Silver Shirt Legion of America

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William Dudley Pelley in the uniform of the Silver Legion

The Silver Shirt Legion of America (previously Silver Shirts of America and Silver Legion of America)[1] was an American nationalist organization founded by William Dudley Pelley on January 30, 1933, the day Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. Pelley was a mystic and believed this auspicious date was the fulfillment of Pyramid Prophecy.[2]

The group was commonly known as the Silver Shirts. Some writes have made the erroneous claim the Silver Shirt name was inspired by Hitler’s SS (Schutzstaffel). Pelley customarily referred to his members as "Silvershirts" in his literature.[3] On November 3, 1933 the Silver Shirts held their first meeting in Kreutzer Hall, East 86th Street, New York City.[4] They were officially incorporated February 1934 in the state of Delaware as a patriotic fraternity.[5] The Silver Legion’s emblem was a scarlet L standing for love, loyalty, and liberation, which was featured on their flags and uniforms.[6]

Contents

Organization

The Silver Shirts were organized into nine districts within the country and had chapters in 22 states:[7] two of the largest being Washington and California. Each chapter had a "Silver Lodge" which was a primitive cabin built for meetings. Local groups were called "Councils of Safety" and consisted of approximately ten members.

Silver Shirt membership was mostly middle class non-immigrant Americans of a northern European heritage. It was estimated that half of the membership were Catholic.[8] Others claim the group was predominately Protestant with a large number of former Midwest Klansmen.[9] Silver Shirt membership was strongest on the West Coast followed by the Midwest. Interestingly, there was practically no Silver Shirt organization in the South except for the national headquarters in Ashville, North Carolina.[10]

Estimates on the number of Silver Shirt women ranged from eighteen[11] to twenty-eight percent.[12] In Southern California a women’s auxiliary was formed and called the Petticoat Platoons.[13]

Investigations

In the Fall of 1935 the Silver Shirts became largely inactive due to investigations of the McCormack-Dickstein committee [14] but came back in 1936 when Pelley ran for President of the United States on the Christian Party ticket.[15]

In 1940 Pelley in testimony before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee said he signed 25,000 credentials for Silver Shirt membership and had 75,000 sympathizers who were willing to contribute to his movement.[16] In 1935 it was estimated those who remained members peaked at 15,000.[17] One investigator claimed Jews who monitored the Silver Shirts and their publications contribute an estimated ten percent of the Silver Shirt revenue.[18]

Accusations of foreign connections

There have been spurious claims Pelley and the Silver Shirts were financed with money and received support from National Socialist Germany. Pelley was tried twice for sedition in a court of law where none of these claims of support were ever proven. Pelley unlike some American nationalists from the 1930s never visited Germany nor meet with their National Socialist representatives. The only time Pelley meet with the leadership of the German American Bund was in Los Angeles when Fritz Kuhn was visiting the area and made a courtesy call.

Silver Shirt leaders and staff

References

  1. Preliminary Guide to the Silver Shirt Legion of America Washington State Division Records 1933-1940
  2. Violence in America: Protest, Rebellion, Reform, by Ted Robert Gurr, page 137
  3. Violence in America: Protest, Rebellion, Reform, by Ted Robert Gurr, page 150
  4. Partners in Plunder, the Cost of Business, page 222
  5. Testimony before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities, February 7, 1940
  6. The "L"
  7. Testimony before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities, February 7, 1940
  8. William Dudley Pelley: a Life in Right-wing Extremism and the Occult, by Scott Beekman, page 101
  9. Organized Anti-Semitism in America, by Donald S. Strong, page 52
  10. Organized Anti-Semitism in America, by Donald S. Strong, page 54
  11. William Dudley Pelley: a Life in Right-wing Extremism and the Occult, by Scott Beekman, page 101
  12. Organized Anti-Semitism in America, by Donald S. Strong, page 52
  13. Women of the Far Right: The Mothers' Movement and World War II, By Glen Jeansonne, page 38
  14. Special Committee on Un-American Activities (1934-1937)
  15. Testimony before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities, February 7, 1940
  16. Testimony before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities, February 7, 1940
  17. William Dudley Pelley: a Life in Right-wing Extremism and the Occult, by Scott Beekman, page 100
  18. Testimony of Robert B. Barker, Investigator for the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, August 28, 1939, before the House of Un-American Activities Committee, page 4260

See also

External link

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