A ‘network of surveillance’

G Herbert Walker smallThe goal was to counter German spies and saboteurs during the Great War, but the American Protective League appeared to be more successful at helping criminalize speech and neutralize dissidents, including leftists and labor activists.

The league functioned as a “voluntary auxiliary” under the U.S. Department of Justice, a network of amateur secret agents of 200,000 or more “loyal” Americans. Its work in St. Louis was highlighted in a lengthy feature, “Fighting German Spies in St. Louis,” published in the Post-Dispatch on Aug. 18, 1918.

Among the revelations in the report: the chief of the St. Louis division, which was said to number some 3,000 agents, was none other than George Herbert Walker, described as “a wealthy broker.”

Walker was a power in the local Democratic Party who became an influential investment banker with W. Averill Harriman’s New York firm after the war. Today, he’s best known as the maternal grandfather and great-grandfather of former presidents Read more of this post