Could Something Like This Happen Today?
In Montrose, Michigan, Mrs. Harley Stafford was tarred and feathered for "disloyal remarks." (Being tarred and feathered involved having hot melted tar smeared on the body into which chicken feathers were stuck. In that condition the victim was then frequently paraded around town).
In 1917, Rose Pastor Stokes wrote a letter to a St. Louis newspaper saying the government did not have unqualified support for the war. She claimed: "I am for the people, and the government is for the profiteers." She was found guilty of sedition by the US District Court of Missouri and sentenced to ten years in prison. The judge argued that her remarks could mean that it was a war of the capitalist class and not one for all the people in the country.
In the spring of 1917, Robert Goldstein of Los Angeles made a movie entitled "The Spirit of '76." It concerned the American Revolution and depicted British soldiers committing massacres and shooting women. A court found that his film "tended to arouse our revenge and to question the good faith of our ally Great Britain and to make us a little bit slack in our loyalty to Great Britain." He was fined $5,000 and given a ten years' prison sentence.
In New Brunswick, New Jersey, a Rutgers student was covered with molasses and feathers by fellow-students for alleged disloyalty.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, several Italians were shot in the street after a loyalty meeting.
In Nowellton, Louisiana, William Hunter, aged 68, was tarred and feathered for not buying Liberty Bonds although he had in fact bought $5,000 of them. (Liberty Bonds helped pay for the war).
In McPherson, Kansas, Walter Cooperider was tarred and feathered for alleged seditious remarks and his bedridden father, aged 90, was made to kiss the flag.
In Collinsville, Illinois, Robert Prager was dragged into the street, wrapped in a flag and then murdered by a mob of 500 townsmen. They decided he was a German spy. The mob leaders were tried and acquitted.
At Mount Olive, Missouri, a mob led by leading businessmen forced a merchant, P. Hein, to kneel on the frigid sidewalk in his night clothes and kiss each of the 48 stars on the flag. They said he had made disloyal remarks.