The Robert Prager Lynching:  Media Reaction

The St Louis Globe-Democrat (April 5, 1918)



Robert P. Prager Taken from Jail and Strung Up to Tree by 300 Men and Boys After Officers are Overpowered

Robert P. Prager, 45 years old, of Collinsville, Ill., a coalminer, charged with making disloyal utterances against the United States and President Wilson, was hanged to a tree on Mauer Heights, one mile west of Collinsville on the St. Louis road, by a mob of 300 men an boys after he had twice escaped mob violence, at 12:15 o'clock this morning. Collinsville is ten miles northeast of East St. Louis. Prager was taken from the Collinsville Jail by the mob, which battered down the doors. The prisoner was found hidden under a pile of rubbish in the basement of the Jail, where he had been placed by the police when they had learned that the mob was on the way to the Jail. The police were overpowered, there being only four on the night force, and the prisoner was carried down the street, the mob cheering and waving flags. The police were not allowed to follow the mob by a guard which had been placed over them. When led to the tree upon which he was hanged Prager was asked if he had anything to say. "Yes," he replied in broken English. "I would like to pray. He then fell to his knees, clasped his hands to his breast and prayed for three minutes in German. Without another word the noose was placed about his neck and the body pulled 10 feet into the air by a hundred or more hands which grasped the rope. Before praying, Prager wrote a letter to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Henry Prager, Preston, Germany. It follows: "Dear Parents - I must this day, the 5th of April, 1918, die. "Please pray for me, my dear parents. This is my last letter. "Your dear son. "ROBERT PAUL PRAGER." Prager was an enemy alien and registered in East St. Louis.

Prager Attended Socialist Meeting Short Time Before He was Lynched

After the mob had returned to Collinsville, several residents at Collinsville who had heard of the hanging went to the scene. Two unidentified person were found guarding the body. They would let no one approach and warned whoever came close that they would meet the same fate if they attempted to cut down the body. The mob took their prisoner from the jail about 10 o'clock last night. Prager earlier in the evening had attended a Socialist meeting in Maryville, where it is alleged he made a speech in which he uttered remarks which were termed disloyal. After word had been passed around Maryville, a mob collected there and started a search for the miner. Prager had been informed about that the mob was after him and he escaped to Collinsville. They told of the remarks of Prager and finally a mob of 300 was assembled. Prager was found on the street in front of his home, 208 Vandalia Avenue. He was marched to the main street, where his shoes were removed and a large American flag was wrapped about his body. Prager was made to kiss the flag many times and march up and down the street waving two small flags which he carried in his hands. For fear that violence would result from the mob, the police took Prager from them and placed him in jail.

Mayor Induces Mob to Go Home, but It Reassembles Later

Mayor J. H. Siegel pleaded with the mob and asked them to go to their homes. He had previously closed all the saloons. "We do not want a stigma marking Collinsville," said Mayor Siegel, "and I implore you to go to your homes and discontinue this demonstration." The mob disbanded and the mayor, thinking that everything had quieted down, went to his home. But a short time later the mob again formed and stormed the jail, taking the prisoner from the police. This is the first killing for disloyalty in the United States, although many persons have been mobbed and tarred and feathered. Prager begged for mercy. He said that he was a loyal citizen, and in a signed statement, which he had previously made to the police, he said that his heart and soul were for the United States. He admitted being a native of Germany. He said that he had applied for naturalization papers and that his second papers were waiting for him. Prager had been in Maryville looking for work. He was a coal miner. He found he could not obtain employment because the union had rejected his application. On March 22, four men, including a Polish Catholic priest, were tarred and feathered at Christopher, Ill., a mining town eighty miles from St. Louis. Previous to that time two other men were tarred and feathered in the same mining district. For the past three months many loyalty demonstrations have occurred in an effort to drive disloyal persons from Southern Illinois.

Chicago Daily Tribune (April 5, 1918)


Collinsville, Ill. - April 5, 2 a.m. [By the Associated Press.] - Robert P. Praeger, said to be of German parentage, was hanged to a tree one mile south of the city limits here after midnight by a mob of 350 persons. The mob dragged Praeger from the basement of city hall, here he had been hiding. Praeger was accused on making disloyal remarks in a speech he made recently to miners in Maryville, Ill.

Forced to Kiss the Flag

Praeger early in the night was taken in hand by members of the local loyalist committee and forced to parade barefooted through the streets kissing the American flag at intervals. The police rescued him and took him to the city hall for safekeeping. Later in the night a crowd gathered in front of the hall and demanded Praeger be surrendered to them. Mayor Siegel appeared on the steps and counseled calmness, but the demands increased and the police then took Praeger to the basement, where he was concealed beneath a pile of tiling.

Led with Rope on Neck

When the demonstrants discovered the man was not to be delivered to them they rushed past a corden of officers and after a short search dragged Praeger from hiding. Barefooted he was led through the streets at the end of a rope and later was hanged. One of the mob is said to have shouted to the police as the party and prisoner passed down the street: "In the morning you will find the body hanging to one of the telegraph poles on the Rock road." The local police issued a statement late last night in which they said Praeger denied that he was disloyal. He admitted he was born in Germany but that he had his first naturalization papers and intended to become an American citizen. Collinsville is a city of 4,000 population twenty miles east of St. Louis.



Had Made Speeches to Miners on Socialism and Uttered Disloyal Sentiments _____________________

Police Tried to Save Him 


Mob Stormed City Hall to Get Him and then Hanged Him After Wrapping Him in an American Flag. _____________________

Special to The New York Times.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. April 4.- Robert P. Prager, a German born Socialist, was dragged from the basement of the Collinsville, Ill, CIty Hall, twelve miles from St. Louis, tonight by leaders of a mob of from three to four hundred men, marched barefooted to a point one-half mile outside of the Collinsville limits and lynched. He was accused of having made disloyal remarks to Maryville Ill., miners. His capture by the mob and lynching came after he had been hidden by the Collinsville police among a lot of tiling in the basement of City Hall while Mayor Siegel made a speech to the mob from the steps of City Hall pleading with the hearers to give the prisoner the right of trial. The police previously had rushed the mob and captured Prager while he was being marched through the main street of the city with an American flag tied about him.

Edwardsville Intelligenser (June 18, 1918)


Edwardsville - Eleven residents of Collinsville walked from the court house Saturday afternoon, exonerated for the death of Robert P. Prager, German alien enemy, who was lynched in that city during the early morning hours of April 5. On the second ballot and with deliberations of only a few minutes the jury reached its verdict. 
On the first vote the jurors stood 11 to 1 for acquittal, The discussions, it is understood, lasted but a few minutes and then the second vote was taken. It found the defendants not guilty. 
The defendants who were acquitted were: 
Joseph Riegel, coal miner and shoe cobbler. 
Richard Dukes, Jr., coal miner .
Cecil Larremore, coal miner. 
James DeMatties, coal miner. 
Frank Flannery, coal miner. 
Charles Cranmer, clerk. 
John Hallsworth, coal miner. 
Calvin Gilmore, plumber's helper. 
Wesley Beaver, saloon porter. 
Enid Elmore, coal miner. 
William Brockmeier, coal miner. 
The court room was filled with spectators when the defendants were taken back to the court room Saturday afternoon to hear their fate. A few minutes later the court was ready to receive the jury and the twelve men filed into the court room and took their places in the jury box. 
There was wild applauding and cheers from 'most everyone present. Relatives, friends and acquaintances rushed toward the bar to shake hands with the defendants. In a few minutes the crowd was quieted and the jury was discharged by Judge Bernreuter.
Afterwards the defendants shook hands with the members of the jury.
There was a peculiar coincidence at the trial Saturday. The Jackie Band was in Edwardsville for a patriotic demonstration.
When a shower of rain came up the musicians were sent to the court house where it had been arranged to give a program. At 2:40 o'clock judge Bernreuter ordered a recess after the completion of arguments and before reading the instructions.
Then word was sent that the band might play until court re-convened. The first number of all concerts is the Star Spangled Banner and it was played Saturday.
The strains from the Jackie Band caused tears to flow down the cheeks of Riegel. He was still crying when he returned to the court room. 
As the jury came in with its verdict the band was at the head of a procession of draft boys and in passing the court house played "Over There." 
The acquittal of most of the prisoners was no great surprise to most of those who heard the evidence.