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Nov. 16, 1919: Tarred and feathered

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: November 16, 2011 - 4:24 PM

 

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.

 

All Luverne Greets
32 Citizens Freed in
Tar-Feather Case


 
  Tarred and feathered: John Meints.
Court Vindicates Men Accused
Of Punishing John Meintz
As Disloyalist
 
Welcome home by a large delegation of Luverne (Minn.) citizens, headed by a band, was the sequel yesterday to the acquittal of 32 residents in federal court at Mankato on the charge of kidnapping, tarring and feathering John Meintz, according to dispatches from Luverne last night.
 
Meintz asked personal damages of $100,000 as balm for the treatment he received on the night of August 19, 1918. The jury denied him any damages, after deliberating one hour and a half.
 
Judge Wilbur F. Booth, in charging the jury, said that the evidence was overwhelming in support of the contention that Meintz was disloyal and that there was a strong feeling against him in the community.
 
The action of the Luverne citizens in staging a celebration  was taken as an indication of strong approval of the acquittal verdict, according to dispatches.
 
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