Ku Klux Klan material from Altoona, Pennsylvania
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Ku Klux Klan emerged in Pennsylvania in 1922 and saw dramatic growth during the middle of the decade. Pennsylvania's Klan was led by Sam Rich, the Imperial Representative of Pennsylvania, who according to John M. Craig, "initiated, or at least approved," all Klan activities in the state (p. 14). He worked alongside Hiram Wesley Evans, who was elected as Imperial Wizard in 1922 and "intended to transform the Klan into a powerful political force, a goal that required accelerating the already impressive trend of membership growth," (p. 36). According to Craig's book, The Ku Klux Klan in Western Pennsylvania, 1921-1928, the majority of Klan members in Pennsylvania were white Protestants whose main agenda appears to have been anti-Catholic. By 1925, there were more than two hundred chapters in western Pennsylvania, with membership totaling at least 140,000. The Altoona chapter was the largest chapter in Pennsylvania with membership of more than 2,800. John F. Marshall served as Kilgrapp (or secretary) of the Altoona Chapter, at least from 1924 to 1925. Existing court and other archival records show that the median age of Altoona members was 44 and that they were "overwhelmingly settled members of the community, broadly representative of the social and economic structure of the area," (p. 154). The Klan in Pennsylvania "initiated riots that led to serious injury and death. Disdainful of the rule of law, they promoted disorder and mayhem in pursuit of racist, nativist, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish agendas" (p. xvi). One Klan riot of note took place in Lilly in 1924 and resulted in multiple fatalities. Sam Rich, who wielded significant power in Pennsylvania from 1922 to 1925 was eventually "banished" in 1925. He was accused, by his fellow Klansmen, of "neglecting financial obligations to individual klaverns, misappropriating funds, illegally banishing members, the 1923 East Liberty child kidnapping, ordering the 'incomplete' lynching near Beaver, and using 'violent and offensive language and swearing bitterly' during meetings in his office," (p. 193). By 1928, the popularity and the influence of the Ku Klux Klan had diminished significantly in Pennsylvania.
Craig, John M. The Ku Klux Klan in Western Pennsylvania, 1921-1928. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2015.
This collection documents the day-to-day running of the Altoona Klan from 1924 to 1925. The bulk of the material consists of letters to and from Sam D. Rich, the Imperial Representative of Pennsylvania, and John F. Marshall, the Kligrapp (or secretary) of the Altoona chapter of the Klan. These letters vary in topics, but many relate to ordering robes, requests that circulars be distributed, discussion of holding parades and demonstrations, and appointments of, transfers of, petitions by, and dismissal of members of the Altoona Klan. Letters frequently mention Dr. Hiram W. Evans, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. An undated form with a list of twenty questions (found at the back of folder 2) probably served as a preliminary step in recruitment.
Researchers will also find a brief newspaper clipping about Hiram W. Evans, a tracing paper sketch of a "knight" on a horse which may have been for the Altoona Klan seal (an official one could not be issued because at the time the Altoona Klan was not chartered), and a number of documents relating to the Ku Klux Klan's interest in the 1924 Presidential election in which there were eight candidates one month before the November election. A number of straw votes were held in October and early November.
The collection also includes a few publications relating to the Ku Klux Klan: "The Klan of Tomorrow," by H.W. Evans, 1924; "Ku Klux Klan Discloses its Position on the Presidency," [circa 1928]; and "The Truth about Women of the Ku Klux Klan," reprinted from the Arkansas Traveller, undated [two copies].
Sold by Aaron Benneian Historical Americana, 2016.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Date
- 2016 November 17
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.