Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dayton 1923: The Klan on the March...

The 1920s Klan is a really fascinating footnote to US history, as it might have been as close as the US got to one of those "shirted movements" of European fascism.

Yet instead of a black shirt, brown shirt, blue shirt, etc. etc. they wore sheets. And there also was that good old American secret society/fraternal lodge hoo-haw aspect to the Klan, too.

And in the Midwest it was an urban blue collar worker/small businessmans movement, not a bunch of nightriding rubes.

Reading into some history of socialism in Dayton (there was a connection between the local '20s Klan and the Socialists as they both drew from same potential membership base and may have been competition) there is this great account of a Sept 21 1923 Klan march downtown:

"Last night Dayton was the haunt of ancient ghosts. They came up out of the dusty graves where the common sense of man had long laid them. They possessed the streets. Under a sad and heavy sky, threatening rain, an airplane showing a fiery cross flitted back and forth above the skyscrapers. Brass bands blared 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. And like an eruption from the Dark Ages, an upheaval from the benighted and blood dripping past, the Ku Klux Klan marched. Shrouded figures and hooded heads. Thousands of peaked white masks, ghastly and expressionless as fleshless skulls that have modlered ages in the corroding earth..."

...interesting that the kluxers actually had an airplane with an illuminated "fierty cross" on the underside doing overflights of downtown.

There were about 14,000 members in the local klavern, one of the strongest in Ohio, and parades and gatherings attracted thousands.

Klan strength in Dayton was so strong that the Ohio Klan newspaper, "Ohio Fiery Cross", was composed and printed here.
(source: Socialism in Dayton Ohio, 1912 to 1925, MA Thesis by John T Walker.)

This would be something to study a bit more, if the records are still around. Supposedly WSU has copies of the two Klan newspapers published here, "The Kluxer" and the aforementioned "Ohio Fiery Cross". Klavern records are in Columbus, though.


Jefferey said...

I deleted three recent anonymous comments because they were grossly off topic...something about state troopers and about Barak Obama.

The post was about the 1920s Klan in Dayton, as something new to me and maybe topic for future research, not about current events.

Polimom said...

Interesting post.

Family lore has it that my great-grandfather was a member of / involved with the Klan there in Dayton. His membership seems to have been the catalyst for my grandfather's later name change, and there was a rift in the family.

I've been thinking of doing some research into the Dayton Klan as part of the family genealogy. Have you discovered whether any of the records still exist? Or where they are housed? (Or how one could even figure that out? LOL!)