“…December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” – President Franklin D Roosevelt The World War II War Diaries on Fold3 … Continue reading
At the height of World War I, government agents from the Bureau of Investigation kept an eye on anyone suspected of supporting Germany. Civic-minded citizens reported suspicious characters, their neighbors and often people they just didn’t like. The results of some of these investigations can be found in the FBI Case Files on Fold3.
Leo Singer led a traveling vaudeville troop called “Singer’s Midgets” that was touring the western United States when William Halliday wrote to the Bureau of Investigation to do his “duty as a good American citizen” and report that Singer was “a reserve officer of the German Army” who changed the money he and his troop made into gold, hoping to “send all the good U.S. coin out of this country.”
Halliday’s eager description of the “enormous” profits and large crowds commanded by the troop raises questions about his motivation for reporting Singer, but the Bureau looked into the case.
Daisy Dean of San Francisco also felt it was her “duty as a true American” to report the troop and reminded the investigators that, “These midgets may be small, but they can place a bomb no doubt as good as a big German.”
Members of the troop were from Europe, including two from Germany (Singer was a Hungarian, born in Austria). Their strong accents were probably enough to raise concerns in the more sensitive Americans like Mrs Mary Parsons of Seattle who claimed that she knew, by a special gift, that Singer was a spy:
You can still hear the accents in this 1938 film that starred some members of the troop
Singer claimed that the accusations were just an attempt by people in the business to keep his show from competing for an audience.
Several different agents across the west were involved in the investigation. They saw the show; ran background checks; interviewed Singer, members of the company and people who knew them and even poked around the rooms of the performers.
Some of the evidence they collected may not seem up to the standards of modern crime dramas:
In the end, the agents agreed with Singer’s claim that the accusations were based on “professional jealousy.”
The troop survived the investigation and many went on to careers in the movies, perhaps most famously as munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.