• Clippings of old news articles

      It was a time of ultra-patriotism (Photo – Graphics Department)

      “German Aliens Must Go On Records” stated the headline in the local paper on January 26, 1918. “Registration in Pasadena Will Begin at Police Station Feb. 4.”

      By Matt Horman

      The article elaborated: “All natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of the German empires of [the] imperial German government being males of the age of 14 years and upward, who are within the United States and not actually naturalized as American citizens are required to register as alien enemies.”

      It was a time of ultra-patriotism. The United States had declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, and in Pasadena, all Germans not naturalized citizens had to report to the police station—then located in Pasadena’s first city hall at the corner of Fair Oaks and Union. They were required to bring four different photographs of themselves, and had to fill out three separate forms and have their fingerprints taken.

      Alien Enemy

      As part of this process, each “alien enemy” received a registration card, and was not allowed to change residence without written permission from an officer.

      From February 4th to 9th, 1918, a squad of 28 specially-trained German-speaking officers from the LAPD were dispersed between various city police stations to help aid the process.

      Pasadena Police Chief W.S. McIntyre also supervised.

      By February 21, 1918, McIntyre reported that all 96 of Pasadena’s Germans had been registered.

      “Pasadena has ninety-six well-behaved Germans, according to Chief of Police W.S. McIntyre, who yesterday completed a check of the alien enemy registration and found it to be correct,” wrote the L.A Times. “All addresses given were visited by the police and a list of twenty-five German suspects, most of which were furnished the police by neighbors, after investigation proved to be without foundation.”

      Pasadenans from a German Descent

      Pasadena had a modest German community in the early 1900s. According to a 1995 ethnic survey of the city from archives at the Pasadena Museum of History, there were large concentrations of Germans near the corner of Walnut and North Fair Oaks, the Lincoln Triangle neighborhood, the corner of Raymond and Villa, and South Marengo Avenue. In 1911, there were four German churches in the city. Several German-owned businesses dotted Old Town, including a German deli at 16 N. Fair Oaks, run by Herman A. Proetsch, which opened in 1915.

      The Germans worked a variety of professions, including carpentry, winemaking, shoemaking, and blacksmithing. They were served by four separate churches—the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical German Lutheran Church, the German Methodist Episcopal Church, and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

      Until 1917, local feelings toward Germany were congenial. George Hees, editor of the Pasadena Star-News defended Germany’s actions against Russia in 1914, and in November 1916, a card party was thrown by prominent citizens of Pasadena to benefit the widows and orphans of German soldiers.

      Even after the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915—a tragedy that killed 128 Americans—sympathy for Germany continued.

      an old church building

      St. Paul’s Church (Photo – Pasadena Museum of History)

      Paranoia Replace Tolerance

      In 1917, however, paranoia replaced tolerance.

      Throughout that year, a fear of German spies gripped Pasadena. In mid-March 1917, Pasadena’s postmaster reported seeing “mysterious men” loitering around the post office for several nights in a row. Convinced they were German spies “attempting to blow up the building with dynamite,” he notified the authorities, and for several evenings, police with sawed-off shotguns kept watch outside the premises.

      “Fear of German spies has taken the form of hysteria in Pasadena, particularly among women,” reported the Los Angeles Times on April 4, 1917. “We had a hundred calls today from persons who thought they had located German spies,” Police Chief W.S. McIntyre told the paper.

      By January of the following year, exaggerated fears reached a crescendo. On January 23, 1918, the Pasadena Star-News published an article titled “German Spies Try to Raid Libraries.”

      Book Spies, Music

      N.M. Russ, head librarian of the Pasadena Public Library, had received warnings of “book spies,” who, “by use of spurious names on library cards […] have caused many books favorable to Germany’s enemies in the war and attacking German ruthlessness and methods, mysteriously to disappear from the library shelves.”

      “Pro-German propagandists do not content themselves in their attempts to use public libraries for the enemy with merely trying to insinuate German literature into the institutions,” Russ told the Pasadena Star-News on January 23, 1918. “They aim to eliminate, if possible, all works favorable to the allies and the allied cause.”

      On January 27, one day after the required registration of German citizens was announced, several prominent men of industry and politics who were vacationing in Pasadena, walked out of a concert given at one of city’s hotels when they discovered German music was on the program. Among them was former United States Secretary of the Treasury Leslie M. Shaw, who told an L.A. Times reporter, “[t]his is not the time for internationalism in art, literature, drama and music. It is the time for Americanism with every letter capitalized […] “Many audiences listen to German music and unconsciously their minds are warped oftentimes to the extent that our war work is undone.”

