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Anti-German sentiment was widespread in the United States in the final two years of World War I. German-language newspapers were shuttered, lists of “disloyal” German-Americans were published in newspapers, “pro-German” books were burned and vigilantes attacked German immigrants.
On Aug. 19, 1918, a group of Luverne, Minn., men forced their way into a house belonging to the family of John Meints, a German-American farmer they considered to be disloyal to the United States. They removed him forcibly and drove him by car to the South Dakota border, where masked men “assaulted him, whipped him, threatened to shoot him, besmeared his body with tar and feathers, and told him to cross the line into South Dakota, and that if he ever returned to Minnesota he would be hanged,” court records show.
Meints sued 32 of the men involved, seeking damages of $100,000 for false imprisonment. After a lengthy trial in Mankato that produced more than 1,100 pages of testimony, a U.S. District Court jury ruled for the defendants, prompting the giddy homecoming described below in a page one story in the Minneapolis Tribune. Meints -- not "Meintz," as this disappointingly short piece has it -- won a new trial on appeal, and eventually settled out of court in 1922 for $6,000.
|Tarred and feathered: John Meints.|