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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Ephraim Trimpey. A pile of German textbooks, from the Baraboo High School, burning on a street in Baraboo, Wisconsin, during an anti-German demonstration, June 13, 1918. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (081.00.00)
People of New Hampshire . . . Promptness in Recognizing and Reporting Suspicious or Disloyal Actions to your Local Authority. Concord, New Hampshire: Committee of 100 on Public Safety. Broadside, ca. 1917. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (091.00.00)

Report Suspicion or Disloyalty

During World War I, no centralized intelligence infrastructure existed. To augment its efforts, the state depended on the vigilance, and in some cases vigilantism, of citizens. Broadsides like this one issued by the Committee of 100 on Public Safety in New Hampshire imbued Americans with a sense of responsibility for safeguarding their communities against potential German spies and dissidents posing a threat to U.S. security. Vigilance sometimes slipped into coercion and suppression amidst the pressures of war. Ashes left from a 1918 bonfire fueled by German textbooks in Baraboo, Wisconsin, are visible in this photograph. The Baraboo fire may have been as much a protest over the difficulty of local German language courses as an expression of anti-German sentiment prevalent across the nation at that time.