Word o’ the Day

Here’s the word of the day, a feature of Spokane’s newspaper, The Spokesman-Review.



Online Memorials

There are a lot of people in the death industry trying to take money from you. At the end of the day, we’re trying to capture the stories of peoples lives.”
— Rudy Adler of 1000Memories.com

There is now a Facebook for those who are no longer with us. It’s called 1000Memories.

Family and friends can propose ideas for a foundation, charity, or scholarship, and then and raise money, thanks to the site’s partnership with WePay. Along with a graceful and restrained design, 1000Memories brings newfound generosity and emotional awareness to the way we cope with death online.”


‘Leave it to the FBI!’

Cover of J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary
Cover of J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary

I have been reading and admiring the artwork in J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary. Geary has done work for Marvel, DC Comics, Dark Horse, and The New York Times Book Review.

While it is leftist in outlook, the format and the storytelling are terrific.

Hoover grew up near Seward Square, not far from the White House and even closer to the Capitol. He lived his entire life in Washington and supposedly never voted. At age 11 he began publishing a neighborhood newspaper, the Weekly Review.

In 1916 he gained a law degree. The United States entered World War I in April of the following year and in June Hoover passed the bar exam, but he never became a practicing attorney. Instead, in July, he was given a post in the Department of Justice. His mother’s cousin was a federal judge and had used his influence to help Hoover.

Looking back, he worked for every president from Wilson to Nixon, technically-speaking of course, because some could and have argued that Hoover really worked for himself.

Hoover began his time at Justice organizing the Alien Enemy Registration section, which was an important part of counter-espionage work. It was part of the department’s War Emergency Division.

His job was to track and register German and Austro-Hungarian nationals within the United States . . . The processing of intelligence, the organizing of files and records, the scrutiny of people’s personal lives.”

I wonder if any relatives are mentioned in these files. Uncle Herman (Herman Fromke) was a supporter of the ACLU and his parents had come from Germany in 1887, although he had been born in the United States. Others may have been involved in unrest and uprisings in Europe such as in 1848.

As American boys went overseas to fight, the nation was in a panic over spies, traitors, and saboteurs.”

While there were certainly concerns by the public, this sentiment appears to be mostly hyperbole. Instead, it was more a government concern. Wilson and Hoover were obviously somewhat fearful and used the situation to greatly expand federal power to the detriment of individual rights.

In 1918 he hired a secretary, Helen Gandy, who worked for him for his entire career.

The war ended, but the work of an ever watchful government did not. With the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Hoover was asked by Attorney General Mitchell Palmer to head a new ‘Radical’ Division at Justice.

With the fervor of a champion debater [which he was in school], he educated himself to become an authority on radical activity at home and abroad.

His card catalog grew to 200,000 entries, not merely of communists but also of liberal activists and social progressives—anyone, in fact, who had expressed dissent.”

He then hired a man named Frank Baughman as his assistant.

They coordinated with the Department of Labor to arrange for the identification and deportation of thousands of immigrants.”

Deportation was deemed an ‘administrative action,’ not a punishment. Thus, Hoover could bypass the courts and the ordinary constitutional safeguards—such as habeas corpus and a right to counsel.”

On December 21, 1919, the USS Buford left New York for Russia with 200 radicals on board, including Emma Goldman.

Then came the Palmer Raids on January 2, 1920.

Thousands of “immigrants were rounded up in dozens of cities and put into detention camps.”

In Boston, the prisoners were chained together and paraded through the streets. In Detroit, they were detained in a windowless corridor with no toilet[s] . . .

Of 6,328 warrants issued, 4,000 actual arrests were made, and from them just 1,000 deportations ordered. But these deportations were never to take place.”

Public and political support began to erode for such action. The Department of Labor reversed course.

The Department of Labor declared that alien residents had the right to counsel in deportation proceedings.”

After Warren Harding’s election as president, Hoover became an assistant to William J. Burns.

. . . His careful nonpartisan stance enabled him to remain in government no matter which party was in power.

During these years, Hoover kept a low profile, while remaining indispensable to his superiors.”

In 1922, Hoover’s father, Dickerson Hoover, died. He had suffered from depression for years. The next year Harding died and Calvin Coolidge became president as corruption scandals began to become public. Hoover’s superiors Harry Daugherty and Burns were implicated and forced to resign. The new attorney general, Harlan F. Stone, then made Hoover the director of the Bureau of Investigation, created in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt.

After some housecleaning, “firing all political appointees, ‘incompetents, and time-servers,’” Hoover organized the Bureau into six divisions, including one for identification, “which coordinated all files on suspect individuals in one place.”

