Germany

Timothy Leary’s Dead.

Left: Timothy Leary in the custody of Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agents in 1972. Right: Leary’s 1970 California mugshot. (photos courtesy of the Berkeley Historical Society.)

A 1992 interview with the LSD guru, first published in the Riverfront Times.

by C.D. Stelzer

After your dismissal from Harvard in 1963, both a local television station and Washington University here in St. Louis canceled programs that were to have featured you and colleague Richard Alpert. Which do you believe the establishment feared more at that time, your actual experimentation with LSD or the ideas you espoused?

Timothy Leary: The basic theme I’ve ever done in public is to encourage and empower individuals — think for yourself and question authority. I’m a dissident philosopher based on the Socratic method. My trade union has been practicing this dangerous and risky profession for several thousand years. We have to have every establishment angry. If I’m not in trouble with the establishment, then I’m in trouble with my union card as a socratic philosopher.

It’s not the drugs they were concerned about. It’s much more subversive telling people `just say know — K-N-O-W — just think for yourself.’

When you think that the establishment was angry and upset back then about gentle little vegetables like marijuana and LSD and mushrooms, look what they’ve got now — tons of cocaine on every street corner and every city in the United States.

It was not just the drugs. Deeper than that, it was our defense of humanism as opposed to religion and government. Individualism, dissidents, we were against the war. Stand up for yourself that was the message, it’s always been controversial with Big Brother.

In 1969, you stated that drug dealing was “the noblest of all human professions.” With that in mind, and in light of government and corporate opposition over the last decade, what is your attitude toward drug use today?

That was pulled out of context. What I was saying was throughout history, the chalice, which holds the sacraments, which illuminate and enlighten and allow people to face their own inner divinity. Dealing dope should be the most sacred, precious and conscientious profession. … In that particular interview I was denouncing the drug dealers that were doing it for profit or that were dealing drugs in a dishonest way.

What do you believe is the greatest achievement of the psychedelic revolution that you pioneered? Do you have any reservations about your involvement in disseminating LSD to the American culture?

Put it into historical context. The use of sacramental vegetables has gone back, back, back in history to shamans and the Hindu religion and Buddhist religion. They were using Soma. It’s an ancient human ritual that has usually been practiced in the context of religion or of worship or of tribal coming together.

I didn’t pioneer anything. The use of psychedelics for spiritual purposes was started in the 50s by Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

What we did in the 60s, we just surfed a wave. In the 1960s, there was this sudden, new, enormous generation of young Americans brought up on television. Their parents had been told by Dr. Spock, `treat your children as individuals and let them become themselves.’ When they hit college, here was this new movement.

The pioneering, the real work in spreading the word about psychedelic vegetables, (was done by) the rock n’ rollers. Electronic amplification messages going around the world at the speed of light. Bob Dylan and John Lennon and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They spread the word around.

I’m not a leader, I’m a cheerleader, urging people to be careful and think for yourself.

You’ve met or tripped with Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey and Jack Keroac among others. Who was the highest individual you have ever encountered?

I’m not talking about that, you can’t count …

You can’t put it on a scale.

Y
eah, everyone of those people are a human being and they had their flaws. They were dedicated humanists that’s the key thing. Divinity is found not in the churches or the palaces of the powerful, divinity is found inside. That’s the oldest message, and we all agreed on that, and we expressed it and sang it and chanted it in many different dialects.

Do you still experiment with drugs now?

I don’t experiment. Yes, I use any vegetable or chemical that I feel is necessary at the time to further my life plan. Anytime I want to turn on my right brain, I use chemicals to do that. But I do it carefully, I do it cautiously. I know what I’m doing.

I’ve have been told that your appearance in St. Louis will include a hyper-video display. Could you describe what hyper-video is and how it differs from past multi-media productions?

I don’t know what you mean by past. Yes, it’s true that in the 60s we went down to Broadway and put on what we called the `Psychedelic Salvation.’ We had 19 or 20 slide projectors, overloaded sound — to produce a trance state, to produce a right brain experience, where you’re open and vulnerable to learning new stuff.

