Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Stalker 27:2 (Summer 2007) features an interesting article on a tragic event that occurred in Collinsville, Illinois during World War I. A German-born bakery employee, Robert Paul Prager, had tried to enlist in the Navy and to get a job as a miner, but failed in both instances. The Navy turned him down because he was very near-sighted, the miners’ union because he was not an experienced miner. He apparently got into a shouting match with the miners’ union president that caused a fair amount of “bad blood.” During the altercation the union president called Prager (who had a noticeable German accent) a German spy and a liar. Prager responded with a written proclamation in which he denied being disloyal, and said that the miners’ union was “out to get” him because of his altercation with its president. For whatever reasons, on 5 April 1918 a mob (many of whom were miners, and many of whom had been imbibing at local taverns) grabbed Prager and marched him down the streets of Collinsville. The police and mayor made an attempt to shield him at City Hall, but armed officers failed to intervene when the mob came into the building and seized Prager yet again. After marching him outside city limits, and giving him time to write a brief farewell note, ten to twenty mob members hanged him while approximately 200 crowd members cheered their approval. The lengthy article by Elsie Wasser also includes information about the subsequent trial of alleged participants in the lynching.