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The Vigilantes of the Corn Belt

Condensed from The Country Gentleman (July '26)

Quintan Wood and Charles Phelps Cushing

the old haunts of the James Boys

and the Youngers the bad men have returned. Since the World War, just as after the Civil War, the small towns of the Corn Belt-especially those having a population of less than 1000-have been visited with a long series of night-time burglaries and swift and terrorizing daylight holdups. Even more ruthless are these bandit gangs than those which ranged this same section 50 years ago. the slightest show of resistance they maim or kill. Seldom do any of them surrender. Upon the small-town banks of Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma in the past five years they have descended in more than 700 raids and carried off loot amounting to upward of $2,000,000.


This plague of bandits has spread also to adjacent states. At periods

when the roads are in the best possible condition for fast motor-car driving, raids upon small-town banks in the upper Mississippi Valley are of almost daily occurrence. A token of the boldness of these modern bandits is that many places have been robbed more than once.


Six states of the Corn Belt have replied to the robbers' challenge by organizing a formidable army of civilian vigilantes and town guards, authorized as special deputies and manded by their sheriffs. Iowa can parade a force of armed minute 'men representing every county of the state and more than 800 of her 1000 banking towns. Kansas is in line with 80 of her 105 counties. Oklahoma is represented by more than a third of her Counties. There are also organizations of vigilantes in many counties of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota, patterned after the Iowa organization.

The vigilante movement started in Iowa. Alarmed to action by the swift increase in daylight holdups and night burglaries, mounting every year after the World War, until in the period from June to June of 1920-1921 the banks of the state suffered 56 attacks, the Iowa Bankers' Association decided to try the gunpowder cure. With the authorization of the War Department they purchased that year 3477 carbines, rifles, revolvers and sawed-off shotguns.

Members of the county bankers' associations then conferred with their local sheriffs to select the men in each neighborhood best qualified to handle these weapons. The minute men were hand-picked, and not too many of them chosen. Even in a large county they rarely numbered more than 75, and the average company was not above 50. They were carefully instructed next' concerning what posts they were to take and what to do in every likely emergency, either of attack or of pursuit.

That these first minute men bore themselves well is evident in what immediately followed. The report of the next fiscal year, issued in June, 1922, showed that the number of attacks upon Iowa banks had dwindled from 56 to 30, and that the loot had shrunk suddenly from $228,973 to $54,941. In the fiscal year 1922-23, the number of attempted robberies dropped to 28 and the loot had dropped to less than $30,000. And in the following year the attacks were only eight, the total loss es $18,549. It is not surprising then that 1925 found every county of Iowa with vigilante organizations, and her neighbor states jumping suddenly into line alongside of her.

When an alarm sounds signaling an attack upon a bank in a town, which

is properly organized, this is what happens: The telephone operator keeps a card in sight listing the names and numbers of the local vigilantes. She begins ringing them the moment an alarm comes in. If the robbers smash the switchboard before they begin their assault upon the bank, hidden wires independent of the telephone system sound the alarm.

The minute men race with their weapons to predesignated positionsdepending upon whether the attack is by daylight or by night. While these sentinels run to door-ways, store tops, alleys and corners, all strategic points commanding the local institutions, the couriers and drivers of pursuit cars tune up their motors. The vigilantes with posts covering the banks usually are equipped with revolvers and sawed-off shotguns. The pursuit men have carbines

or rifles for longer

range shooting. Other minute men of the county organization hurry to barricades along the roads of possible escape.

The effectiveness of the movement is indicated by the following significant items of four years of activity of vigilantes in Iowa, up to June, 1925:

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Here is an illustration of the vigilante system in operation: The scene is Booneville, Iowa, on the morning of Feb. 10, 1925. Two bandits, named Leighton and Oliver, get down from their motor car on the outskirts of town. They instruct their driver to pick them up a few minutes later. They slip into the bank with drawn revolvers and order W. J. McAllister, who is working alone in the bank, to hold up his hands. While Oliver stands guard at the front door Leighton runs behind the counter and snatches all the cash in sight. Next he forces McAllister into the vault to open the safe and there gathers up

all the currency it contains. Then he locks McAllister in the vault.

It happens that Booneville has a vigilance committee, of which the cashier of the bank, C. C. Cook, is a prominent member. Now hear his story:

"I live across the street from the side of the bank building and had gone home to change my clothes. I was coming down-stairs when my wife called to me that they were holding up the bank. She had seen McAllister with his hands up.