Now we have a computer-generated stuff, an enormous empowerment of individuals, who have access now to computer programs CD-Rom programs and special effects. I can’t do a real immersive trance state because its a bright room. But I will have videos to show how it works, and I’m going to try to get the lights to go on and off a little bit so we get some little flavor, to get a group of people who are sharing the same visionary or trance situation.

How is the youth movement of today different from the 1960s?

A lot has happened since the 1960s. In 1980, the American government was taken over by a military police-state or coup. In the last 12 years, you’ve seen an erosion of personal rights, personal freedom, and more power to the police and the military. … The main thing that the Reagan-Bush administration does is they send guns all around the world and they ship out all of our jobs.

So the kids that have grown up today have grown up in a very different world than the 60s, when there was a tremendous feeling of innocence. … And the different races were encouraged to express themselves, and women’s liberation. It was a glorious moment of renaissance, but it was cracked, which often does happen, in 1980.

So the kids today, to answer your question, have to deal with a much more grim economic situation, a grim lifestyle situation. Young women of today are afraid today that they could be arrested if they control their own reproductive rights. The abortion police, these right-wing Republicans, sticking their noses into women’s reproductive organs. Urinating in a bottle.

Kids growing up today are harassed and their is a sense of violence and conflict. So therefore, kids today are much tougher.

There is a youth movement developing now somewhat connected to raves, where young people get together to have celebratory dances. It’s different, and I have a great deal of sympathy and admiration for young people growing up today.

In a recent interview, you said one of the greatest pranks you enjoyed was escaping from prison in 1970. You were convicted of marijuana possession, but why were you really in jail? Was your imprisonment analogous to society at large; are we all prisoners and guards in one big prison yard as Dylan says?

Well, that’s a very philosophic statement. You’re only in prison, if your mind tells you are. When I was in prison, behind bars, I was freer than most people who came to visit me.

Richard Nixon called me `the most dangerous man alive.’ That’s not because I was found in a car where someone else had five dollars worth of marijuana. (It’s) probably because I was the most eloquent and most influential voice encouraging young people to think for yourself and question authority, and don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters.

It was my ideas that were very dangerous. I found myself in 1970 facing between 20 and 30 years imprisonment for less than $10 of marijuana (found) in cars that were not my own.

I did four-and-a-half years in prison for less than $10 worth of marijuana at the same time cocaine gangsters from Peru were doing four or five years for a ton of cocaine. Everyone I think would agree that I was in prison for my ideas, and that’s why I escaped from there.

Are computer hackers of the 1990s akin to the 60s outlaw drug dealers?

The thing about the computer situation is it changes so quickly. The concept of hacker — the programmer who spends all night eating bad food and drinking Pepsi-Cola and getting pimples and cracking codes — that’s kind of over now. They were wonderful heroes.
There is a strong growing counterculture in the computer culture, people who don’t think that computers and electronic devices should be used just for Big Brother, the CIA and American Airlines, but to use these wonderful electronic powers to enrich yourself as an individual and to help you communicate.

The hot thing that is going on in electronic computer culture today is networking, communicating with one another on electronic bulletin boards. That’s where the notion `cyberpunk’ came as invented by William Gibson in the book Nueromancer.

The cyberpunk is someone who is very skillful and understands how to use technology, and can mix film, and edit their own audio-visual stuff, do your own MTV at home on your Macintosh, or do it in school on your McIntosh. Cyberpunks are these individuals who use this intelligence not to make a lot of money for a big corporation, but to enrich human life and enrich human communication.

Instead of just talking on bulletin boards or typing in letters, within two or three years, we’ll be sending incredible multi-media graphics. So instead of just talking, within two or three years, I’ll be able to send you an MTV-type audio-visual stuff with some words.

Almost 20 years ago you foresaw that “language thought and custom were becoming electrically energized” through technology. At the time, you predicted “science … cannot be controlled by a national leader or restrained by national boundaries. You stated that: “Those born into the electronic culture will soon learn how to govern themselves according to the laws of energy. Do you believe this to be the case today? If so, how has it manifested itself in the world of 1992?

