After WWI the Ku Klux Klan, which had been largely suppressed since the 1870s, underwent a national resurgence under the leadership of William Joseph Simons. The re-established Klan retained its former goals of white supremacy and sectional patriotism, but added new targets of religious, cultural and social bigotry to its agenda. During the 1920s the Klan grew into the largest anti-Negro, anti-Semitic, anti-Roman Catholic and anti-immigrant organization in the history of the US. This growth reached Oregon in 1921 when out-of-state Klan organizers arrived in Medford and began enrolling members around the state. According to Eckard Vance Toy, “The peak of Klan power in Oregon was reached during 1922 and 1923 when the Klan’s lobbyists and political organization applied continual pressure upon legislative and law enforcement officials. Klan influence was still important during the legislative assemblies of 1925 and 1927, but by then it had lost its hold over the people and even its own members” (Toy 34).
One of the major agenda items adopted by the Oregon Klan was the Compulsory Education Bill of 1922, which required all Oregon children to attend public schools and ordered the closure of all private and parochial schools. Although the bill was passed by popular vote, the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1924 and the law never took effect.
Religion dominated the Klan’s activities in Tillamook, although they were opposed by a vocal Roman Catholic minority. Recruits were found among local ministers and members of churches, most notably the Nazarene, Baptist, United Brethren and Christian; and among fraternal organizations including the Masons, the I.O.O.F., and the Elks. Klan membership in the early 1920s peaked at 600 to 800, although at any given time there were rarely more than 200 actively participating members. Nevertheless, from 1922 through 1932, most city, county and state officials from Tillamook were either Klansmen or former Klansmen. The mayor of Tillamook was a Klansman, as was the editor of the Tillamook Headlight; his newspaper often backed Klan positions.
By the end of the 1920s, however, the Tillamook Klan had lost much of its aggressive political power, and had deteriorated into “a social organization on the fringes of respectable fraternalism” (Toy 84). By 1938 the Depression, public disgust at Klan tactics, and lack of substantive issues had combined to render the Oregon Klan all but obsolete.
Work cited: Toy, Eckard Vance Jr. The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon; Its Character and Program. Thesis, M.A. University of Oregon: June 1959.
The collection includes correspondence, reports, minutes, membership materials, financial records, an account ledger, and costume insignia of the Ku Klux Klan, Tillamook Chapter No. 8. The majority of the records constitute membership materials and financial documents.
Restrictions on Access :
Collection is open to the public.
Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.Restrictions on Use :
Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.
If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.Preferred Citation :
[Identification of Item], Ku Klux Klan Tillamook, Oregon Chapter No. 8 records, Bx 046, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
Collection is organized into eight series.
Series I: Correspondence contains letters pertaining to membership issues, including a letter from Empire Mutual, the Klan’s multi-state life insurance company. The correspondence is housed in Box 1, Folders 2 and 3.
Series II: Reports contains membership and financial reports for three quarters of 1926; the reports list suspended and re-enlisted members by name, and summarize financial transactions. The reports are housed in Box 1, Folders 4 through 7.
Series III: Minutes contains a set of meeting minutes from January through August of 1928. These minutes are in Box 1, Folder 8.
Series IV: Membership Materials contains handwritten applications for membership (these ask for physical descriptions, church affiliations and other personal data), membership lists (including suspended members), and oath and loyalty questionnaires. These are housed in Box 1, Folders 9 through 19.
Series V: Financial Records contains bills and receipts from various financial transactions, and cancelled checks and bank statements. These are housed in Box 1, Folders 20 through 40 (see Series VIII for additional financial records).
Series VI: Miscellaneous contains assorted bulletins, notices, and pamphlets, including a resolution in support of a Senator and Representative who acted as “guardians of our interests,” and material relating to the Klan’s Empire Mutual Life Insurance Company. These items are in Box 2.
Series VII: Artifacts contains costume insignia (two cloth patches and one red silk sash) in Box 3.
Series VIII: Oversize houses an Account Ledger from 1923–1925 in Box 4.
Detailed Description of the Collection