school graduation,

the burning occurred the day of

the high school graduation,

may have been a high school

prank against a German teacher

and not directly

related to the war.

However, its timing

is awfully suspicious

and we do know that

other communities

like Shell Lake, Spooner

and Westby, Wisconsin

also burned books and

images of the Kaiser

in public bonfires.

So in the end, as you've

also kind of heard,

from the previous speakers,

the hyper-patriots

were fairly successful

in destroying German

culture in Wisconsin.

So let's look at a couple

of these hyper-patriots.

I'm gonna start with

Wheeler Bloodgood

who you've heard about already.

He was a lawyer in Milwaukee

and he was from Dutch

New York background.

So he fit into this definition

of what a hyper-patriot

should be.

He was the founder

in March of 1917

of the Wisconsin Defense League

who's stated purpose

was among other things

to ultimately destroy the idea prevalent throughout the country

that Wisconsin was a hotbed

of sedition and disloyalty.

When they realized that their

name of the Defense League

was too similar to

the Counsel of Defense,

the state organization,

Wheeler Bloodgood and

his fellow members

changed the name to the

Wisconsin Loyalty Legion

in September of 1917.

Their pledge was to unite

the people of Wisconsin

in loyal, active and efficient

support of the government

and to bring traitors

to punishment,

hold up slackers

to public contempt

and oppose disloyalty

and ascension

wherever it may appear

and however disguised.

After his sons left for

France in early 1918,

Bloodgood seems to have

become more agitated

about Wisconsin and Milwaukee's especially perceived disloyalty.

And you can see that in the

quote that I have here that,

"While my sons and yours

are facing bullets,

"the noble Berger,"

that's Victor Berger,

"with a satanic smile on

his Bolsheviki countenance

"listens to patriotic addresses

"and La Follette

sulks in the senate,

"forgetting country

in his blind demand

"for unlimited

speech and abuse."

Another hyper-patriot who was

fairly well known back then

was the junior senator from

Wisconsin, Paul O. Husting.

Senator Husting was definitely

part of the preparedness

movement before the war

and was definitely pro

America's entrance into the war.

And you can see that from

his quote from April 4, 1917

from a speech War with Germany

that he gave to the

U.S. Senate on that day.

And I think you can read it,

"It is disgraceful

and disastrous

submission on one hand

"or the use of armed

force on the other.

"To me, this presents

but one possible choice."

This also speaks to his,

I believe--

Well he basically said this:

he was very much

an anti-pacifist.

He spoke out against

what he called

"peace at any price advocates."

Especially those who disagreed

with Wilson's move to

armed merchant ships,

as you heard in March of '17.

Husting and his

supporters argued

that those who question

the president's action

not only weakened

Wilson's ability

to preserve an honorable peace

but practice a

perverted patriotism.

It's interesting to note

that pacifists were

frequently women and that Hustings often spoke,

as I think he does

in this quote,

of the war in pro

masculine terms.

Unfortunately for

Wisconsin's hyper-patriots,

Husting decided to take a

vacation in October of 1917

and he went duck hunting

with his brother.

And if you don't know

on October 21st, 1917,

his brother accidentally

shot and killed him.

If you're looking at it from a

hyper-patriot's point of view,

we had a disloyal senator

in Robert La Follette

and a loyal senator

in Paul Husting.

So what happened is we need

to replace Paul Husting.

Are we gonna replace him

with a loyal candidate

or a disloyal candidate?

In the end, Governor

Emmanuel Philipp

called for an election

to replace him

in the Spring of 1918.

The actual election

happened on April 2nd.

So as I said, this brought

the disloyalty crisis

to a head, in part because

starting with the

Republican primary election

we had two Republican


one Irvine Lenroot, who was considered a Stalwart Republican

or called himself a

Stalwart Republican,

was considered the

loyal candidate

but he was running

against James Thompson,

a supporter of La Follette

and therefore by definition,

a disloyal candidate.

Luckily for the hyper-patriots, Lenroot went on to win.

But now he had to face

two more candidates

in the general election.

He faced Democrat

Joseph E. Davies

and strangely enough Victor

Berger in the Socialist Party.

Both Davies and Lenroot

were considered

acceptable candidates

even though they're

from different parties

by the hyper-patriots

in Wisconsin.

Victor Berger was the problem.

You might remember

at this point,

by this point in April,

he had already been indicted

but not convicted yet

of treason and or sedition.

So here is someone who is

being accused of treason

running for U.S. Senate.

This caused Wisconsin's loyalty,

because of this reached

a fevered pitch in the

national press.

The Colorado Springs

Gazette stated that the

unity of the nation

and the cause of humanity

is on trial in Wisconsin.

The verdict is awaited

with impressive patience.

The Chicago Daily News

described Berger

as an anti-American candidate who asked folks for disloyalist

from quitters, yellow bellies, Germans, anti-nationalists,

pacifists and hollow

headed ultraists.

In the end, Lenroot won

but Berger received

25% of the vote.

This caused some consternation

but in the end the

national consensus,

at least among newspaper editors

that Wisconsin was 75% patriotic

and that was good enough.

Berger did go on to win a seat

in the House of Representatives

in the fall of 1918

but Congress sent him home.

He had been convicted

by that time of treason

and they were not

gonna let him sit

in the House of Representatives.

Milwaukee reelected him once

and he was sent back, and

then twice, or the third time

and he was sent back

to Congress again

and finally in 1920,

after being cleared

of treason charges,

he was allowed to take his seat.

I found when I'm studying

the national press

that they lost interest

in Wisconsin's loyalty or

disloyalty after the election.

However, as we've heard,

coercive acts,

especially violent ones,

continued to

escalate in Wisconsin

at least until armistice day

but I hear that

they went past that.

Wisconsin's hyper-patriots

not only attacked

German-Americans, but also socialists, pacifists

and those who they labeled

disloyal politicians.

In a way, my thinking is

that all of these groups

challenged their understanding of what it meant to be American

while questioning their

right to define Americanism.

I argue that the

Wisconsin hyper-patriots

were threatened by socialists,

often German-Americans

who disdained capitalism

and promoted communal welfare

while the hyper-patriots

viewed capitalism

as the cornerstone of the

American economic experience

and considered rugged

individualism more American

than a concern for

public wellbeing.

The pacifist challenged

the view of Americans,

or the hyper-patriot's

view of Americans

as tough, strong,

masculine individuals

who would not step

back from a fight.

And Senator Robert M.

La Follette

disgusted hyper-patriots with

his ego, alleged narcissism

and his unwillingness to

submit to their authority.

Wisconsin's patriots

worked tirelessly to

put him in his place

though ultimately

without success.

In the end, Wisconsin's

World War I hyper-patriots

have not been remembered

as true patriots

if anyone remembers them at all.

Instead, it's their enemies,

Berger and La Follette,

they're the ones who

have been honored

and frequently treated

as the true emblems

of American ideals.

Thank you very much.

(audience applause)

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