I think you can learn a lot about America by seeing what happened in the Soviet Union. The Republicans are saying Reagan had the Soviet Union in his gun sights and it was Bush who pulled the trigger to kill communism. Now that’s a truck load of you know what.

The Soviet Union collapsed because million and millions of citizens, particularly young people, particularly college people and scientists, intellectuals — and there were many of them there totally silent during Brezhnev — began communicating electronically.

In East Berlin, for example, they had guards that would go around and make sure that satellite disks at apartment houses in communist Germany were not turned to the west. And you would get busted, if were picking up electronic signals from the West.

But you can’t stop electrons. Electrons are not like tanks. You can’t build a wall of bricks to keep out videotapes and MTV tapes and rock n’ roll records.

After moving west to California in the late 60s, you became connected with a group called the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. In 1973, Nicholas Sand, a chemist for the Brotherhood, was arrested in St. Louis for operating two LSD laboratories. Indictments in California around the same time also named Ronald H. Stark, who allegedly operated a LSD lab in Belgium, In the book Acid Dreams, the authors name Stark as being a CIA informant. In retrospect do believe the CIA was involved in putting acid out on the street to preempt a possible political revolution?

I don’t know about that. But it’s a matter of fact that most of the LSD in America in the late 50s and early 60s was brought in by the CIA and given around to hospitals to find out these drugs could be used for brainwashing or for military purposes.

You talked about Nicholas Sand. The whole concept of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love is like a bogeyman invented by the narcs. The brotherhood was about eight surfer kids from Southern California, Laguna Beach, who took the LSD, and they practiced the religion of the worship of nature, and they’d go into the mountains. But they were not bigshots at all. None of them ever drove anything better than a VW bus. They were just kind of in it for the spiritual thrill.

Nick Sand was a very skillful chemist. He may have made LSD that the Brotherhood used. He was just a very talented chemist, who was out to make a lot of money for himself.

The guy Stark. I was accused of heading this ring. I never met Stark. Never knew he existed. I heard he’s a European money launderer. But that was not relevant to what was going on out here.

What is relevant to your question is … yes, the CIA did distribute LSD. As a matter of fact, the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Agency) is out there right now setting up phony busts, setting up people, selling dope. And it’s well known that during the Reagan administration Ollie North was shipping up tons of cocaine to buy money to give to the Contras and the Iranians.

The CIA has always used drugs very cynically. They [control] opium poppy plantations in the golden triangle of Thailand and Burma because it helps the anti communist group there.

The CIA doesn’t care about drugs, they’re just interested in playing there game of power and control, and in the old days, anti-communist provocation.

Wasn’t the Human Ecology Fund, which financed LSD research at Harvard, also connected to the CIA?

Yeah, these are minor little details. The professor who led to Richard Albert and I getting fired from Harvard, it turned out later was getting money from the CIA.

When you ran for governor of California in 1970 against Ronald Reagan, how many votes did you receive?

I never ran, Reagan threw me in prison. They wouldn’t give me bail for $5 worth of marijuana. Murderers, rapists were walking out with $100,000 bail. They did that to keep me from registering to keep me from running for governor.

What do you think of the presidential campaign thus far this year?

I think it’s obvious the United Soviet States of America — the federal government in Washington — is finished. No one likes it, and its just like the Communist Party bureaucracy in Moscow. Now the strategy is learn from the Soviet Union. When Brezhnev was in charge, we were for Gorbachev. As soon as Gorbechev got in charge and tried to keep it going, we were for Yeltsin.

You always have got to vote for the person who is going to loosen up the central power. So obviously you’ve got to vote for Clinton and Gore because they’re going to loosen things up and bring [down] the incredible police state, totalitarian situation that Reagan and Bush got.

Yeah, I’m enthusiastically, passionately cheering for Gore and Clinton. (But) I really don’t think anybody should be the president of the United States. You’ve got to break the central government down just as they did in the Soviet Union. Go back to the original states. That’s the original American dream. We don;t want a federal monopolistic bureaucracy in Washington.

As a new millennium approaches, how do you perceive the future of post industrial America?

