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Madison County During World War I


Government Regulations and Laws - Freedoms Lost


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During World War One (and at other times in history), the United States government took action [supposedly to benefit war efforts] by enacting laws or regulations that negatively affected the citizens of the country. World War One began under President Wilson.  Under his leadership, laws such as the Act of Sedition and others, brought about restrictions and loss of freedoms. Many of these laws were later changed.  The articles below reveal how Madison County residents were affected by Government regulations and laws.




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 1, 1917

By United Press, Washington, May 1 - The United States Government today put a strict censorship on all cables and also on all telephone and telegraph lines which cross the border into Mexico. A proclamation was issued by the President to this effect, and regulations were completed today and the censorship put into effect. It naturally hits newspapers and press associations, but it also involves business and private messages. The object was officially defined to prevent military information reaching the enemy. It is also to prevent the circulating of false reports which would be damaging to the United States and helpful to Germany.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 11, 1918

By United Press, Washington, June 11 - The American people and business must prepare for a severe lesson in economics - diversion of 40 percent of their earnings to war needs. Today the total nation's workers, manufacturers, retailers, and other trade profits amount to $60,000,000,000. The war, this year, will cost $24,000,000,000, Secretary McAdoo estimates. Fuel administration officials announced a 50 percent curtailment of non-essential war industries must be made to save fuel. Fifty to sixty million tons of coal must be saved by enforced curtailment. A tentative list has been prepared of the industries which will be considered non-essential. Changes will be imperative in this list from time to time. Coal production is dropping off, the decline last week being one million tons less than that of the previous week. It is over one million tons below the weekly production necessary. The government is preparing a plan to effect a patriotic refusal of the use or purchase of non-essentials. The plan which is being worked out considers the possibilities of the futures of the newspapers. It contemplates an increased price for newspapers and periodicals that these mediums may aid in the educational work, and not lose that ability through losing advertisements of non-essentials to continue in business.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 3, 1918

Ed Scroggins, aged 42, was arrested today and is held in the Alton jail for the Deputy U. S. Marshal, on the charge of making disloyal remarks. Scroggins, according to the police, was drinking at the time he made the remarks in a business place on Belle street Tuesday in the presence of four witnesses. He is charged with saying that the U. S. soldiers were all thieves, and that they were no good. He said he would advise all persons to stay out of the U. S. army. Whether he meant that it would be better to join the kaiser's army or not, is not known from his remarks, but the neutral construction put upon his remarks made his case a very serious one in the opinion of those who overheard them.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 6, 1918

Two hundred men in the City of Alton have been put to work under the work, fight or go to jail order, Chief of Police Peter Fitzgerald said this morning. Men who never worked before, some who had no inclination towards work, are doing their bit. In many cases the police have had to urge them. The people of Alton have played their part and have turned in the names of many of the slackers. As the names were reported, the police made an investigation of the case. The man was called before the police. He was invited to show that he was at work or had a good reason for not being at work. When the men failed to show cause for not being at work, they were taken to the government employment agency and given work. Many are now holding good places. The number of slackers in the city is very scarce. The police are making a round-up of the men who are working only a few days a week. "We are going to see that every man in the city of Alton does his share in winning the war," said the chief of police this morning.




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 6, 1918
Ed Scroggins was turned over to the United States marshal and Henry Elfert was given a sixty day sentence in the county jail this morning. Both men were obstructing the war work of the United States. Scroggins was arrested several days ago on a charge of talking against the United States army. He stated that the soldiers were no good, and he advised young men they were fools to fight for the rich men. Scroggins was arrested at the time. He will be held by the government. Elfert was tried in the Police Court this morning when he refused to go to work. He said he would not work and no one could force him to work. "I am sorry," said Police Magistrate Patrick Maguire, "that your case should have come before me. You deserve to go before some judge who had enough power to give you a sentence you deserve. The best I can do for you is sixty days in the county jail." Elfert was charged with making some serious remarks about the government. In the Police Court this morning he said he remembered nothing of his remarks, and that he must have made them when he was drunk.




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 9, 1918

Four boys were picked up by the police today on a charge of failing to work. They are under age of the draft, but the chief of police said they should be engaged in useful occupations. Three of them, it was said by the Federal Labor Agent, Roland Adams, are boys who have been tried many times in some of the plants and proved so worthless that they can not find a place in any factory around Alton. One of them, it was decided, will be given a county jail term for vagrancy, while two others, professing a desire to make another trial at being industrious, were given another chance by Mr. Adams. One of the boys was not saying much, but his bearing was that of defiance and he seemed to care little whether or not he went to jail. It was said today by Mr. Adams that hands found at the plant of the Western Cartridge Co. to be so worthless as to have been discharged a few times, are not being taken back there as the plant foremen have no time to waste on them.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 30, 1918

Show windows and lights in street signs will be included in the fuel conservation order. Stores that are not kept open at night must have their lights extinguished on Monday and Tuesday evening, according to the order. All electric signs must not be lighted on these nights. The order includes the signs of candy manufacturers and of saloon men. The Alton police will assist in enforcing the order. Chief of Police Peter Fitzgerald gave his men notice today to warn all persons failing to comply with the government fuel conservation orders.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 27, 1918

