Wayback Wednesday: Depression Era Kidnapping Epidemic

In 1934 it seemed to have indeed reached epidemic proportions.  Thousands of times that year readers would find the word “kidnap” headlined in their local newspaper, sometimes more than once in one issue.  Just two years previous the nation had been riveted with news of the kidnapping of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s son, Charles, Jr. On March 1, 1932 Charles Lindbergh’s son had been abducted from the family home and later found dead near their home on May 12.  Richard Hauptman was finally arrested in 1934, tried in 1935, found guilty and executed on April 3, 1936 for the crime of first degree murder.  In 1932 Congress passed a law making it illegal to transport kidnap victims across state lines, the so-called Lindbergh Law.  If a person was not returned within twenty-four hours, the FBI could become involved in the case. The law was amended in May of 1934 in the midst of what many were calling a kidnapping epidemic.  The amendment, signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on May 24, 1935, provided for the execution of anyone guilty of interstate kidnapping who had harmed the victim(s).  The term “harm” was left wide-open to interpretation, having not been specifically defined by the amendment. Following passage of the original law and increased FBI involvement in these type of cases, kidnapping crimes were up, however.  It would take more than a year to get the epidemic under control.  By 1936 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was telling reporters that “kidnaping is well in hand in America”.1  Indeed, every one of the sixty-two kidnappings perpetrated since the Lindbergh law was...

Wayback Wednesday: Nineteenth Century Vikings

I ran across an interesting story while researching Norwegian ancestry for a friend’s family tree.  I’ve also been meaning to introduce a new Wednesday column which will feature articles about unique (and often forgotten) historical characters and events.  Today seemed like a perfect time to publish the first “Wayback Wednesday” article, one of particular interest for those of Scandanavian ancestry. He was called the “pathfinder” for Norwegians in America by the Minneapolis Journal in 1906.  On his gravestone in Bosque County, Texas he is referred to as “The Pioneer of Norse Emigration to America”. Cleng Peerson (a.k.a., Klein Pederson or Kleng Peerson) was born on May 17, 1782 in Norway to parents Peder Larsson and Inger Sjursdotter.  Growing up on a farm called Hesthammar, Cleng had few educational opportunities yet taught himself to speak and read English, German and French. He learned the carpenter trade and as a young man married a woman named Catherine, intending to gain access to her wealth and property.  When that plan failed he left and never lived with her again.  In 1821 Peerson came to America with fellow Norseman Knute Olson Eide, perhaps at the behest of a group of Quakers in Stavenger County who were under persecution from the intolerant state church. Norwegians knew little about America but the Quakers had heard it was a land which would afford them opportunity to practice their faith freely and openly without fear of persecution.  Peerson spent three years thoroughly investigating the social, economic and industrial conditions.  After traveling through several states, and finding a strong and supportive Quaker colony in New York City, he...