At this time there were 53 field offices, including one in Des Moines and another in South Dakota.

In short order, as many people observed, the Bureau became overqualified for its job.

In 1925, as a service to the president, Hoover began providing intelligence on politicians and pilitcal groups, allies as well as adversaries . . .”

This was something “that he would be called upon to continue throughout his career.”

Of course today he is well-known for an eccentric personal life. He continued living with his mother at the family home near Seward Square.

He favored linen suits, with fashionable ties and accessories.”

Every morning she made him a poached egg on toast for breakfast, which if not up to standard, he fed to his dog.

I had no idea he collected Oriental antiques and curios, but it does fit the stereotype.

In 1928, he hired Clyde Tolson as his second-in-command.

FDR then steps onto the national stage. His first attorney general, Homer Cummings, keeps Hoover on.

The G-Men moniker became commonplace after a rash of gangster holdups, including Machine Gun Kelly and Dillinger. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of young Lindbergh.

In the summer of 1935 it officially became the Federal Bureau of Investigation—the FBI. In March 1936, testifying before Congress, Hoover was asked why he wasn’t out in the field risking his own neck, like the other men. So Hoover joined agents on a few raids and arrests, in New Orleans, Ohio, and New York City, which greatly helped his publicity and profile.

August 1936: In a secret verbal directive, the president [FDR] granted Hoover the broad and unlimited (and most likely unconstitutional) authority to conduct survellince upon American citizens.

This provided the basis for forty years of Bureau activity.”

This included, of course, Nazis, communists, unions . . .

Anyone deemed by the president to be a political enemy.”

The FBI grew from 1,000 agents to 4,000.

Publicity and propaganda were key. James Cagney starred in G-Men. There was a radio series, a pulp monthly magazine, and a daily comic strip for newspapers. Louis Nichols was the man in charge of the campaigns. With Hoover’s name as the author, Courtney Ryley Cooper served as a ghostwriter for a series of stories in American magazine.

Tolson and Hoover would often lunch at Harvey’s in DC, always at the same table. Both men loved horseracing. While in New York, they’d visit the Stork Club, befriending the likes of Walter Winchell in the process.

The two, over the years, would exchange information to their mutual benefit.”

Of Tolson, Hoover said, apparently more than once, “He is my alter ego.”

Hoover was said to have close friendships at this time with several women . . .

. . . Chief among them Lela Rogers, a right-wing activist (and mother of the actress Ginger Rogers) . . .

. . . and the rising starlet Dorothy Lamour [of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road movie fame].”

With the Nazi takeover of Europe and the breakout of World War II, FDR “gave to Hoover authority over all intelligence operations against foreign espionage within the U.S. and South America (while overseas remained the province of the Army and Navy.)”

. . . Roosevelt authorized telephone wiretaps, although such abridgment of civil rights was of questionable legality.

The FBI came into its own as the nation’s chief entity for internal security.

The Custodial Detention program was initiated to track ‘dangerous’ individuals in case of war.”

More than 13,000 people were classified as such.

The nation’s top crime fighter donned a new image as tracker of spies and saboteurs.”

Hoover wanted to take on all intelligence gathering and spying operations, but FDR created the OSS instead. The Office of Strategic Services was headed by WWI vet Wild Bill Donovan. This became the CIA, which Hoover vowed to never cooperate or share information with.

Leave it to the FBI! Citizens could be at ease, the Bureau was in control.”

Success in mass media continued with the radio program This Is Your FBI and the film The House on 92nd Street.

In June 1942 eight Nazi would-be saboteurs were caught after coming ashore from a German submarine. Hoover and the FBI took as much of the credit as possible, which was standard operating procedure for him and the agency through these years.

Years later, it was revealed that one of the group’s leaders—Dasch—was a sympathizer of the U.S. who had surrendered and informed upon the entire operation.”

To Eleanor Roosevelt, though, “the FBI was one step away from becoming an American Gestapo.”

Hoover felt likewise. She was “a bleeding heart for the enemies of American society.”

Accordingly, he had her followed along every mile of her far-flung travels . . . eventually compiling a fat dossier of where she went, whom she met, and so on.”

A wiretap was even placed in her Chicago hotel room once.

Then along came McCarthy and Nixon, and LBJ.

Upon JFK’s assassination, Hoover called his brother Bobby (RFK) to tell him the news.

Kennedy was struck by Hoover’s cold, matter-of-fact tone: ‘He was not a very warm or sympathetic figure.’”

When the unrest and activism of the Sixties hit full stride, Hoover’s reaction was peculiar but wise.