By United Press, Washington, Aug. 27 - The U. S. fuel administration banned the Sunday use of automobiles, motorcycles, pleasure yachts, etc., east of the Mississippi River, to permit replenishment of diminished gasoline stores. It will remain. Fuel officials say shortage of gasoline is not serious, but demands for overseas shipments and domestic purposes is at it highest. Tractors and motor trucks engaged in the actual transportation of freight, also physician automobiles, fire and police patrols. Persons living in rural districts may use automobiles.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 16, 1918

Alton has had its first taste of actual commandeering by the government as a war time necessity. The commandeering has been done in connection with the erection of the mammoth new munitions plant by the government at East Alton. The government decided that they wanted a tract of land, consisting of 13 1/2 acres, that belonged to Beall Brothers, and adjoining their East Alton plant, as well as the plant of the Western Cartridge Company. After this decision was reached, the agents for the government entered upon the ground and started work. After the tract was in possession of the government, agent J. H. Tigehon of Detroit, Mich., arrived in Alton to open negotiations for the purchase of the land. Mr. Tigehorn, incidentally, is one of the government's "dollar a year" men, and in private life was a well known real estate man of Detroit. The Alton officials of Beall Brothers were not in a position to quote a price, but called up the president of the concern, John Hubbard at Pittsburg, Pa., over the telephone, and an agreeable understanding was quickly reached. The actual transfer of the property had not yet been made, but the local officials report that there is no hitch whatever, in the proceedings, and that the government representatives have been extremely courteous in the matter, and also that the price offered is entirely satisfactory. The officials also state that they are delighted that the government saw fit to select the tract, and are more than pleased with the business way they have gone at the matter. The instance is of interest by virtue of the fact that the government in all probability will have occasion to commandeer more property in Alton within the next few weeks in connection with the extensive plans of the United Housing Corporation for the erection of several hundred houses for homes for the munitions workers that are to be brought here for the Western Cartridge Co.





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 1, 1918

William F. Wehmeyer of Alton was found guilty by a jury in the United States District Court today on a charge of making utterances intended to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States. These remarks were alleged to have been made in a saloon and in an address to a crowd in front of the Federal Bank Building, Broadway and Pine street, on Labor Day, 1917, while a labor parade was passing. Sentence was deferred by Judge Munger. The principal charge in the counts on which Wehmeyer was convicted was that he said the United States was fighting for Wall Street and not for the best interests of the country. "Also the remark: 'If it was not for wooden-headed Woody, we would not be in this war' cannot be considered obstructive," said the Judge. "It does not affect the military branch of the Government. Criticism of officials, or even of generals themselves, is still permissible. Under this charge, the law does not punish any language, however, vulgar, outrageous or unpatriotic, unless it actually obstructs the enlisting and recruiting service." In his instructions to the jury, Judge Munger made specific reference to this allegation, and said that such a remark must be construed as obstructing the recruiting service. He also told the jurors that it was not necessary to make obstructive remarks to officers engaged in recruiting. There were other agencies of recruiting, including posters, he said, and remarks might be considered obstructive if they tended to raise doubt in the minds of those who might read these recruiting posters. The instructions said that criticism of President Wilson or any other government official was not sufficient for a charge of obstructing recruiting. "The expression that President Wilson was a political grafter is not to be considered obstructive," said the court. "It is merely criticism of an official."


[NOTE: President Woodrow Wilson and the U.S. Congress enacted the Sedition Act of 1918 during World War I. The Act forbade the use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the U.S. government, its flag, or its armed forces. Those convicted under the Act generally received imprisonment for 5-20 years. The Act was repealed in 1920. I could not find any more information on William Wehmeyer, and whether or not he received a prison term.]





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 5, 1918

All restrictions on electric lighting have been removed, and merchants and all other places of amusements may use the electric light signs as they did before the war. Since the announcement was made of the order to shut down on the use of electricity, we have had lightless nights and so forth. No places of business or amusements could use signs advertising their business. The local fuel administrator, Dr. George M. Potter, received the following telegram today, signed by Ray Durham, state fuel administrator: "All restrictions with reference to electric lighting in the state of Illinois are hereby withdrawn, as to this date."





Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 23, 1918

That old-fashioned flour would come back - the kind that makes clean-looking white bread, was the announcement made by the Sparks Milling Co., as the result of the removal of all restrictions from the use of flour, announced the United States Food Administration. The Sparks Milling Co., in an advertisement in the Telegraph this evening, announces that it was necessary during the war time conservation of wheat, to mill the wheat so that the flour contained 74 percent of the bulk of the grain, and 26 percent went into cattle feed. The new rule just given out permitting resumption of the old methods of making flour takes only 70 percent of the wheat into the flour and makes 30 percent go into mill feed for cattle. The Sparks Company has announced that it will take up from all dealers all the old flour the firm had put out, and will substitute for it the new flour that will be ready for delivery Tuesday morning in all stores. Housekeepers who have fretted because their baked goods in which flour was used did not look white enough will hereafter be able to get the kind of flour they bought before the war. The change in the regulations has resulted in a big boost in the price of bran and other mill feeds, which had been under government regulations up to a few days ago. The increase in the price of bran will cause an increase in the price of milk and butter, as cow feed will be much high.





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