"I took my automatic shotgun and went out the back door and around to the side of the house. Oliver was at the door of the bank, gun in hand. I called to him 'Put them up!' He looked around and ran-toward a woman on the street, so I could not shoot.

"At this time Leighton was in the vault. I waited until he came out. I warned him to 'Put them up!' but he came up with his guns. He had a 45 in each hand. He shot twice but missed. I put him out of commission.

"I let McAllister out of the vault and got back to the bank door just in time to cover the driver of their car as he came to pick them up. He was unarmed."

Oliver, who led the gang, had been dropped in his tracks, seriously wounded. He is now in the penitentiary for life. Vigilantes, roused by the noise of the shooting, hastily gathered and then took up the pursuit of Oliver. He was captured the same day within a mile and a half of the bank, and so many joined in that 20 participated in the reward paid for his capture.

Last year Iowa was granted by all the insurance companies of the United States a reduction in the rate she formerly had to pay against the risk of bank holdups by daylight. Why the insurance companies paid this eloquent tribute to Iowa is apparent in the record for this latest completed fiscal year. Only two attempts are listed; and the one successful one is not upon a small town but in Des Moines, the state's largest city.


The Supersensitive Woman

Condensed from the Woman's Home Companion (July '26)
·Mary B. Mullett, In Collaboration with Dr. F. E. Williams

WHAT in the world shall I do about Elizabeth?" a friend asked me. "I am planning to give two luncheons and an afternoon bridge. But no matter which one I put her down for she is sure to feel hurt. If I invite her for bridge, she will think it isn't so much of a compliment as being invited for luncheon. If I ask her for luncheon, she will imagine that I think she doesn't play cards well enough to be invited for bridge."

I know many of these sensitive persons. You know them too. People whose feelings are always getting hurt; who always imagine that they are being slighted, or criticized, or misunderstood. Touchy people with whom you have to watch your step as carefully as if you were treading on eggs.

I asked Dr. Frankwood Williams to analyze the supersensitive person.

"Sensitive people are not really sensitive," he said. "They are self-conscious. They wouldn't admit it. They don't mind saying, 'I'm very sensitive.' But they wouldn't be at all proud to say: 'I'm very self-conscious.' And yet that is precisely what they are.

"For example, let's take a quite common situation. Two women go to the same dinner. One of them is goodlooking, well dressed, highly educated. The other one isn't at all pretty; her clothes are nothing to brag about; she never saw the inside of a college. On the face of things, the first woman ought to make a better impression Ethan the second one.

"But you have certainly seen just such situations, where the first woman was uncomfortable and the second had a perfectly beautiful time. She laughed at the stories the others told. If she started to tell a story herself, and everybody was listening to some

one else instead of her, that was all right! She thought the food was delicious, the flowers lovely, the place cards so original. She was interested and responsive; amused and amusing. Everybody liked her and she enjoyed the party.

"The other woman, from start to finish, was thinking about herself. When she arrived, she imagined she was greeted less cordially than the person who came in behind her. When they went to the dining-room, if she wasn't seated near her hostess, she felt slighted. And so she went on, always thinking about herself; so busy feeling neglected, or slighted, or misunderstood, that of course she couldn't get any enjoyment out of it.

"A person like that will twist anything into a sign of dislike, or indifference, or criticism. You never know what they will take offense at; half the time you don't even suspect that they are offended. You simply find them dull and unresponsive; and you don't dream that they are suffering inward tortures.

"Now, the truth is, that woman is merely self-conscious. Her only sensitiveness is to what hurts her. She has an inflamed ego, which shrinks and quivers at every touch. The other woman has a normal, healthy ego which responds with normal, healthy sensations to everything that comes along.

"There are several ways in which a supersensitive person may have started toward all this unhappiness. In order to understand these ways, you must first realize a tremendously important thing. One of the most powerful desires we human beings possess is the desire to be accepted and approved by our fellow human beings.

"We all start with this desire to be accepted; to feel that we are all right.

But even when we are little children, there are times when we are not accepted. We do things for which we are reproved and punished. With most of us, fortunately, these moments don't come very often; and when they do come we can see the cause and effect. And because we understand, the thing doesn't make a deep wound.

"But let's imagine what may have happened to this supersensitive woman when she was a child. She probably had a highly organized nervous system; that is, she actually was 'sensitive.' Suppose that this sensitive child, with her deep human desire to be accepted and approved and loved, somehow gets the idea that she isn't wanted, or that she isn't making good.

