Charles Leich and Company of Evansville: A Note on the Dilemma of German Americans during World War I

Darrel E. Bigham


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 95-121

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Charles Leich and Company of Evansville: A Note on the Dilemma of German Americans during World War I

Darrel E. Bigham*

One of the many unfortunate side effects of war is the facility with which loyalty and race or nationality are confused. Such confusion had special meaning for the thousands of Indiana's German Americans during World War I, when governmental, business, and civic organizations promoted the notion that Germans belonged to some subhuman species. Even those German Americans of untarnished reputation were subjected to a variety of indignities, including loyalty oaths for teachers of German, laws forbidding the public use of the German language, and crusades against foods of German origin. Such occurrences were common in Evansville, Indiana, a city with many citizens of German ancestry. For example, prominent civic leaders forced Frederick Lauen-stein, an eminent citizen and the publisher of the German language daily, the EvansvilleTäglicher Demokrat, to cease publication on April 28, 1918. Lauenstein's crime, according to his critics, was that the continued appearance of this German language newspaper—published since the Civil War—was an obstacle to the city's gaining the reputation of being "100 percent American."1

A lesser known example of this problem was the case of Charles Leich and Company of Evansville. Charles Leich,

  • *Darrel E. Bigham is assistant professor of history, Indiana State University, Evansville.
  • 1Evansville (Indiana) Täglicher Demokrat, April 26–28, 1918.
born in 1833, had left Westphalia with his parents in 1848 and come to Indiana's "Cresent City" shortly thereafter. A chemist by training, he found work with a retail druggist, Crawford Bell, but in 1854 he went into partnership with August Carlstedt and set up a wholesale drug firm at 38 Main Street. In the same year he became an American citizen. During the next forty years, his business connections in the pharmaceutical trade varied. He was partner for a time with his brother-in-law, Alexander Lemcke, and later with August Carlstedt and Peter Vierling. In 1890, he established Charles Leich and Company, aided by Lemcke and by Carl Leich, his eldest son. The firm, which dealt primarily in wholesale drugs and sundries, was situated at 117–121 Upper First Street until 1914, when it was relocated at Fifth and Bond streets, occupying the building which had once housed Lemcke's Evansville Woolen Mill. By 1917, the assets of the company totalled half a million dollars.2

Charles Leich and his family were Evansvillians of unquestionable loyalty and civic eminence. Married to Wil-helmina Lemcke, whose brothers August and Alexander were prominent in local and state business and political affairs, Leich mixed freely with the city's predominantly English and Scotch Irish establishment and took up residence in its posh riverside district. He and his seven children—Carl, Ida, Anna, Walter, Herbert, Clarence, and Chester, all born between 1864 and 1889—were active in a variety of civic projects and proud of their American citizenship. Herbert, for example, was a pioneer supporter of operas and symphony orchestras in the city of Evansville; Clarence was onetime

  • 2 Alexander L. Leich, interview with the author, March 22, 1973. Leich, a grandson of Charles Leich, is a retired officer of Charles Leich and Company. The author would like to express his appreciation to Charles Leich and Company, and particularly to Alexander Leich, for assisting him in the completion of this study. See also W. H. Chandler, Directory of the City of Evansville (Evansville, 1858), 141; Williams and Company, Williams' Evansville Directory for 1872-1873 (Evansville, 1872), 188; H. Thornton Bennett, Bennett and Company's Evansville City Directory …, XVI (Evansville, 1882), 270; XIX (Evansville, 1885), 252; XXIV (Evansville, 1890), 291; XXV (Evansville, 1891), 339; and Frank M. Gilbert, History of the City of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, Indiana (2 vols., Chicago, 1910), II, 285-86. For a detailed study of the problems of German Americans during World War I, see Carl Frederick Wittke, German Americans and the World War (With Special Emphasis on Ohio's German-language Press) (Ohio Historical Collections, Vol. V; Columbus, 1936). A briefer account is in Richard O'Connor, The German Americans: An Informal History (Boston, 1968), 376-428.
president of the Evansville Chamber of Commerce; and Walter was president of the Boehne Hospital Board of Directors. Understandably, some ties with the fatherland remained. Herbert studied pharmacology at the University of Freiburg; Ida and Anna married German citizens and settled in Germany; and Charles Leich frequently spent his summers with his daughters and their families after wintering on the French Riviera. Like many heirs of the German revolutions of 1848, he and his sons were anticlerical in religion and Republican in politics. The family had virtually no connections with the city's more recent German settlers, who had immigrated between 1870 and 1890 and taken up residence on the city's west side. Like their father, Leich's sons were interested in the wholesale drug business and, with his advancing age, took a greater hand in the operation of the family firm. They too resided on either Riverside Drive or First Street in the riverside district claimed by the leaders of Evansville civic and business affairs. One son, Clarence, married the grand-niece of John W. Foster, the noted diplomat and lawyer from Evansville who was a former United States secretary of state. The marriage established a distant relationship between Clarence and Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, who was Foster's son-in-law.3

Accompanied by his wife, Leich chose to leave Evansville in the fall of 1910 for a lengthy visit with his daughters in Germany. His youngest son, Chester, also accompanied the seventy-seven year old Leich to Germany but, after studying for a while in Switzerland, decided to I'eturn to the United States to study art in Chicago. The other four Leich brothers—Carl, Herbert, Clarence, and Walter—took charge of the

  • 3 Carl Leich was born in 1864, Ida in 1866, Anna in 1875, Walter in 1878, Herbert in 1881, Clarence in 1884, and Chester in 1889. John W. Foster of Evansville served as United States secretary of state in 1892-1893, during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. His daughters were married to Allen Dulles and Robert Lansing. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was the grandson of John W. Foster. Alexander L. Leich, interview with the author, May 14, 1971; Bennett Directory Company, Evansville City Directory, LXII (Evansville, 1918), 448. See also pages 2-4 of Louis L. Gerson, John Foster Dulles (New York, 1967), which is volume seventeen of Samuel Flagg Bemis and Robert H. Farrell, eds., The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy (18 vols., 1927-1970). A sketch by William R. Castle, Jr., of John W. Foster's life and services as secretary of state is in volume eight of the same series, pages 185-223.

Seated, Charles Leich, Clarence, Chester, Wilhelmina Lemcke Leich Standing', Ida, Carl, Herbert, Anna, Walter

Courtesy Charles Leich and Company and Alexander L. Leich

firm in their father's absence and insured that he would receive enough financial assistance from them so that he would not tax the resources of his daughters.