... I’m not really that interested in the politics, I’m interested in the psychology, the power of individuals to communicate with each other. So I have high hopes there will be a new breed in the 21st century.

There is a new breed popping up in Japan, popping up in London, popping up in Germany. These are a new generation of kids who don’t want to go back to the old Cold War. They’re not going to work on Mitsubishi and Toyotas farm no more.

They believe in individual freedom. They don’t want to work, work, work for the company. They enjoy above all a global international movement. We’re going to get what Marshall McCluhan predicted thirty-forty ago — a global village — which will be hooked up by electronic networks. … Globalization will be the big thing of the future.

Keeper of the Farm

Singer-songwriter Wil Maring finds her place in rural Illnois

by C.D. Stelzer
first published in Illinois Times, Aug. 8, 2007

It’s a languid August evening in Cobden, a former stop on the old Illinois Central line about 10 miles south of Carbondale. At one time, the surrounding orchard country supplied cities to the north, including Springfield, with fresh produce by way of the railroad. Freight trains, belonging to Canadian National, still chug through the middle of town on their way to Chicago and New Orleans.

Over the weekend, Cobden celebrated its sesquicentennial in conjunction with its annual Peach Festival. A cold snap this spring killed much of the crop, but the town imported some fruit and crowned this year’s peach queen nonetheless.

There is less fanfare on the dusky eve of the celebration, as Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin schlep their equipment across Front Street to the Yellowmoon Café. After uncrating their instruments and setting up the sound system and microphones, they perform a sound check. By the time the show commences, about a dozen people have congregated.

Southern Illinois singer-songwriter Wil Maring.

Over the next couple hours, the duet performs a hybrid of bluegrass, country, and folk music. Maring accompanies herself on guitar and bass fiddle; Bowlin backs her up on lead guitar and violin. Maring takes one request after another for her original songs. Most of the folks seem as familiar with her compositions as they are with nearby Route 51, the road to Carbondale. They know the titles, melodies, and lyrics. Midway through the set, Bowlin plays a few solo instrumentals, including a medley of Stephen Foster songs and a jazz number by the late Django Reinhardt, the famed Gypsy guitarist. Guest performers join them in a finale. Each song receives resounding applause from the small audience.

At the end of the night, Maring and her sideman both receive $24 in tips, or, as she calculates, two sacks of groceries each. It could easily be said that these musicians are paying their dues, except for the fact that they are already journeymen in their craft, exceptional artists with decades of professional experience. Maring has performed on the Grand Ole Opry, played in Europe and Japan, and won accolades for her songwriting skills. She has produced three solo recordings of original material in the past decade. Bowlin has been a studio musician in Nashville, won national guitar-playing awards and worked as a fiddler in the late Bill Monroe’s bluegrass band. He has appeared onstage with everybody from B.B. King to Ricky Skaggs.

This Thursday, Aug. 9 (2007), they’ll be in Springfield, taping two half-hour shows to be aired later on PBS affiliate WSEC (Channel 14). On Friday night, they’re scheduled to play at the Underground City Tavern, in the Hilton Springfield. On Saturday, they’ll be playing in the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest, at the state fairgrounds. And on Sunday, they’ll be in Chicago, taking part in the Great Performers of Illinois Festival.

So it would be reasonable to ask why these superlative musicians prefer to hang out in Cobden, at the Yellowmoon. The answer has something to do with the place Maring calls home. “I’m from here,” she says. “I love the area. I know every inch of it.”

Maring lives on the edge of town in a 19th-century farmhouse with an old ash tree in the front yard. Emma, her black-and-white border collie, barks at visitors. Buddy, her roan quarter horse, limps in the corral out back. He cut a hoof recently and is mending slowly. The 1992 Oldsmobile with the Tennessee plates belongs to Bowlin, a recent exile from Music City, who barely made it from Paducah late this afternoon.

Inside the house, the parlor is filled with musical instruments: A bass fiddle leans against one wall. A gourd-back mandolin sits on a shelf. There is a piano, covered by a quilt. On top of the quilt rest a vintage Martin flattop guitar, a fiddle, and a well-used five-string banjo. Maring sits at the kitchen table, explaining her career decisions. She wears a sleeveless print blouse, green khaki shorts, and sandals. A wisp of her long brown hair is beginning to turn gray.

