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.