Saturday’s dedication events for two honorary German street signs increased our conviction of the importance of pointing out how patriotic German Americans were the victims of a farcical patriotic orgy during World War I.
Those words, “a farcical patriotic orgy,” aren’t mine. They’re from a fine book about the 1918 lynching of Robert Prager, Patriotic Murder: A World War I Hate Crime for Uncle Sam. The book by Peter Stehman talks about how the hanging was the result of a patriotic frenzy during the war. During the dedication service for the the honorary sign for Robert Prager Way at Bates Street and Morganford Road, Stehman talked about how the danger of a similar frenzy is just as great now as it was back then.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen recently voted to grant the honorary designation to Bates Street from Morgan Ford Road to Gravois Avenue. Prager is buried in St. Matthew Cemetery next to Bates at that point. Among those who attended the event were 13th Ward Alderwoman Beth Murphy, who sponsored the bill making the designation, James Martin, president of the German American Heritage Society of St. Louis (GAHS); Gwendolyn Murray of the Better Bevo Now neighborhood organization; Kevin Sterett and others from the cemetery; and residents of the street.
The honorary sign for Bismarck Street at Lami and Seventh Street in the Soulard neighborhood also was dedicated on Saturday. The name of Bismarck Street was changed to Fourth Street in 1918. That street no longer exists, so the honorary street for Bismarck was located from Barton Street to Lami Street on Seventh Street. Seventh Ward Alderman Jack Coatar sponsored the bill approving the designation.
The day finished at a reception sponsored by the German American Heritage Society of Saint Louis at the Schlafly Tap Room downtown. I’ve been working on this project for the last five years with the German American Heritage Society of St. Louis. They’ve been an essential part of this work. More than that, I could have done anything. I love working with James Martin, Lansing Hecker and the whole group.
There’s still work ahead. The city has approved five streets. We have two streets to go. We’ll keep going until we reach our goal. Meanwhile, my deepest gratitude for all who offered their help and encouragement.