During World War I, laws restricting freedom of speech and the arrest and prosecution of those who opposed the war created an atmosphere of repression, hysteria, and vigilantism. While President Woodrow Wilson called for “100 percent Americanism,” labor organizers and immigrants found their loyalty being questioned by fellow citizens as well as by government agents. Suspicion, hostility, and in some instances violence, focused particularly on German Americans. This pillory, a device used in colonial New England to punish through public ridicule, was placed in a public square in 1918 as “a warning to citizens of Cincinnati as to what they may expect in case of disloyalty.” Unable to find a convenient dissenter immediately, the photographer of this picture had to make do with an acquiescent volunteer.
Source: J. R. Schmidt, 1918—National Archives.