The elder Leich's stay in his native land was complicated by two unforeseen events. In February, 1914, Ida's husband died, leaving her with only moderate means of support, and thus the sending of funds to her father, who was staying with her in Flensburg, a city in Schleswig-Holstein near the Danish border, became even more important than before. On March 20, 1914, moreover, Ida wrote Walter and his wife that her father would not be able to return to the United States because of ill health and old age. "At his age," she warned, "it does not take much to bring about a change, or rather every illness or excitement shows doubly."4 Hence she decided it was better for him to remain with her. The outbreak of the war in Europe in the summer of 1914 added a final obstacle to Leich's return. While the United States remained officially neutral, however, the State Department permitted the family to transmit funds to him. As late as October 28, 1916, Undersecretary of State Frank L. Polk took a personal hand in insuring that $1,000.00 reached Leich. It seems clear that the relationship of Clarence Leich and Secretary of State Lansing had been an asset in this matter, for such a high ranking official as Polk would not ordinarily have been involved in such an apparently trivial matter.5

The advent of American involvement in the war on April 6, 1917, changed everything. The breaking of diplomatic relations in February had made communication between Charles Leich and his sons nearly impossible, despite Leich's deteriorating condition, and the state of war increased the likelihood that the United States government would crack down on the forwarding of any money to persons in Germany.

  • 4 Ida Schnack to Walter and Pilar Leich, March 20, 1914, in Alien Property Custodian vs. Charles Leich and Company File, Archives of Indiana State University, Evansville (hereafter cited as Leich File). This file contains nearly 100 items relating not only to the company's struggle with the Alien Property Custodian but also to the family's attempts to keep in touch with their father and sisters during the First World War. Wilhelmina Lemcke Leich died in October, 1911, at the home of her daughter Anna in Altona, Germany. She was sixty-eight. Alexander L. Leich, interview with the author, March 19, 1974.
  • 5 Frank L. Polk to John H. Foster, October 18, 1916, Leich File. Foster, the nephew of John W. Foster, was Clarence Leich's father-in-law.
Hence Carl wrote the State Department on April 18, 1917, that

the principal of this firm, Mr. Charles Leich, an American citizen, is living in Flensburg, Germany, in the care of a daughter, the widow of a German citizen, and owing to his age of 84 years he did not leave Germany at the outbreak of the war, having secured the assurance of the authorities that he would not be molested at the outbreak of hostilities.

Will you kindly advise us whether it is possible to forward a remittance to him, possibly through the American Diplomatic Service in some neutral European country and if so advise us what steps are necessary for us in the matter [?]6

The reply of the State Department, although direct, was not at all pleasing, for it established harsh terms under which the brothers would have to operate for the next eighteen months. The chief of the State Department Bureau of Accounts, William McNeir, stated that Lansing had instructed him to advise that "owing to the severance of diplomatic relations … the Department can only accept funds for such American citizens therein, as desire to return to the United States …." Should it be so desired, the State Department would "endeavor to transmit a sufficient amount through the Spanish Ambassador at Berlin."7

Seeing that Lansing would prove to be difficult to persuade in wartime, Carl asked Congressman George K. Denton, an Evansville Democrat, to do "anything you may be able to do." He explained the plight of his father and added that, although the brothers had sought in February to remove their father to a neutral country, their sister Ida had wired that "the authorities would respect his age."8 Denton replied on May 28 that he had taken up the matter with Henry D. Flood, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but then he wrote on June 6 that Flood had been unhelpful. Denton added that he had personally called on Lansing, who declared it was impossible to permit any money to be sent to Germany, for "no matter to whom the money is sent, it will be spent there and Germany will thereby profit to that extent." Lansing also said that Charles Leich was only one of many persons stranded by the war and that "pensioners

  • 6 Charles Leich and Company to Department of State, April 18, 1917, ibid.
  • 7 William McNeir to Charles Leich [sic], April 25, 1917, ibid.
  • 8 Carl Leich to George K. Denton, May 23, 1917, ibid.
living in Germany are not paid their pension now." Denton told Carl that he had "tried to prevail upon him by reason of the fact that your family and his family are distantly connected through the family of Judge Foster but to no avail." Lansing had noted that "your father could get the money by going to Switzerland …."9

Unwilling to relent, Carl wrote Lansing on June 8 and requested that the State Department at least advise his father "through the Spanish Ambassador at Berlin that if he will move to a neutral country, either Denmark or Switzerland, I can provide him with money."10 McNeir replied for Lansing on June 18 that the department needed more information, but another official wrote several days later that the department could do nothing because the person involved was not an American citizen. Charles Leich, it was alleged, had lost his citizenship by the presumption of expatriation, since he had not applied for a new passport while in Germany. Carl immediately consulted Denton about the matter and also sought the advice of his youngest brother, Chester, who had visited his father in early 1916. Chester suggested requesting the name of the former American consul at Hamburg, through whom Charles Leich had in 1916 sought to obtain a passport renewal. The State Department wrote that the official, Francis R. Stewart, had since become vice consul at Vera Cruz, Mexico. On July 5, Carl wrote asking Stewart if he remembered his father's seeking a passport renewal and noted that the reply would help to disprove the allegation of the State Department that Charles Leich had renounced his citizenship. Meanwhile, Carl wrote Denton on July 2 requesting the State Department to examine the records of its Hamburg consulate.11

On July 12, Carl's persistence began to pay off. Denton called him to his Evansville office and showed him a communication from Lansing dated July 3, in which was enclosed information on how to secure a passport for an American

  • 9 Denton to Carl Leich, May 28, June 6, 1917, ibid. "Pensioners" was apparently Lansing's term for all the elderly Americans stranded in Germany and receiving money from home, not just United States government pensioners.
  • 10 Carl Leich to Robert Lansing, June 8, 1917, ibid.
  • 11 McNeir to Carl Leich, June 18, 25, 1917; Ben G. Davis to Charles Leich and Company, June 30, 1917; Carl Leich to Denton, July 2, 1917; Carl Leich to Francis R. Stewart, July 5, 1917, ibid.
citizen residing in a nation at war with the United States. Lansing also wished an affidavit "concerning the date of his father's departure for Germany, and the periods and place of his residence abroad since he left this country."12 On July 17, in order to overcome the presumption of expatriation—this is, the assumption that anyone who had lived abroad for two years without applying for a new passport had renounced his citizenship—Carl signed an affidavit in Vanderburgh County Circuit Court, in which he included not only the information Lansing desired but also the statement that his father had "at no time intended to relinquish said citizenship or return to the citizenship of Germany" and that he had "been compelled to remain in Germany by reason of hostilities and also by reason of infirm health and old age."13 He sent the affidavit to Denton, who agreed to give it to Lansing, and several days later he asked Denton to transmit another statement, in which was included a letter recently received from former Consul Stewart, who remembered that Charles Leich had "had a valid passport when I left or had recently applied for one." Stewart added that Leich "was in no condition of health to make a journey to the United States the last time I saw him, late in 1916." He suggested this fact be brought to the attention of the State Department, since "the applicant's residence abroad is in good faith for reasons of health and he eventually intends to return to the United States to reside."14 On July 31, Denton wrote Carl that he had had a personal interview at the State Department, where he had been informed that, although no mail could go directly to Germany, communication could be made through the neutral Spanish government. He had also been promised that as much as $300.00 could be sent to Charles Leich. The purpose of the money, however, must be "to enable the recipient to go to some neutral country. If he does not go to some neutral country, this will be the last remittance they will permit to be sent to him." The department, moreover, would "merely transmit in its own way the information which you wish to convey."15

  • 12 Denton to Carl Leich, July 12, 1917; Lansing to Denton, July 3, 1917 (copy), ibid.
  • 13 Affidavit dated July 17, 1917, attached to Carl Leich to Denton, July 17, 1917, ibid.
  • 14 Francis R. Stewart to Carl Leich, July 16, 1917, ibid.
  • 15 Denton to Carl Leich, July 31, 1917, ibid.

On August 9, Lansing wrote Denton that the information provided him was sufficient to prove that "Charles Leich is a naturalized citizen of German origin, and … that the Department is of the opinion that he is in a position to overcome the statutory presumption of expatriation …." He indicated that Carl's check for $300.00 was being sent to the Spanish government via the American ambassador at Madrid. The Spanish would then transmit the sum to their representative in Berlin. Lansing added, however, that the elder Leich would be informed by the Spanish officials that "his son will send further remittances to him only in case he proceeds to some neutral country." The Spanish ambassador in Berlin was being authorized to "take Mr. Leich's application for an emergency passport of this Government to facilitate his departure."16 Despite Lansing's help in conveying a message and a sum of $300.00, the State Department had maintained its insistence that Charles Leich should—and could—leave Germany.

The partial settlement of that crisis proved to be much easier for the Leichs than the handling of subsequent challenges to their father's loyalty. On October 6, 1917, Congress passed the Trading with the Enemy Act to "define, regulate, and punish trading with the enemy, and for other purposes." The terms "enemy" and "ally of enemy" were broad and included any

individual, partnership, or other body of individuals, of any nationality, resident within the territory … of any nation with which the United States is at war …. [and s]uch other individuals, or body or class of individuals, as may be natives, citizens, or subjects of any nation with which the United States is at war, other than citizens of the United States, wherever resident or wherever doing business, as the President … may, by proclamation, include within the term "enemy."17

The act gave President Wilson a variety of powers. He could forbid commerce with citizens of enemy nations or their allies and regulate all communications sent outside the United States. To effect these powers, a War Trade Board

  • 16 Robert Lansing to Denton, August 9, 1917; Denton to Carl Leich, August 15, 1917, ibid. On September 11, Carl received a statement from the State Department certifying that the sum of money had been sent. See Ben G. Davis to Carl Leich, September 11, 1917, ibid.
  • 17 "Trading with the Enemy Act" (Public Law 91, 65 Cong., 1 Sess.), United States Statutes at Large, Vol. XL, Part 1, p. 411, sec. 2a. There is a slip law copy of this act in the Leich File.
was established. The act also created an Alien Property Custodian, to whom was to be submitted within sixty days "a full list … of every officer, director, or stockholder known to be … an enemy or ally of enemy … together with the amount of stock or shares owned by each such officer, director, or stockholder, or in which he has any interest."18

Under this sweeping legislation, all companies with enemy or ally of enemy connections were required to obtain licenses to continue operation. If they failed to do so, any money or property owed to, belonging to, or held for any enemy or enemy ally would "be conveyed, transferred, assigned, delivered, or paid over to the alien property custodian."19 In addition, all contracts entered into with such companies before April, 1917, could be abrogated. Creditors of those companies would then have to file claims with the custodian. All money received by the government would be deposited in the United States Treasury. Any property taken into custody could be managed "with all the powers of a common-law trustee," and thus the alien property custodian could

do any act or things in respect thereof or make any disposition thereof … by sale or otherwise, and exercise any rights which may be or become appurtenant thereto or to the ownership thereof, if and when necessary to prevent waste and protect such property and to the end that the interests of the United States in such property and rights or of such person as may ultimately became entitled thereto, or to the proceeds thereof, may be preserved and safeguarded.20

After the end of the war, any property held by the custodian and any money on deposit in the United States Treasury was to be returned to those "whom the President shall so order, or in whose behalf the court shall enter final judgment or decree …."21 In short, the creation of the War Trade Board and the Alien Property Custodian added to the uncertainty of future communication between Charles Leich and his sons a threat to their control of a substantial portion of their company's assets.

Soon after passage of the act, while still unaware of all of its details, one of the Leichs, probably Carl, wrote to

  • 18Ibid., p. 416, sec. 7a.
  • 19Ibid., p. 418, sec. 7c.
  • 20Ibid., pp. 419-20, sec. 8b, 9, 12.
  • 21Ibid., p. 424, sec. 12.
William McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury, as well as to the Alien Property Custodian, A. Mitchell Palmer, to declare that a part of the company's assets was owned by his sisters, who by their marriages had become German citizens. In each letter the writer asserted that the Leichs had "no desire nor method of paying over to them [the sisters] these sums or any part of them during the duration of the war …. We can see no harm to this government in leaving these sums on deposit with us and it would necessitate our borrowing this money elsewhere if we were obliged to pay it over to a U.S. Custodian."22 He also informed Palmer, in another letter, that his father, who some might consider an enemy because he happened to live in Germany, was in fact an unfortunate victim of circumstances. To prove this, he quoted the State Department's position given in July. His father's interest in the firm, he added, was the largest of any partner, and the surrender of that share would force the business to close. On October 23, 1917, the assistant secretary of the treasury notified Carl that his department was not responsible for such matters, but four days later Palmer wrote curtly that complete information both on the sisters' shares in the firm and on Charles Leich's situation had to be supplied on proper application forms.23

On the basis of the information supplied, but unknown to Carl or his brothers, Palmer's Bureau of Investigation determined in December that Charles Leich, an "alien enemy," had interest in the company totalling $133,414.57. The Alien Property Custodian's Bureau of Trusts then proceeded in January, 1918, to inform Leich's insurance company that under the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act all insurance benefits and dividends belonging to this "enemy" had to be reported to the custodian and held by him until

  • 22 Charles Leich and Company to William McAdoo, October 11, 1917; Charles Leich and Company to A. Mitchell Palmer, October 22, 1917, Leich File.
  • 23 Charles Leich and Company to Palmer, October 22, 1917; L. [Leo] O. Eowe to Charles Leich and Company, October 23, 1917; Palmer to Charles Leich and Company, October 27, 1917, ibid. Records of the Alien Property Custodian indicate that it was not until the spring of 1918 that Palmer's activities were properly organized and sufficiently defined to pose a threat to businesses with a taint of enemy trade or enemy ownership. See, for example, the Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Administration, Daily Letter File, Boxes 1-65, Records of the Office of Alien Property, Record Group 131 (Federal Records Center, Suitland, Maryland).
such time as he decided otherwise. Shortly thereafter, the assistant director of the Bureau of Trusts, in response to a query from the War Trade Board, stated that Charles Leich and Company was "a partnership with an enemy interest which partnership has not applied for license to continue in business."24 The Alien Property Custodian, in a word, was proceeding with an investigation not only of the sisters but also of the father without acknowledging that Charles Leich was in fact an American citizen stranded in his native land.

Meanwhile, the response of Charles Leich's sons to both problems—communication with their father and control of the firm—was complicated by information received from Congressman Denton on November 19, 1917. Undersecretary of State Polk had notified Denton that the American embassy in Madrid had been advised by the Spanish government that the elder Leich had received both the money and the message that he was to depart for some neutral country. The Spanish reported, however, that Leich was unable to travel and provided a medical certificate as proof. Leich was so old and infirm that "he was not able to undertake a short journey to Hamburg to report the details of his case to the [Spanish] Consul." Not only his bodily infirmities but also his declining mental faculties meant that it was "out of the question that he will ever be able to move from his present home." Accordingly, the Spanish embassy in Berlin recommended that the State Department "see its way to permit the continued remittance from his son to the old gentlemen [sic] in his decline."25 With that additional information, the brothers on December 3 requested of Palmer that their father "should not be considered an enemy as he lived practically all of his life in this country and was always a loyal American and a good citizen, and we hope that it will not be necessary

  • 24 Report No. 1246, December 1917, Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Investigation, Numerical File, Box 106, File 2389; Director, Bureau of Trusts, Alien Property Custodian, to Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, January 31, 1918, Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Administration, General Office Numerical File, Box 88, File GO-5107, Records of the Office of Alien Property. See also memorandum from F. J. Horne to War Trade Board, Bureau of Enemy Trade, February 19, 1918, in War Trade Board, Preliminary Inventory 100, Entry 138, Drawer 117, Records of the War Trade Board, Record Group 182 (Federal Records Center, Suitland, Maryland).
  • 25 Denton to Carl Leich, November 19, 1917; Frank L. Polk to Denton, November 16, 1917, with copy of dispatch attached, Leich File.
to burden this firm with any restrictions, expenses, or hardships in the matter."26

Despite these pleas, more difficulties emerged. Carl was notified on December 11 by Thomas Francis of the Bureau of Enemy Trade, War Trade Board, that he would have to complete appropriate application forms and return them to that office before any other messages or money could be sent to his father. This development indicated that the State Department was no longer involved directly in the case. After Carl complied with this new agency's requirements, Francis wrote on December 21 that he should send any letter he wished transmitted to Germany to the Bureau of Enemy Trade, which would then decide whether a license was to be granted so that the message could go through. On December 24, Carl sent Francis a lengthy letter to be forwarded to his sister Ida.

Unaware of Carl's communications with Francis, another officer of the Bureau of Enemy Trade, F. M. McGonigal, requested that Carl fill out more application blanks for sending a message but in the same letter informed him that a license had been granted for sending additional funds. In the future, Carl was instructed, it would be necessary to apply to McGonigal's department for a license for each additional remittance. On January 4, 1918, a license to transmit money was sent from Washington, and three days later Carl wrote out a check for $300.00 and returned it to the Bureau of Enemy Trade. On January 25, William McNeir, chief of the Bureau of Accounts of the State Department, informed Carl that the sum had been sent but in his letter listed Ida's address incorrectly as Hamburg rather than Flensburg. Carl wrote immediately that there had been a mistake, but McNeir responded that the address used was the one Carl had provided and that if an error had occurred Carl, and not he, was responsible.27 In any event, there was no guarantee that the money would reach its destination.

  • 26 Charles Leich and Company to Alien Property Custodian, December 3, 1917, ibid.
  • 27 Thomas Francis to Carl Leich, December 11, 1917; Carl Leich to Bureau of Enemy Trade, December 14, 1917; Francis to Carl Leich, December 21, 1917; Carl Leich to Ida Schnack, December 24, 1917; F. M. McGonigal to Carl Leich, December 28, 1917, with attached letter, McGonigal to Denton, December 28, 1917; Marion L. Worrell to Carl Leich, January 4, 1918; Carl Leich to Bureau of Enemy Trade, January 7, 1918; William McNeir to Carl Leich, January 25, 1918; McNeir to Carl Leich, February 1, 1918, ibid.

To complicate matters further, McGonigal of the Bureau of Enemy Trade wrote on January 23 that "we find that under present conditions it is impossible for us to transmit for you your letter to Mrs. Schnak [sic] in Germany." The reason given was that Charles Leich was "a German subject."28 Upon receiving this information, Carl sent a brief but bewildered reply, reminding the bureau that Leich's citizenship had already been acknowledged by the State Department. After apparently checking with the State Department, the bureau did grant Carl a license to communicate with his father, in care of his sister Ida, on January 31. Included in the license was a copy of the message which was in fact sent to Germany. Parapharased from Carl's original long letter, it was only a few lines in length: "All of your children and their families are well. No births or deaths in the family except brother Clarence's father-in-law [John H. Foster] died last summer. Chester is excused from military service. Brother Walter well and at work. We have heretofore made two remittances to you of three hundred dollars each."29

The problem of communication, however unclearly resolved, did not recur during the remainder of 1918, but it proved small compared with a new crisis which began on March 1. On that day, F. J. Home, assistant director of the Bureau of Trusts in the office of the Alien Property Custodian, demanded delivery of the shares in Charles Leich and Company of the sisters, Ida and Anna, whom Palmer's agency had determined were enemies of the United States under the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act. On March 5, Carl wrote Congressman Denton that it was his "impression that it is altogether a matter of discretion with the custodian whether to demand transfer of such property or to leave it in the hands of those previously holding it." In his case there was "no means or any desire to send this money to an enemy country and the hardship would fall on

  • 28 McGonigal to Carl Leich, January 23, 1918, ibid.
  • 29 Carl Leich to Bureau of Enemy Trade, January 26, 1918; License ET-8217, January 31, 1918, Bureau of Enemy Trade, War Trade Board, ibid. All told, the family requested licenses six times from the bureau and received approval in each instance. According' to the records of the bureau, licenses to send either money or messages were granted December 28, 1917; January 2, 31, March 22, July 11, and October 14, 1918. See War Trade Board, Preliminary Inventory 100, Entry 107, Drawers 28-31, 33, Records of the War Trade Board.

Courtesy Charles Leich and Company and Alexander L. Leich

our firm, rather than on the so-called enemy subjects, both of whom are American-born women." He added that in the near future the firm, like all Evansville businesses, would "be expected to buy additional amounts of Liberty Bonds and also pay considerable sums in the way of Excess Profit and Income Taxes." The shares requested by Palmer had been no "temporary deposit to be used for purposes inimical to the United States government" but had been "a permanent loan or deposit used in carrying on and extending our business …."30 On the same day he also wrote Palmer that Denton "will no doubt confer with you regarding the matter in a few days. We beg to assure you that we are at all times willing and anxious to conform to all demands …."31

Despite Denton's efforts to alter the ruling of the Alien Property Custodian, on March 18 the congressman informed Carl that Palmer felt no exception could be made in this case. Palmer, whose reply to Denton on March 16 was attached to Denton's letter to Carl, had declared that the two cases of the sisters "clearly come within the class designated by Congress as enemies in the Trading with the Enemy Act." Denton noted that he had "explained to them that it might cripple a firm to take this money out, but they say that under the law they have no option in the matter." If it could be shown that Charles Leich and Company would be ruined and that it could not borrow the money elsewhere, he added, "I might be able to get the ruling modified, but otherwise, we seem to be up against it."32 On March 19, the Bureau of Trusts notified the company that there must be "a forthwith compliance with the demand heretofore made upon you."33

The brothers made a final appeal to Palmer on March 21, when they stated that, since "all of the active members of this firm have done hard work in the Liberty Loan campaigns and subscribed liberally for the bonds," it would be fair to "expect [the company] to do the same thing with the prospective issue …." They suggested that "you permit

  • 30 Home to Charles Leich and Company, two letters, each dated March 1, 1918, and two copies of demand for property, dated February 27, 1918; Carl Leich to Denton, March 5, 1918, Leich File.
  • 31 Carl Leich to Palmer, March 5, 1918, ibid.
  • 32 Denton to Carl Leich, March 16, 1918; Denton to Carl Leich, March 18, 1918, with enclosed letter, Palmer to Denton, March 16, 1918, ibid.
  • 33 Home to Charles Leich and Company, March 19, 1918, ibid.
us to invest these funds, amounting to a little over $4,000.00, in the forthcoming issue [of war bonds], sending the bonds to you." Hence, they argued, "we will have done our share and can hold up our heads among our neighbors, at the same time complying with the requirements of the Act ….34 On March 27, however, Assistant Director Home asserted that such patriotism, although commendable, was unacceptable, and he repeated his previous demand for the sisters' shares of the firm. On April 1, the firm sent the sum, amounting to nearly $4,200.00, to Palmer's office, where the money was to be invested in government war bonds in the name of the Alien Property Custodian.35

During the next several months, the Leichs attempted to maintain their company as best they could, while participating actively in the war effort. One brother, Clarence, showed his patriotism by going to Washington to become associate director of purchases, division of supplies, at American Red Cross headquarters, for the salary of one dollar a year. Carl, Herbert, and Walter remained in Evansville and continued periodically to apply to the War Trade Board for licenses to transmit money to their father. During the spring and summer of 1918 they encountered no difficulties with that agency and heard nothing more from the Alien Property Custodian. It appeared that their troubles with the wartime bureacracies had been ended.36

The relatively placid atmosphere was shattered, however, by three events. First, on June 11, L. F. Spear, deputy commissioner of internal revenue, wrote to Charles Leich at his Evansville address a letter asserting that Leich owed $30.00 on his 1915 tax return, because, "as it appears from your return that you are a non-resident alien, the specific exemption of $3000 has been disallowed."37 Carl Leich wrote on his father's behalf to Spear's superior on June 13, saying that the additional tax would not be paid. It "is not so much the amount of additional tax of $30.00 involved as the principle that he is an American citizen," Carl wrote, and he enclosed Lansing's letter of August 9, 1917, as proof of his father's

  • 34 Charles Leich and Company to Palmer, March 21, 1918, ibid.
  • 35 Home to Charles Leich and Company, March 27, 1918; Charles Leich and Company to Home, April 1, 1918, ibid.
  • 36 McGonigal to Carl Leich, March 16, July 5, 1918, ibid.
  • 37 L. F. Spear to Charles Leich, June 11, 1918, ibid.
status. On June 24 he sent additional proof and reiterated that it was his purpose to "establish his [father's] citizenship rather than to save the amount of $30.00 involved …."38 On July 15, Spear notified Carl that the matter had been dropped, since Charles Leich's citizenship had been "fully established."39

The second distressing event was the news that Leich's health was worsening. The State Department informed the family on June 24 that the Spanish government had reported that "the old gentleman … is very grateful for the news from his children and will be glad of the assistance of the American Legation in transmitting a message on his behalf …." The report stated that he was "fairly well and cheerful," considering his age, but added that "his decay both bodily and mentally has advanced considerably of late …."40

Neither of these developments was as traumatic as the letter received on Monday morning, September 23, from Joseph F. Guffey, director of the Bureau of Sales of the Alien Property Custodian's office. Guffey demanded no less than "the right, title, and interest of Charles Leich, of Flensburg, Germany, in your firm." To facilitate the work of his department, which was located in New York City, he requested "a complete history of the business, a copy of the last balance sheet, a certified copy of the partnership agreement, and if you have [one] an additional copy of the last accountant's report of the business …."41

The reply of the brothers to Guffey was immediate and frank. Writing for the company, Walter Leich declared that "we are not sure that we understand the demand fully and beg to ask you to inform us just what we are expected to

  • 38 Carl Leich to Daniel C. Roper, June 13, 24, 1918, ibid.
  • 39 Spear to Carl Leich, July 15, 1918, ibid.
  • 40 William Phillips, assistant secretary of state, to Carl Leich, June 24, 1918, with copy of message attached, dated April 15, 1918, ibid. It is interesting to note, however, that on at least one occasion before this time Anna had sought to send a letter to Clarence by other means than the Spanish government, for on April 10, 1918, the United States government intercepted a letter sent under neutral cover via Stockholm. The message, never delivered, is still classified by the State Department, and only the fact of its capture is apparent. See memo dated April 10, 1918, in War Trade Board, Preliminary Inventory 100, Entry 138, Drawer 117, Records of the War Trade Board.
  • 41 Joseph F. Guffey to Charles Leich and Company, September 20, 1918, Leich File.
do." He enclosed a copy of the last balance sheet and a certified copy of the partnership agreement but asked for a special investigation of the company's case, as allowed under section 7(c) of the Trading with the Enemy Act. He repeated the various ways in which his father's citizenship and loyalty had already been proved and noted the impossibility, because of old age and illness, of his father's leaving Germany. He reaffirmed the loyalty of himself and his brothers and requested that Guffey "bear in mind that the reputation of a strictly American firm might suffer great damage by being mentioned in connection with the Alien Property Custodian, thereby having the suspicion of Pro-German leanings cast upon it by its customers."42

This crisis should not have been wholly a surprise, for the brothers should have been alerted by a letter from Home of the Bureau of Trusts on March 27, in which Horne had requested further information about the elder Leich. Carl had sent the required details and for the next five months had heard nothing more of the matter.43 But during that time, while the nation was being urged as never before to give unselfishly to the war effort and Congress was passing such comprehensive legislation as the Sedition Act, designed to end antiwar conversation, the various war agencies were intensifying their activities. Exemplary of the new energy of the Alien Property Custodian's office was a bulletin from that agency, doubtless released wdth Palmer's approval, which was published in the September 14, 1918, issue of Literary Digest. The bulletin announced that, since millions of dollars of enemy owned property had been disguised by "Teutonic camouflages," it was the duty of every loyal citizen to communicate "any knowledge, or even any well-grounded suspicion" of such camouflage. Although 140 firms, including the Bayer Chemical Company, Merck and Company, and the Hayden Chemical Works, had already been taken into custody, the author of the bulletin declared the fight was not over,

  • 42 Walter Leich to Bureau of Sales, Alien Property Custodian, September 23, 1918, ibid.
  • 43 Horne to Charles Leich and Company, March 27, 1918; Carl Leich to Home, April 1, 1918, ibid. The demand for Charles Leich's interest in the business was delivered to the Alien Property Custodian's General Business Office on May 31, and late in the summer it was turned over to the Bureau of Investigation, Office of Alien Property. See Guffey to Horne, October 7, 1918, Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Administration, Daily Letter File, Box 63, Records of the Office of Alien Property.
because, he alleged, the German government had cunningly disguised the control which it had accrued over every vital American industry before 1917. Because the expanse of the enemy conspiracy was enormous, it was "the duty of every 100 per cent. American to keep his eyes and ears open for any clue, no matter how slight, that may lead to the detection of money and property of enemy character." Even "rumor or gossip" should be reported, since the "simplest rumor may be a lead to a large amount of enemy-owned property." The Trading with the Enemy Act, the writer asserted, allowed no exemptions—"American citizens included"—under its definition of enemy and enemy ally, but it depended for its implementation upon the individual citizen who was willing to be alert for possible enemy owned companies, money, or property interests. Any firm or minority interests which the United States took over would "be sold at public auction and the money therefrom invested in Liberty bonds." Therefore do not "let a single dollar of enemy-owned money or property get away," the writer urged. "Help ferret it out, so that more ammunition, more food, and more of the other things so necessary for the success of American arms can be sent to the men on the firing line."44 In another public statement, Palmer himself argued for government confiscation of enemy owned factories at the end of the war, not merely retention of custody until the conflict was over. "The government finds itself with a large organization at its own expense preserving property," he said, property "which was placed here originally as a hostile act looking to the conquest of America."45

The amount of work that was being generated in Palmer's office is evident in the number of complaints written by lower level officials to their superiors in which there were frequent descriptions of evening and Sunday hours. This increased activity clearly reflected Palmer's desire to make his work completely successful. At a meeting of Alien Property Custodian officials on July 12, 1918, Palmer stiffened previous policy, saying that he would "not intervene unless the enemy's claim appears to be meritorious and substantial."46 As a result, in the late summer and early fall of

  • 44 "Personal Glimpses," Literary Digest, LVIII (September 14, 1918), 38-40.
  • 45 Unidentified newspaper clipping, October 5, [1918], Leich File.
  • 46 Minutes of Noonday Conferences of Alien Property Custodian Officials, July 12, 1918, Records of the Office of Alien Property.
1918, his organization was more insistent than before that its demands be honored. On August 29, Guffey of the Bureau of Sales wrote Home of the Bureau of Trusts requesting a list of all companies which had not complied with previous services of demand, and on September 11 Home sent the list to Guffey.47 Shortly thereafter, a number of firms, including Leich and Company, were contacted by Guffey and requested to comply.48

On October 2, in the face of a challenge which could all but destroy the company and dishonor the family name, Walter Leich wrote Guffey to inform him that his brother Clarence, in Washington in his capacity as an official of the Red Cross, would soon be contacting the office of the Bureau of Trusts and that in the near future all correspondence would be with either Home or Palmer. The situation was made even more urgent as the result of notice received shortly thereafter from Francis P. Garvan, head of Palmer's Bureau of Investigations, to the effect that because of the need for increased revenue in wartime the Trading with the Enemy Act had been amended to allow the Alien Property Custodian virtually a free hand in deciding what to do with the property he secured. Particularly distressing was Garvan's remark that the amended legislation permitted the sale of enemy property at public auction.49 Immediate and decisive action was required to save the company and the family reputation.