      Mode Wineman, another attendee, added: “The subtlety of German music is little realized by the average American. That there is distinctly pro-German propaganda carried out through the medium of music is well-known to those versed in its invidious powers.”

      A few days later, the L.A. Times wrote that, “Doubtful composers like Liszt and Chopin have been laid on the shelf until after the war.”

      A citywide ban on the playing of German music took effect in February, 1918; while on July 1, German was removed from the curriculum at Pasadena High School.

      The L.A. Times even reported on a German Shepherd in Pasadena that had slaughtered a coop of chickens “with German ruthlessness” under the title: “German Police Canine Makes War on Americans.”

      Some Local Push Back

      Some locals pushed back. In April 1918, Pastor August Hansen of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pasadena sent a letter to the Star-News in response to news that Washington officials had named German Lutheran churches in the U.S. as channels of anti-American propaganda.

      “I find that in a dispatch from Washington, the ‘German Lutheran churches’ are named among the ‘principal agencies in the United States of the German propagandists,’” he wrote. “My church being a German Lutheran church, the only one in our good city, I would make the following statements in its behalf: The German state and the German state churches have never been extolled in my church nor in the synod to which it belongs. Doctrinally we have opposed said churches and suffered their reproach for more than fifty years. […] My church and its sister churches have used the German language not because of a desire to bring German ideals to acceptance and to establish German rulership over us, but only because we desired to have our membership understand the Gospel.”

      an old black and white photograph of a building

      City Hall at Fair Oaks and Union, WWI (Photo – Water and Power Associates)

      Pasadena’s Jingoism

      Around the same time, the German Methodist Episcopal Church of Pasadena dropped the word “German” from its name and sent a message to Washington emphasizing their loyalty to the United States.

      It wasn’t just Germans, however, who suffered from Pasadena’s jingoism: those who opposed war or criticized the president were often arrested on the technical charge of “disturbing the peace,” and could be slapped with hefty fines and even jail time.

      A schoolteacher named Cecilia Long was arrested in June, 1918 and charged with disturbing the peace after she failed to rise for the national anthem in a Y.W.C.A. building. Her brother, a physician, testified against her in court, charging that she was insane and recommending that she be “removed to the psychopathic ward of the County Hospital.”

      In July 1918, Marie Gage of Pasadena was arrested and fined $100 (more than $2000 in today’s dollars) for distributing pacifist literature—a pamphlet titled The Ethics of Murder.

      Those who opposed war also faced the ire of fellow citizens, and, in some cases, vigilante violence.

      On October 4, 1917, a meeting of the Christian Pacifists at a home on Huntington Drive in South Pasadena was forcibly dispersed by members of the South Pasadena and Arroyo Seco Home Guards, who pelted the attendees with rotten eggs before marching them outside, forcing them into waiting cars, and driving them to the city limits, where they were told not to come back.

      When the pacifists returned a week later, the Home Guards surrounded the house, warning those who attempted to enter that the home contained a “contagious disease.”

      On May 25, 1918, the L.A. Times reported that a Southern Pacific railroad employee named Sam Dovne, refused to buy Liberty Bonds, and was chased by an angry mob numbering in the hundreds, before fleeing the city. He was later arrested and charged with disturbing the peace.

      Even clergy members were not immune. When I.F. Tanner, a pacifist Episcopal minister from Pasadena, gave a sermon at the Highland Park Methodist Episcopal Church, he was greeted with cries of “treason!”

      Discrimination in Pasadena Continued

      Overseas dispatches fanned the flames. The Pasadena Star-News published excerpts from The Spiker, an American military newspaper. Those at home were warned to, “beware of spies and traitors…alien enemies should be watched and accounted for.”

      The Spiker accused Germany of pioneering “robbery, murder, arson, kultur and worse.”

      On Christmas Eve, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson lifted the restrictions on Germans, but isolated incidents of discrimination in Pasadena continued.

      After fighting had ceased, three young German women in Pasadena filed a report with the police department claiming they had been harassed and intimidated by the families who employed them. Having suffered discrimination, they attempted to quit their jobs, only to be threatened.

      One woman was told she was suspected of being a German spy and would be shot if she tried to leave. Another was warned that if she quit, she would be thrown into a “prison camp for enemy aliens.”

      The young ladies eventually took their complaints to the Pasadena Police Department, who resolved the matter.

      “The employers in these three cases have no more right to dictate the actions of these German girls than they would have to control the actions of American girls,” said Police Chief McIntyre. “Apparently they are unaware that their offense is one liable to bring just as serious consequences as blackmail.

      Hysteria dissipated and clearer heads prevailed, but by 1928, as an ethnic survey notes, “no churches in the Pasadena city directory [bore] the word ‘German’ as part of their name.”


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