“I have gone to Nashville many times over the last two or three years, thinking that it might be good to meet people there, meet people in the industry, other writers,” Maring says. “They say that you’ll never make it if you don’t live there and co-write with famous people and work your way up the ladder, but I went there enough times to know that it’s not a place where I would want to live.”

Driving around the country-music capital, she realized that nothing she encountered evoked any recollection of the past. Nashville holds no memories for her, and memories are a key inspiration for her songwriting. Every little piece of Murphysboro, Carbondale, Makanda, and Cobden harbors meaning. “My history is here,” she says. “I drive down a country road and I see a spot that holds a memory, [a] creek I used to swim when I was in eighth grade.”

Eighth grade is also when a close friend started calling her Wil. The nickname stuck. Nowadays, few people other than her parents refer to her as Lillian. After she started playing guitar, as a youngster, she realized that it was easier to create her own songs then it was to learn other music. She honed her skills in the summertime, while tending the family’s vegetable stand along Route 51.

“There were six kids, and we were all one year apart,” Maring says. Each sibling worked a shift. When her turn came, Maring would take her father’s cheap guitar out to the stand with her to occupy time. In her spare time she listened to John Denver and James Taylor albums and tried to figure out the chord progressions. But Maring’s musical career might have wilted at the roadside if it hadn’t been for the influence of friends and family.

Both of her parents, Ester and Joel Maring, were anthropologists at Southern Illinois University. Her father befriended another faculty member, Dale Whiteside. The two academics shared a special interest in ethnomusicology. Whiteside taught a class in American folk music. The Marings would often visit the Whitesides’ rustic homestead near Jonesboro, which was called Rivendell after the mythical place created by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. “It was always fun to go there as a kid,” Maring says, “because it was like camping.”

In 1971 the Whitesides began hosting a biannual private music festival at Rivendell, inviting university students to the farm. The gathering ended up attracting folk musicians from far and wide, with attendees camping in the nearby Shawnee National Forest. Maring was inspired as she watched and listened to other children playing their instruments, including her friend Ann, one of the Whiteside kids, who managed to pluck the bass fiddle by standing on a box.
“That’s where I think I got the bug to try and play,” Maring says. “I thought, ‘Man, if she can do it, I can do it.’”

Later, during her college years, Maring developed her rhythm-guitar playing by backing up her then-boyfriend at fiddle contests, which culminated each year in Springfield with a competition at the Illinois State Fair. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she followed her parents into anthropology, earning a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from SIU. From 1984 to 1986, she lived in Japan, collecting folksongs for her thesis. While there, she taught English and played in two bluegrass bands.

During a 1988 European vacation Maring met Mark Stoffel, a German-born mandolinist. They returned together to Carbondale. Stoffel enrolled at SIU, and the couple formed Shady Mix, a bluegrass band, in 1989. In 1992 they married and moved back to Germany, re-forming the group with Munich musicians. For the next decade Shady Mix toured Germany, Italy, France, and the Czech Republic.

Most of the touring involved traveling with a Wild West show in Germany called the Red Grizzly Saloon. The mock Western town was set up inside convention centers as part of trade fairs and home-and-garden shows. Maring describes the entertainment as a combination of Buffalo Bill and vaudeville.

“There were stuntmen. There were bank robberies four times a day,” she says. “We worked together in close conjunction with the actors. It’s so weird, now that I’m in a different phase of my life. I think, ‘Did I really do that?’ ”

Maring and Stoffel returned to southern Illinois in 2001 and bought a farmhouse outside Murphysboro. That place was the inspiration for one of her songs, “Keeper of the Farm,” which was a finalist this year in the prestigious songwriting contest associated with the annual Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival.

Red and golden on a farmhouse wall, The sun shone in and showed a place that I’ve known all along. A place that needed me, A place that I’d call home,
A place I knew where I belonged.

