Patriotic Murder


Patriotic Murder

A World War I Hate Crime for Uncle Sam

Peter Stehman

320 pages
26 photographs, 6 illustrations, 1 appendix, index


October 2018


$44.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2018


$44.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2018


$44.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Robert Prager, a lonely German immigrant searching for the American dream, was probably the most shameful U.S. casualty of World War I. From coast to coast, Americans had been whipped into a patriotic frenzy by a steady diet of government propaganda and hate-mongering. In Collinsville, Illinois, an enraged, drunken mob hung Prager from a tree just after midnight on April 5, 1918. Coal miners in the St. Louis suburb would show the nation they were doing their patriotic part—that they, too, were fighting the fight. And who would stop them anyway? Not the alderman or businessmen who watched silently. Not the four policemen who let Prager from their custody, without drawing a weapon. And who would hold the mob leaders accountable? Certainly not the jury that took just ten minutes to acquit them, all while a band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the courthouse lobby.

Peter Stehman sheds light on the era’s hijacking of civil liberties and a forgotten crime some might say has fallen prey to “patriotic amnesia.” Unfortunately, the lessons from Patriotic Murder on intolerance and hate still resonate today as anti-immigration rhetoric and über-nationalism have resurfaced in American political discussion a century later. 

Author Bio

Peter Stehman is a local Collinsville, Illinois, historian and writer. He is a retired City of Collinsville fire chief and has written numerous articles on public safety. He has held a lifelong interest in the Robert Prager tragedy and the environment that enabled it.


"Peter Stehman has written the definitive account of Prager's murder. . . . Robert's story perfectly illustrates why history is so important. If we do not remember history, we're doomed to repeat it."—Sean Derrick, Midwest Rewind

"Patriotic Murder sheds fresh light on a forgotten, troubling episode in American history."—Luke Ritter, Missouri Historical Review

"Anyone interested in World War I and the impact of hate speech will need to read this book."—Petra DeWitt, Journal of American History

“An undertone of cold fury pulses through Peter Stehman’s meticulously researched account of Robert Prager’s lynching by an Illinois mob in 1918 and the subsequent trial that let his murderers off scot-free. The tale he tells is by turns touching, troubling, and timely. It amounts to a parable about the ease with which inflamed patriotism and ignorant prejudice can brew a toxic storm that exposes the frailty of our humanity as well as the fallibility of our judicial system.”—David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Over Here: The First World War and American Society

Patriotic Murder offers the richest account ever of this tragic and forgotten chapter of American history. Peter Stehman is a master storyteller who brings the personalities and political passions of World War I America to life and shows us, a century later, what we can learn from the lessons of the past.”—Christopher Capozzola, author of Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. It’s Plain Murder, but What Can You Do?
2. A Small Town, a Great War
3. United We Stand
4. You Are Either for Us or against Us
5. A Little Tar Might Help
6. I Am Heart and Soul for the Good Old USA
7. I Want to Tell and Get It off My Mind
8. A Farcical Patriotic Orgy
9. It Seems a Nightmare

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