Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alien Enemies

Late in January 1918 the News reminded its readers of a looming deadline. In a proclamation issued in November 1917, President Woodrow Wilson required all male "alien enemies" to register with their local authorities.* The registration was to take place early in February.

Since April 1917 all unnaturalized German immigrants had been "alien enemies"; in December unnaturalized Austro-Hungarians were added to that category. So the proclamation affected a fair number of people here in Ainsworth and Hobart.

In charge of the registration would be the local chief of police or postmaster (I suppose in Ainsworth that would be Marshal Robert Harper or Postmistress Amelia Goldman; in Hobart, Marshal Fred Rose, Sr. or Postmaster William Kostbade.) The "alien enemy" had to present himself to the officer, complete a registration form and submit four signed photographs of himself.

The News assured readers of the program's innocuous aims: "persons required to register should understand that in doing so they are giving proof of their peaceful disposition and of their intention to conform to the laws of the United States." I suppose some of the registrants found it galling that their conduct since arriving in the United States decades earlier was not sufficient proof of their peaceful disposition and law-abiding intention.

*In April 1918, the registration requirement would be extended to female "alien enemies."

♦ "Alien Germans Must Register, According to Ruling." Hobart News 31 Jan. 1918.
♦ Ballantyne, Dorothy, and Robert Adams. Along the Route: A History of Hobart, Indiana, Post Offices and Postmasters. Hobart: The Hobart Historical Society, Inc., 1992.
♦ Divjak, Helen, and Lee Ann Potter. " Alien enemy registration during World War I." Social Education. Sept. 2002. BNET;col1 (accessed 7 Jan. 2011).

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