Treasury to Quiz Pelley on Taxes; F.b.i. to Probe’ Foreign Propagandist’ Status
Menu JTA Search

Treasury to Quiz Pelley on Taxes; F.b.i. to Probe’ Foreign Propagandist’ Status

Download PDF for this date

A full investigation of the income tax and finances of William Dudley Pelley will be undertaken by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Chairman Martin Dies of the House Committee Investigating Un-American Activities, revealed today.

At the same time it was learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing into Pelley’s activities as a “unregistered foreign propagandist.”

The frenzied finance of the Silver Shirt leader was exposed before the Dies Committee today. At the same time it was revealed by Dies that all efforts to bring Pelley before the committee had failed and that he has recently “disappeared” from his head quarters at Asheville, N. Carolina. “We don’t know where he is, although he was last reported in Montana,” Dies said, “and he has refused to avail himself of every opportunity to appear before us.”

Robert E. Barker, committee investigator, said that he had followed Pelley’s erratic financial trail from Mexico to Canada and from California to Washington. He said that on the day after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Pelley founded his Silver Shirts.

At the opening of the hearing, Dies remarked that the record would show that Pelley intended his Silver Shirts to be a military organization, that he had been able to penetrate into nearly all the states through powerful financial support, and that he was an admirer of Hitler and Nazism.

Barker told the committee that Pelley’s attacks upon the Jews dated from the rise of Hitler to power. “I’d like to point out,” Dies interrupted, “that a good many of the articles appearing under Pelley’s name in his publications were actually lifted in their entirety from German propaganda documents.”


Out of the financial morass into which Pelley plunged his publications and Silver Shirt organization, the committee investigator brought several concrete revelations.

One of Pelley’s contributors was Dr. John R. Brinkley, the “goat gland” doctor with as half million watt radio station in Mexico. Brinkley sent Pelley $ 629 in November, 1938.

Sarah C. Scott, 61, of Belmont, Mass., sent Pelley a total of $4,800. When Barker attempted to see her, after her last two $ 500 contributions in March, 1939, she had gone to Canada, he said.

Another heavy contributor was George B. Fisher, of New York, fashion expert for the Crowell Publishing Company and owner of the Just So Dress Company. His donations totalled $4,600.

Repeatedly, testimony showed that Pelley was linked with other notorious anti-Semites, including George Deatherage, of the Knights of the White Camelia, and James True.

The committee was startled when Barker testified that ten per cent of all mail handled in Asheville, N. C., was for the Pelley organization. He sends out 1,000,000 pieces of mail a year. He conducted correspondence with several members of Congress. Their names were not revealed. A great deal of mail came to him from Germany and Italy, Barker said. In the first six months of 1938 Pelley’s sales of literature jumped 150 per cent.


Dies closely questioned Barker on Pelley’s present status, after Barker pointed out that Pelley is now at liberty on probation; following his sentence–suspended for five years — to between one and two years in prison for violating the North Carolina State security laws.

Charges against Pelley grew out of manipulations in the sale of stock in the Galahad Press and the Foundation for Christian Economics. The charter of the Foundation was suspended Feb. 1, 1930, by the State of North Carolina.

“Didn’t about $100,000 disappear between 1931 and 1934?” Dies asked. “Yes,” Barker said, “and the records of the Galahad Press were burned.”

After Pelley escaped with a suspended sentence as the Galahad Press went under, he founded the Skyland Press, publishing the anti-Semitic Liberation and continued to build the Silver Shirts Legion of America. Liberation is a weekly magazine “with some thousands” circulation, Baker said. Barker said thirty persons were employed by Liberation, with a considerable payroll, in a building purchased for $20,000.


The committee investigator produced a “library of horrors” booklets attacking American Jewry, the Dies committee, President Roosevelt, Secretary of Interior Ickes, Secretary of Labor Perkins, and even J. Edgar Hoover, which he said were distributed by Pelley “by the ton” throughout the United States.

The distribution is heaviest on the West Coast, and particularly in Oregon and Washington, Barker said. Pelley sells the booklets for from 25 cents to 10 cents each. One just recently published, in praise of General Moseley, sold for only ten cents. “Recently,” Pelley’s sales have been growing, “Barker said.

The committee definitely linked Pelley to the German-American Bund as the investigator produced a list of persons receiving the largest shipments of Pelley’s anti-Semitic pamphlets. Huge shipments went to Hans Dibel, owner of the Aryan Book Store in Los Angeles and a West Coast Bund leader, Dies pointed out. Others listed as receiving larges shipments included S. H. Loebe, Portland, Oregon; I. R. Crower, Spokane, Washington; George Tiesen, Centralia, Washington; E. O. Towley, Colorado; Spokmane, Washington; George Tiesen, Centralia, Washington; E. O. Towley, Colorado; W. A. Lobbay, Cclorado; Stella Blake, Salt Lake city, and Dr. D. B. Clake, Olympia, Wash.

Of fifteen persons who contributed to Pelley in New York, Barker said, ten were women– “some quite prominent, and most of them interested in spiritualism. For several years, Dies had shown, Pelley had practiced spiritualism. “Once,” said Dies, “it seems that Pelley claimed to have died, and spent seven minutes in heaven. He wrote a book about it.”


Dies indicated today that his investigation of American Nazis and Nazi sympathizers will extend through this week. At the end of the week, Dies said, the committee will prepare a preliminary report on Nazi and Fascist un-American activities.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ll finish entirely with Nazi and Fascist organizations this week,” Dies said. “We’ll come back to them again later.”

Dies today asked that perjury charges be brought against Fraser S. Gardner, secret agent for the Skyland Press of the Pelley publications. Uardner repeatedly sought a post as a committee investigator. In a letter to District Attorney David Pine of the District of Columbia, Dies said: “It appears that Mr. Gardner has testified falsely concerning material facts while under cath before a congressional committee.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund