Historical Markers
A. Mitchell Palmer (1872-1936) Historical Marker
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A. Mitchell Palmer (1872-1936)

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
West entrance of courthouse, 7th and Monroe Streets, Stroudsburg

Dedication Date:
October 13, 2007

Behind the Marker

Black and white portrait Of A. Mitchell Palmer
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, 1920.
Nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker," A. Mitchell Palmer led a life of both public acclaim and public scorn. Born in Moosehead, Pennsylvania, Palmer worked as a lawyer in Stroudsburg and after his election to Congress in 1908 on the Democratic ticket became known widely as a progressive reformer who sponsored legislation for the protection of female and child workers. In 1914, Palmer left Congress to run an unsuccessful race for the United States Senate. In 1916, he turned down President Woodrow Wilson's offer of the post of Secretary of War because of his pacifist beliefs but did accept appointment as the Official Custodian of Alien Property, whose duties included the seizing of U.S. businesses owned by Germans during World War I.

A black and white photograph of Palmer, standing.
Pennsylvania Congressman A. Mitchell Palmer, 1913.
In early 1919, Palmer accepted the position of U.S. Attorney General, which included the responsibility of investigating foreign aliens and radical labor organizations in America. In 1919, the nation experienced tremendous turmoil, for the end of the First World War had unleashed traumatic economic changes, race riots in many major cities, the greatest wave of strikes in American history - including a national markersteel strike centered in Pittsburgh - and a wave of urban bombings.

At first, Conservative newspapers denounced Palmer for his unwillingness to crack down on "seditionaries, anarchists, plotters against the Government" and his failure to deport foreign nationals striking after the end of the war. But that soon changed.

Group of people in front of home of Alexander Mitchell Palmer, after bomb explosion, 1919.
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's house after its bombing, Washington, D.C.,...
On June 2, a bomb exploded on the front steps of Palmer's Washington townhouse, after which the pro-Labor liberal used the full power of the state to crush the nation's radical labor movement. Working through his new FBI special assistant, a young J. Edgar Hoover, Palmer used the wartime Espionage and Sedition Acts to investigate suspected subversives. That November, federal agents began to arrest what eventually numbered as many 10,000 labor leaders, political radicals, and other suspected subversives, often breaking and entering into offices and homes without warrants and holding suspects without trial. Palmer then called for the deportation of Bolsheviks and other alien radicals to protect the nation from communism, which Palmer insisted was marker "eating its way into the homes of the American workman."
Uncle Sam gathering men ("Spy," "Traitor," "WWI," "German money" and "Sinn Fein") in front of United States Capital with flag, "Sedition law passed."
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"Now for a round-up," a political cartoon in support of the Sedition Act of...

The "Palmer raids," as they became known, and the Attorney General's assertions that Communists planned an armed insurrection in the country in May 1920, unleashed a wave of national hysteria - America's first "Red Scare." To remove leftist leaders, immigration officials in December 1919, deported 247 supposed subversives, including anarchist Emma Goldman, to the Soviet Union.

As the raids unfolded, Secretary of Labor markerWilliam Wilson, who had begun his work life working in a Pennsylvania coal mine, let Palmer have his way, and then fell ill. In 1920, Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis Post, who had the official task of deporting aliens, questioned Palmer's methods. Upon recovering his health, Wilson backed Post. When no May Day communist uprising occurred and the public tired of Palmer's dire warnings, the raids ended.

The "Palmer Raids" thrust Palmer into the national spotlight, where he was heralded by some as a national hero and denounced by others as an "agent of repression." The Palmer raids soon lost public support, however, undermined Palmer's popularity, and ruined his run for the presidency in 1920. They did, however, contribute to the conservative resurgence in the nation that carried Republican candidate Warren G. Harding into the White House in the presidential election of 1920.

After his term as Attorney General ended in 1921, Palmer returned to the private practice of law in Washington, D.C., and occasionally returned to politics, composing parts of the 1932 Democratic platform. He died in Washington on May 11, 1936.
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