He was reluctant to use the FBI’s traditional surveillance methods to disrupt the antiwar groups.

Hoover saw such activities as politically damaging to the Bureau, while the president (Nixon) had no such sensitivity.”

Nixon tried persuading him to retire, but Hoover wouldn’t go and Nixon refused to fire him.

So things remained as they were.”

Until Hoover’s death in May of 1972.


A Brief History of the Iowa National Guard

Two veterans of the Iowa National Guard have written up a brief history of the unit, including action and duties just prior to and during the First World War.

In 1917, the United States was drawn into the struggle, partly to support democracy and partly to maintain the maritime rights of neutral nations. The call was answered by thousands of Iowans, many having served on the Mexican border.

The first Iowa National Guard unit to be sent to France was the 168th Infantry. The 168th Infantry was a consolidated force made up of three prewar regiments of Iowa National Guard infantry. It was assigned to the 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division, one of the first American divisions to reach Europe. The 42nd Division took part in engagements at Baccarat, Esperance-Souaine, Champagne-Marne, Essey-Pannes, and the final great Allied offensive at Meuse-Argonne. Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur was the Chief of Staff of the 42nd Division. Speaking to a French major, he said, ‘Is it any wonder that my father was proud of this regiment.’ The 168th, as the 51st Iowa, had served under the elder Arthur MacArthur in the Philippines.

The remainder of the Iowa National Guard forces that were mobilized for World War I were assigned to the 34th Division. These Iowans went to Mexico to train in the desert. They took as their insignia a white bovine skull superimposed upon a black Mexican water jug. The 34th earned the name ‘Sandstorm’ because of the omnipresent sand in food and clothing. The 34th left for Europe on September 17, 1918. Upon their arrival in France, the division experienced a bitter disappointment. Instead of going into battle as a unit, they were used as a replacement pool.

Back home, the Iowa National Guard training site at Camp Dodge was greatly expanded and functioned as one of 16 regional training sites for the United States Army . . .”

There is a page dedicated to World War I, as part of the history section.

The Champagne-Marne offensive was one of the most decisive battles of the World War I. Fought over a four-day period (July 15-18, 1918), it was a daring attempt by the German General Staff to drive a wedge between the British and the French and end the war before the bulk of American forces could arrive in France. Several American divisions already in France, including the 42nd, played an important role in stopping the German attack. As one soldier of the 168th wrote, ‘By noon of July 15, the German offensive had been halted, but both sides maintained a terrific artillery duel until the 18th.’

‘Life around our part of the country was an inferno, with earth quaking from the shock of artillery, and the sun blotted out by the dense clouds of gray-black smoke.’”

Some background on the expansion of Camp Dodge, and the time after the official declaration of war in April, is also available and a good source for information.


Beyond Booing at a Ballgame

Mayor William Jay Gaynor moments after being shot on August 9, 1910.
Mayor William Jay Gaynor moments after being shot on August 9, 1910.

I read about this sad incident, the attempted assassination of a New York City mayor, in Monday’s paper issue of The New York Times. He appeared to be a good and decent man.

Thankfully this type of murder appears to be waning. A photograph taken right afterwards helps tell the story.

“When a man has gone down into the Valley of the Shadow and looked the specter Death in the face, and said to it, ‘I am ready,’ nothing in this world looks very large to him,” the mayor wrote later.


Search for a Surname circa 1086 England

The Domesday Book is now online, searchable by surname and other parameters. The National Archives (UK) has a website about the historic book. It “links information from the Domesday survey (1086) to maps showing the location of estates throughout England.”

Visitors can find out who owned their town or village, create maps and tables of the estates held by the same lords elsewhere in England, and examine the scale of the dispossession of the English by the Normans following the conquest of 1066.”


Rodeo in Maxwell, Iowa

There is a rodeo in Maxwell, Iowa this weekend. I drove through town in the fall of 1998 on my way to visit the Peoria Cemetery, where most of my Hill relatives are buried. I wanted to stop in the Maxwell Museum, but we didn’t have time.

A message—a “classified ad”—was posted on Craigslist about the rodeo. It costs eight bucks.

Rodeo this Friday and Saturday evening at Maxwell Iowa, just a short drive from DesMoines. We have well over 200 contestants entered so you will see lots of cowboy action in the roping and riding of buckin horses and bulls. 15 bullriders entered each night. Come see the chanel 8 news guy get on a bull Friday night. Also new this year will be the Minature bull riding with the youngsters riding the small bulls. Dance after the rodeo and Old Settlers Celebration going on at the grounds as well. See you in Maxwell Friday and Saturday nights, rodeo starts at 7 each night.”