“I’ve always had an affinity for old houses and old farms,” Maring says. “When I was the tiniest kid, I would get excited if I saw an old farm. I don’t know why.” But this particular farmhouse charmed her more than usual. “When I walked in, it was like one of those eerie déjà vu things. I felt like I had already been there to the point where I knew where all the rooms were.”

They came a hundred years ago to rest beneath this tree. They built a home just like the home they left across the sea. Three generations and now it’s come to me. I am the keeper of the farm.

Memory, a sense of place, and history are evident in all of Maring’s lyrics, as well as a strong visual element. If she appears to have the eye of a painter, it is because she is one. She studied art as an undergraduate and worked at the University Museum at SIU. Her watercolors and other graphic designs are displayed on the covers of her albums, as well as on others’. “Landscapes are things that I build into the songs,” she says.

Weathered wood against a bright blue sky, The whites just aren’t as white now as they were in Grandpa’s time. But I have the power and I hope I still have the time. I am the keeper of the farm.

Her songs are personal and introspective, but they also draw from the lives of others, merging their stories and hers with pictures of the land. The result is an authenticity that would be impossible for the music industry in Nashville to replicate. The music itself crisscrosses the boundaries of bluegrass, country, and folk to form a montage of American roots music.

The Calling, Maring’s latest CD, coincides with Maring’s recent divorce, and many of the songs on the album reflect the changes in the musician’s life and career. While living in Europe Maring wrote songs, but cultural and language differences there made it difficult for her to measure their quality. That changed in 1998, when she won a songwriting contest in North Carolina for her song “Bottomlands,” which she performed on the Grand Ole Opry in 2004.

In the intervening years, Maring says, she has received plenty of positive feedback from Nashville professionals, but her music has gained more recognition and exposure lately on the Internet.

Maring’s MySpace page (myspace.com/wilmaring) has received more than 39,000 hits in less than a year. Four songs posted at the site have been listened to more than 42,000 times. More than 19,000 “friends” have linked to her site. Last Wednesday, 68 people had listened to her music by 8 a.m. — either the listeners rose awfully early, or Maring now has an international following. The page averages between 300 and 400 hits per day.

These numbers astound Maring. She attributes much of her online popularity to a 21-year-old fan, Jared Ingersol, of St. Charles, Mo., who has volunteered his time to manage the Web site. The online popularity seems to indicate that her homegrown music has the capacity for mass appeal. The buzz generated by MySpace hasn’t translated into any significant increase in CD sales, but the site has helped her find some new gigs, and her energetic webmaster is hoping that Maring’s presence on My Space and YouTube will help promote a California tour in November.

Although her home in Southern Illinois is her muse, home life is not always conducive to songwriting. “I actually look forward to going on the road,” Maring says. “You don’t have the house to take care of and all the other things that distract you. You’re in a hotel room with your guitar.”

Maring performed regularly in the Springfield area in recent years, in the now-defunct Cabin Concerts series. Her longtime friend Ann Bova, formerly Whiteside, started the series, along with then-partner Joe Bohlen, in 2004 to promote acoustic music in central Illinois. The concerts were held at Bohlen’s spacious log cabin north of Pleasant Plains, and Maring became a favorite of the concertgoers. To Bova, the secret to Maring’s innate talent is the way she conveys real life in a sincere way: “The sweetness of her voice has a magical way of delivering a message straight to your heartstrings.”

Through the concert series Maring met U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who, she says, has become one of her biggest fans. A few months ago Maring attended a dinner party in Springfield at which she had a tête-à-tête with the senator about the influence of cyberspace on their careers. “We sat around in the kitchen for a long time, talking about Internet promotion,” Maring says. “He was brainstorming, trying figure out a way that I could get my music out there, because he feels like it needs to be heard. He had just started a MySpace for his own political stuff, and I was telling him about [its] potential if you know how to manage it.”

When asked about her goals, Maring laughs. “My goal is to be able to pay my bills and fix up this house,” she says. Then she considers the question more seriously. She talks about setting her sights higher and winning a Grammy. But in the end she reiterates her first priority: “This house is one of the oldest houses around. This part is a log cabin. It would be a shame to bulldoze it just because somebody didn’t want to spend money to keep it. . . . So that’s my goal.