Accordingly, Herbert Leich travelled to Washington to join with his brother Clarence in prevailing upon Palmer to exempt the firm from custody. On Friday, October 4, the two visited Palmer's office, and, although Palmer was absent, his secretary surprised the brothers by stating that their case was extremely strong and that the evidence justified a favorable decision without the director's personal approval. Upon hearing that, Herbert sent a telegram to

  • 47 Guffey to Horne, August 29, 1918; Horne to Guffey, September 11, 1918, Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Administration, General Office File, Box 60, File GO-3511, ibid. For evidence of overwork in many Alien Property Custodian offices, see for example J. R. Zimmerman to H. [Henry] E. Ahern, May 2, 1918, ibid.
  • 48 Guffey to Charles Leich and Company, September 20, 1918, Leich File.
  • 49 Walter Leich to Bureau of Sales, Alien Property Custodian, October 2, 1918; Garvan to Charles Leich and Company, October 2, 1918, Leich File.
Walter, asserting that the decision would come on Saturday.50 That afternoon, however, the two met three lawyers from Home's office, the Bureau of Trusts, and were amazed to discover that none knew much about the matter and that they were not even familiar with the various decisions concerning the citizenship of Charles Leich. The three lawyers agreed that the case needed further investigation. One of them suggested, as Clarence wrote on Saturday to Walter, that the brothers buy out their father's interest. The attorneys also agreed after considerable discussion to consult documents left by Clarence and Herbert and to return a decision on Monday, October 7. After hearing that, Clarence proceeded to Lansing's office, where he arranged to see the secretary of state on Monday morning. As he wrote to Walter,

P's [Palmer's] henchmen will send someone to the State Dep[artment] on Monday to get an opinion on the matter, but we thought it best to enlist Bob immediately & put it up to him squarely, viz., financial ruin & disgrace for the family. This latter may appeal to him strongly. In a way, the [State] Dep[artment]'s stand is responsible for the whole thing. If they had not acquiesced and had [not] insisted on F's [father's] leaving, this matter would not have arisen.51

Despite Clarence's skepticism about Lansing's role, he was sanguine about the outcome, since "too many depts. are committed in black and white in our favor."52

Writing to his wife, Herbert Leich was less charitable than Clarence towards Palmer's "henchmen." In the meeting with the three lawyers, whom Herbert identified only as Home, Whittaker, and Kinella, he and his brother had become "red hot and had to force ourselves not to fly up in a rage," and when the Leichs "painted to them the distress and ruin that would follow, they simply said 'that's the law and that's what we do in such cases.'" Even with the threat

  • 50 Herbert to Walter Leich, October 4, 1918; Clarence to Walter Leich, October 5, 1918, ibid.
  • 51 Clarence to Walter Leich, October 5, 1918, ibid.
  • 52Ibid. The confusion in the Washington office of the Alien Property Custodian was the result of either bureaucratic inefficiency, compounded by the location of the Bureau of Sales in New York City, or excessive legalism, or both, for early in the summer the Bureau of Investigation had obtained a complete list of American citizens residing in Germany. On that list, with hundreds of others, was Charles Leich. Like many, he was listed as being of "very old age and poor health." See Alien Property Custodian, File of Garvan, Box 1, Records of the Office of Alien Property.
of action in Evansville by a United States marshal, the brothers continued to balk at the demand order. In exasperation, Herbert stated to Clarence that the two should consult Lansing and made reference to the fact that secretary was a cousin by marriage. This remark "made the triumvirate sort of sit up and take notice." Herbert commented that he thought "our form of government is molded too much by lawyers who like to 'get their records complete,' as these fellows said, and a strong injection of business common sense is badly needed." If necessary, he declared, "we will try to carry the case up to the President." Whatever the result, he added, "we would certainly like to see that bunch get a good 'bawling out' from above."53

The same day their brothers' letters arrived, Monday, October 7, Walter and Carl Leich also received a letter from Guffey of the Bureau of Sales. It was apparent that the New York office knew nothing of the proceedings in Washington over that previous weekend, for Guffey requested more information on Charles Leich—the same information Carl had sent to Home a number of times before. Guffey desired to know when their father had gone to Germany, why he had gone, whether he had any relatives there, and if he were a naturalized citizen. Carl promptly forwarded the letter to Clarence, since he was unsure what was transpiring in Washington.54

In the meantime, according to Herbert, the brothers in the nation's capital spent Monday seeking an end to the crisis. At 9:30 that morning Clarence telephoned Lansing's office, and the secretary of state's private secretary, Richard Crane, inquired with whom the two had been dealing in Palmer's office. When Clarence replied it had been Horne, Crane said that he knew him. While Clarence held the phone, Crane went in to discuss the matter with Lansing and returned with the news that he was going to telephone a Mr. Davis in Palmer's office and to indicate to him that the custodian ought "to go very slow in this matter and not to take any action unless they were absolutely sure of being right." At 11:45, the brothers saw Davis, who confirmed that he had

  • 53 Herbert Leich to his wife, October 5, 1918, Leich File.
  • 54 Copy of Guffey to Charles Leich and Company, October 5, 1918, ibid. Written on the margin of the copy is the note, "sent original to Clarence c/o Red X Hdqtrs, 10-7-18."
talked with Crane. Davis declared that Home and his associates ought to have taken a common sense approach to the case instead of being so legalistic, and he promised to discuss the case with Palmer at noon. The two Leichs were then to meet Davis in Horne's office at 3:00.55

When the brothers saw Horne, he insisted he had already met with Palmer the previous Saturday, October 5, and had been instructed to defer action on the Leich case until March 1, 1919, and to allow periodic extensions of the deadline thereafter. Home showed them an order to that effect, dated October 5 and signed by Palmer. In turn, the brothers were asked to accept the service of demand, even though "this was only to complete … [the bureau's] records" and would not effect the Leich's title to the firm. On October 8, Davis telephoned Clarence to assure him that nothing more would come of the matter. It seems possible that Lansing's acquaintance with Clarence and his personal help on October 7 had influenced the Alien Property Custodian, despite Horne's assurances that Palmer's decision on the Leich case had been made earlier. It must also have been helpful that on Monday the State Department had been informed the Central Powers had accepted Wilson's Fourteen Points, thus, for all practical purposes, ending the war.56

Shortly thereafter, both the Bureau of Trusts and the Bureau of Sales of the Alien Property Custodian confirmed in writing the postponement of action on the Leich case. On October 17, Guffey informed the company that Palmer's Washington office had answered all the questions he had raised in his letter of October 5, thus confirming that Horne

