I was watching an episode of "Who Do you Think you Are?" recently, which is a TV show that researches ancestors of actors and other famous people. The gal whose family was being researched learned that her ancestor was high up in The American Protective League. That grabbed my attention because I'd never heard of the organization. I decided to research it and share the info I found with you.
The American Protective League existed only about two years, from 1917-1919. It was an organization of private citizens who worked with Federal law enforcement agencies during the World War 1 era to identify suspected German sympathizers and to counteract the activities of radicals, anarchists, anti-war activists, and left-wing labor and political organizations.
|By Swartik - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28006000|
A. M. Briggs, a wealthy Chicago advertising executive, founded the organization in 1917, because he felt the U.S. Department of Justice was severely understaffed in the field of counterintelligence during the new wartime environment. Mr. Briggs proposed the idea of a new volunteer group to agency officials. Participants would not be paid, and they wouldn't benefit from an expense account. Briggs was given authority to proceed with his plan by the Department of Justice on March 22, 1917, and the American Protective League (APL) was born.
|National Directors, American Protective League (l-r) Charles Frey, |
A.M. Briggs, & Victor Elting
Even though the APL was a private organization, the group received formal approval from Attorney General Thomas Gregory to use the words "Organized with the Approval and Operating under the Direction of the United Stated Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation" on its letterhead. The APL work in conjunction with the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), a precursor of the FBI, to gather information for U.S. District Attorneys. At the time, the BOI only had only 215 agents who had no authority to carry weapons nor the ability to arrest people, so they openly welcomed the APL's assistance.
APL members sometimes wore badges suggesting a quasi-official status: "American Protective League–Secret Service." The Attorney General boasted of the manpower they provided: "I have today several hundred thousand private citizens... assisting the heavily overworked Federal authorities in keeping an eye on disloyal individuals and making reports of disloyal utterances." The government had been receiving complaints of disloyalty and enemy activities, and while the Bureau of Investigation was doing its best to contain the situation, the Protective League served as an auxiliary force to put a stop to corruption within the borders of the United States.
The national headquarters of the APL was established in Washington, D.C., with A.M. Briggs installed as the Chairman of the governing National Board of Directors. Charles Daniel Frey, of Chicago, served as the national director of the American Protective League, which at its zenith claimed 250,000 members in 600 cities.
In addition to its regular geographically-based network, the APL attempted to organize secret units inside factories that produced clothing and war material in hopes of identifying individuals or groups who advanced "disloyalty" or engaged in pro-German activities. Suspects would be reported within the APL organization, which would then make use of its broader network in the community to investigate the activities of these individuals after working hours, if deemed necessary. Teams of APL members conducted numerous raids and surveillance activities aimed at those who failed to register for the draft and at German immigrants who were suspected of having sympathies for Germany.
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Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie is an award-winning author of more than 40 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, winner of the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel Award. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013. Song of the Prairie won the 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Gabriel’s Atonement, book 1 in the Land Rush Dreams series placed second in the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Vickie has recently stepped into independent publishing.
Vickie has been married for forty-one years to Robert. They have four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and a precocious granddaughter. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, doing stained glass, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com