“I’m the keeper of the farm.”

America’s Propaganda Mill

The origins of modern propaganda, which continues to support America’s endless wars, dates back to World War I and is joined at the hip with the creation of the public relations industry. 

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Aug. 21, 1991
by C.D. Stelzer

300px-National-security-league-app-1918.jpg

“The Road to Baghdad,” one of many titles on display in the downtown Mercantile Library’s reading room, doesn’t chronicle the latest military conflict. Instead, this example of yellowing journalism — part of an exhibit called “Words at War” — details the Turkish conquest during World War I.

One of David Cassens’ first duties after becoming a curator ot the Mercantile five years ago was creating an annotated catalog of World War I ephemera. Included are 394 propaganda titles from the era, many with anti-German views expressed by the British, French and eventually American propagandists.

“These pamphlets were sent to libraries, churches, schools, private individuals, even Rotary Clubs,” says Cassens. The intent was to sway American public opinion, he says. Ultimately, the campaign succeeded.

Like all good propaganda, the tracts contained elements of truth, says Cassens: “Unrestricted submarine warfare, the destruction of historic towns and the deportation of civilian populations to Germany to work on the labor force — these are all things did happen.” Germany’s ally, Turkey was also responsible for the first modern holocaust: the murder of about 1.5 million Armenians, says Cassens.

Despite all of this, before the Unites States joined in the allied effort, many influential members of the large German-American community in St. Louis argued for neutrality. Former library staffers recall German patrons objected to the material, Cassens says. So most of it was discreetly shelved and went unread.

Ignoring wartime hysteria didn’t make it go away. Germans were being stereotyped in the European propaganda as barbarous Huns. As the United States became drawn into the conflict, anti-German propaganda began to flourish here as well. One pamphlet, part of a “Patriotism Through Educations Series” issued by the National Security League, was called “The Tentacles of the German Octopus in America.” Written by a librarian and professor of history at the University of Syracuse University, it warned about German schools, churches, cultural societies and newspapers.

Another pamphlet, published by the U.S. government in cooperation with the St. Louis Republic, a daily newspaper, attributed all wartime rumors to German spies. The tract, titled “The Kaiserite in America: One Hundred and One German Lies,” implored traveling salesmen to report the identities of gossipmongers to the Committee on Public Information in Washington, D.C.

“You have met him, Mr. Commerical Traveler, … The agents of the Imperial German Government are busily spreading throughout the country all sorts of poisonous lies and disquieting rumors and insidious criticisms of the Government and its war-work. And in no place have they been busier than in tyhe Pullman smoking cars and the hotel lobbies.”

Mass paranoia bore its consequences. Cassens’ own great-grandparents, who immigrated from Germany, lived in Galanbeck, Ill. During the war, he says, the town’s name was changed to Hamel.

Assimilation had become a matter of survival for millions of German-Americans. Many were forced to kiss the American flag or sing the national anthem as a demonstration of allegiance. Those who chose to retain their ethnic identities or expressed divergent poliital views risked intimidation, jaile and even death. Armed guards patrolled the entrance to the nearby German settlement of Maeystown, Ill. for a brief time during World War I, says local historian Gloria Bundy. The sentries were posted in response to vigilantes from Williamson County whbo had threatened to abduct the Rev. Paul Schultz, the town’s minister for conducting services in German.

In St. Louis, Charles H. Weisberg, head of the German American Alliance in Missouri, was indicted on charges of violating the newly enacted Espionage Act for allegedly making disloyal remarks to two St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters. Although he was later acquitted, Weisberg’s organization dissolved because of the war hysteria.

The most tragic result of doughboy jingoism came just after midnight on April 5, 1918, when a drunken Collinsville, Ill. mob lynched Robert Paul Prager, a German immigrant and socialist whom they suspected of being a spy.

Words at War is on public display in the Mercantile Library reading room (on the sixth floor of the Boatmen’s Bank building, 510 Locust St.) through Sept. 8. Library hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday. A booklet describing the exhibition is for sale, and Cassens will give a tour and lecture on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 5 p.m. For reservations, call 621-0670.