  • 55 Herbert Leich, undated memorandum, Leich File. There was no reference to this case in the minutes of the noonday meetings of Alien Property Custodian officials, Records of the Office of Alien Property. Mr. Davis was no doubt J. Lionberger Davis, managing director of the Alien Property Custodian's office.
  • 56 Herbert Leich, undated memorandum, Leich File. In the files of the Alien Property Custodian, there is no written evidence of a conversation between Lansing and Palmer or of Palmer's order dated October 5, although one suspects that there was a telephone conversation or meeting between Horne and Palmer or between Palmer and Lansing on October 5 or the morning of October 7. That the decision to defer action was made before the Leich brothers visited Horne on Monday afternoon is reinforced by a letter from Horne to Guffey, dated October 7, in which he informed Guffey of the decision to delay action. He noted "Mr. Leich will call at this office today and we will obtain the service of demand." Horne to Guffey, October 7, 1918. Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Administration, Daily Letter File, Box 63, Records of the Office of Alien Property.
had notified him of the decision of the Alien Property Custodian. Neither the question of control of Charles Leich and Company nor the matter of communication with Charles Leich, however, was fully resolved. An additional sum of $300.00 was permitted to be sent to Germany on October 25, but on January 13, 1919, Carl requested permission to send a message and $1,000.00 more to his father, since he had been informed that the elderly gentleman needed the constant attention of a trained nurse. In March, after having received no response, Clarence wrote a similar request, only to be informed that with the cession of hostilities the Bureau of Enemy Trade's jurisdiction in cases of communication with residents of Germany had been transferred to the State Department. After forwarding the money through the proper channels, Carl was notified by a second assistant secretary of state that the sum had been sent via the American ambassador at Berne, Switzerland, but only on the condition that Charles Leich return to the United States, unless it could be shown that he was unable to leave Germany! Obviously ignorant of previous decisions regarding the condition of the man, the State Department was also unable to indicate, until July 15, 1919, whether any messages had ever actually been received by or sent from the elderly Leich. At that time it confirmed that his health was failing rapidly, although he was well cared for.57

The questions relating to control of the company were not so quickly resolved. The Leich brothers did not receive formal receipts for their sisters' shares in the company, taken into custody by Palmer in April, 1918, until May 20, 1919.58

  • 57 H. [Henry] E. Ahern, Assistant Director, Bureau of Trusts, Alien Property Custodian, to Herbert Leich, October 7, 1918; Herbert Leich [?] to Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Sales, October 11, 1918; Guffey to Charles Leich and Company, October 17, 1918; McGonigal to Carl Leich, October 25, 1918; Clarence Leich to Bureau of Enemy Trade, War Trade Board, March 4, 1919; William Phillips, assistant secretary of state, to Clarence Leich, March 14, 1919; Clarence Leich to Phillips, March 18, 1919; Alvey A. Adee to Clarence Leich, March 31, 1919; Adee to Clarence Leich, April 11, 1919; B. E. Long to Clarence Leich, July 15, 1919, Leich File.
  • 58 H. [Harry] B. Caton to Charles Leich and Company, May 20, 1919, Leich File. Although there is no evidence in the Leich File that the shares of the sisters were ever returned, Alexander Leich recalls that the shares were returned sometime in the mid-1920s (conversation with the author, February 27, 1974). It is important to note, moreover, the comment of the Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Corporation Management, on the disposition of the father's interest: "This concern has been taken out of our hands by the Bureau of Trusts, and we are advised to
It was not until March, 1922, that the claim on Charles Leich's interest in the firm was lifted—Over three years after the end of the war and two years after his death in late 1919. Memorialized in the EvansvilleCourier as "a good citizen and a good parent and a good member of the community … [who] built up a reputation for honor and fair dealing and good faith,"59 Leich was not so fortunate at the hands of the Alien Property Custodian, a fact which few in Evansville, including the Courier, knew. The custodian's claim on Leich's share in the firm prevented the execution of his will until March 11, 1922, when Alexander G. Bentley, head of the Division of Trusts, wrote that since it had finally been proved that Charles Leich was an American citizen and that his heirs were therefore "eligible as claimants under Section 9 of the Trading with the Enemy Act," the government had decided to withdraw the demand" for custody of his share of the firm. Several times in the letter, Bentley referred to Charles Leich as "the enemy." The effect of this decision, Bentley informed the Leich brothers, was "to permit you and all others concerned to govern yourselves with respect to that property without restriction from this office."60

Although Charles Leich and Company survived its wartime threat from the federal government and although the family was able to have some communication with the elderly gentleman, the bewildering legacy of their struggle, like the legacy of the loyalty tests faced by thousands of other German Americans, remained. So far as the Alien Property Custodian was concerned, Charles Leich died as an enemy of the country in which he had held citizenship for over seventy years. When compared with the enormousness of the war effort, both home and abroad, the Leich case might have

  • that effect by Mr. Horne. The enemy interest is represented by an American caught in Germany, and unable to leave on account of his health." The bureau also noted that the Leich sons were loyal Americans. See Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Corporation Management, Liquidation Docket E 190, ca. 1920, Vol. I, Records of the Office of Alien Property.
  • 59Evansville (Indiana) Courier, December 30, 1919.
  • 60 Alexander G. Bentley to Clarence Leich, March 11, 1922, Leich File. The Alien Property Custodian's claim on Leich's insurance policy had been lifted on June 23, 1920. See. Volney McFadden, Chief of the Alien Property Custodian, Division of Insurance, to Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, June 23, 1920, Alien Property Custodian, Bureau of Administration, General Office File, Box 88, File 5107, Records of the Office of Alien Property.
seemed trivial, but to Palmer's agency victory was incomplete without control of even this small company. The problems faced by the firm, the sons, and the father were partially the result of the broad definition of enemy given in the Trading with the Enemy Act and partially the effect of Lansing's earlier insistence that the aged, infirm man travel to a neutral country so that his income would not in any way aid the German government. Yet, although certain federal departments—notably the State Department, the War Trade Board, and the Internal Revenue Service—ultimately recognized the citizenship of the aged man and made allowance for his plight, for some reason the Alien Property Custodian's office continued to describe Charles Leich as an enemy even after it decided not to assume control of his interest in the wholesale drug firm. If Leich had not been ill and aged, moreover, it is possible that his fate, and that of his company, might well have been worse. It also seems clear that the timely news of the German and Austrian peace overtures, as well as the relationship of Clarence Leich to Robert Lansing, were of great value to the Leichs in their struggle with the bureaucracy. The affair would not be forgotten by a firm established by a man who, at the age of eighty-six, died in his native land as a presumed enemy of his adopted one and whose sons had to undergo a series of challenges to keep in touch with him in his last days, uphold his honor, and save the business he had founded. It is ironic that all this should have occurred shortly after President Wilson, speaking on Memorial Day in 1916, had insisted that Americans should "love the places of their birth and the sources of their origin. We do not wish them to forget their mothers and fathers, running back through laborious generations, who have taken part in building up the strength and spirit of other nations."61

  • 61 Quoted in Frederick Franklin Schrader, The Germans in the Making of America (Boston, 1924), 33-34.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.