"This little girl was perhaps dif. ferent from her brothers and sisters; she may not have been as strong phy. sically; she may have had different tastes. In short, she was the 'off pig' in the lot. In such cases the parents are likely to draw comparisons openly between the poor little off pig and the rest; comparisons which make her more and more conscious that she isn't satisfactory. The hurt goes deeper and deeper. She grows to expect that she won't succeed in putting herself over. She is always watching for signs of the disapproval which she has come to expect. And finally, when she grows up, you have your supersensitive woman.

"It might start through her being unjustly or carelessly blamed. She is bewildered as well as hurt. She wants to be accepted. Yet she isn't; and she doesn't know why. So she begins wondering about herself. She becomes self-conscious, intensely concerned with what people think of her.

"Another thing which may be at the bottom of this supersensitiveness is our old enemy, a sense of guilt, acquired away back in childhood. You have no idea how many of us are busy trying to adjust ourselves to a sense of guilt which we don't even know we have. It's been shoved down out of sight; but it is there and it keeps prodding us, making us uncomfortable.


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"Give a child something he can do. Let him have a taste of victory. Success is a marvelous tonic. Children thrive on it. We all do. Some of these self-conscious, sensitive people have been made so by being denied this tonic of success when they were chil dren. They got the habit of failure.

"If you know that you are supersensitive, and if you find out that you yourself are causing it you ought to be able to cure it. Many a woman has been emancipated by discovering that she could do certain things well. It doesn't make any difference what they 'were. If she made good in any way it would help to satisfy that fundamental desire to be accepted and approved. Gradually she would accumu. late outside interests which would make her less absorbed in anxieties about herself. She would become really and truly 'sensitive,' in the finer meaning of the word; sensitive to all the wonderful opportunities of enjoyment; sensitive to what other people are thinking and feeling.

"Sensitiveness can be cured by a proper philosophy. The only thing for me to be concerned about is what I am. What people think I am is not really important, because it doesn't alter the truth! If I am honest with myself, I can come closer than anyone else to knowing what I am really like. That attitude toward one's own life, and a tremendous interest in life in general, and work that keeps one busy and happy-these three things, I guarantee, will cure one of being painfully sensitive,"


Will the Cities Ever Stop?

Condensed from The New Republic (June 16, '26)
George Soule

many, progress is measured by the growth of the city's population. But increasing numbers of city-dwellers are complaining of the noise, the dust, the crowding and the high cost of their living. The disadvantages of the overgrown city are beginning to be pointed out. What hope is there that its extension will be checked?

New York state is the prime example of urban development. In 1840, there were 500 manufacturing towns and villages, power for whose industries was furnished by over 7000 water-wheels. They were connected

by a network of highways and canals. Each was surrounded by a prosperous farming region. The local community was nearly self-sustaining. Grain was brought to local grist mills, lumber to sawmills, cattle to slaughter houses, hides to tanneries, wool to carding, spinning and weaving mills.

It was about 1860 that the farm and village population began to shrink. This was not merely a comparative shrinkage: it was absolute. Today there are fewer persons in the state living on farms and villages of less than 2500 than in 1820. Since 1870, farm land has been abandoned at the rate of 100,000 acres a year. During the last decade there were only ten of the 56 counties in the state in which

rural population grew. Eleven cities account for more than 86 per cent of the population growth of the state between 1850 and 1920.

Changes in transportation and pow. er did it-railroads, coal, steamengines, automatic machinery. The small mills could not compete with bigger ones elsewhere which could instal unlimited automatic machinery because they could have steam power, which could have steam power be

cause they could get coal cheaply by rail or water, and which could ship their products over the rails that brought their power supply. These same railroads brought more distant agricultural regions into competition with the local farmers. Robbed of their market in the vicinity, they could not sell wheat in the great milling centres in competition with the specialized wheat regions where land was cheaper, more fertile, less rocky, and susceptible of increased production per man through the mere use of modern agricultural machinery. They could not sell their cattle or their wool so well, for similar reasons. Most of those who wanted to continue farming went elsewhere and specialized.

If you measure efficiency by lowered cost of production, it is more efficient to have a comparatively few large cities and a comparatively few specialized agricultural regions, exchanging their products over comparatively large areas, than to have a large number of self-sufficing rural communities of the old type each with its local industries. That is what chiefly accounts for city growth and farm decay. It is part of the great process of division of labor, diversification of wants, and centralization of control. If the cities are to stop growing, and the land is to have more of a chance, something must happen to make the city less efficient.

And that is just where it is beginning to appear that hope lies. The city, like the industrial plant itself. appears to be subject to a law of diminishing returns after it passes a certain size. Take water supply, for instance. As the city grows the mains have to push further away, and eventually the cities begin to impinge

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