Silver Shirt Legion of America, Washington State Division photograph collection, approximately 1930-1939

Overview of the Collection

Silver Shirt Legion of America. Washington State Division
Silver Shirt Legion of America, Washington State Division photograph collection
approximately 1930-1939 (inclusive)
12 photographic prints (1 folder)
Collection Number
Photographs of members in the Silver Shirt Legion of America Washington State Division
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Entire collection can be viewed on the Libraries' Digital Collections website. Permission of Visual Materials curator is required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.


Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

William Dudley Pelley (1890-1965) was born in Lynn, Massachussetts to a poor family. As a young man, he was a published journalist and short story writer. His anti-Semetic views initially formed when he joined the Red Cross in Siberia during the Russian Civil War (1917-1923). During his service in the Red Cross, he began to subscribe to the theory of Jewish Communism, which purported that Jews were dominant in Communist movements throughout the world. Upon returning to the United States, Pelley became a screenwriter in Hollywood. Pelley's anti-Semetic feelings increased as he perceived himself as being mistreated by Jewish studio executives. In 1929, Pelley claimed to have an out-of-body spiritual experience in which Christian dieties instructed him to spiritually transform the United States by promoting Christianity and opposing "forces of evil" (Jews and Communists). Pelley was a great admirer of Hitler and his anti-Semetic views. He studied Hitler's philosophies and speeches, and was inspired to form the Silver Legion of America (also known as the "Silver Shirts") in 1933. The Silver Legion was a paramilitary organization that was modelled off of Hitler's Brownshirts. The organization portrayed themselves as a Protestant Christian movement created to restore a new Christian led society and government. The Silver Legion of America was based out of Ashville, North Carolina, but Pelley and other Silver Legion members were active in recruiting members nationwide. The Washington State liaison officer was Orville W. Roundtree. The legion was especially active in Oregon, California, and Washington in the 1930s. The legion's ideologies embraced white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communistm, isolationism, and British Israelism. Silver Legion members wore Nazi-style silver uniform shirts with an "L" emblem, which symbolied loyalty to the United States, liberation from materialism, and the Silver Legion. Membership peaked in 1935 with a reported 15,000 members. In 1936, Pelley ran for president as head of the Christian Party, which he founded. Pelley only managed to get on the ballot in Washington State, and only received 1,598 votes. In 1936, Pelley visited Washington, and the Silver Lodge was erected on the property of Ruby Johnson in Redmond, Washington. The lodge was used as a meeting place for Silver Legion members. Over time, memberhip in the legion waned. In 1942, the legion was effectively dissolved due to a number of factors. Pelley had accused President Franklin D. Roosevelt of being a Jewish stooge in a worldwide conspiracy, and Roosevelt instructed the FBI to shut the legion down. Pelley's office was raided, he was arrested and found guilty of multiple acts of sedition, and police were instructed to arrest any individuals associated with the legion.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Images of the Silver Shirt Legion Washington Division constructing the Silver Lodge in Redmond, Washington on the property of Ruby Johnson. Also included are group photographs of the division including images with Dudley Pelley who was visiting the area at the time.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View the digital version of the collection

Restrictions on Use

Status of creator's copyrights is unknown; restrictions may exist on copying, quotation, or publication. Users are responsible for researching copyright status before use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Donor: Ronald S. Green, April 14, 2016.

Processing Note

Processed by Melanie Kay, 2018.

Separated Materials

Material Described Separately:

Silver Shirt Legion of America, Washington State Division records, 1931-1997 (Collection No. 3242)

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Lodge ConstructionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 1
William Pelley giving a speech to Silver Legion members
Pelley ran for President as head of the Christian Party, which he founded, in 1936. This photo may be of a speech made as part of his presidential campaign.
1 2 1936?
1 3 1936?
1 4 1936?
1 5 1936?
1 6 1936?

Post-constructionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 7 1936?
1 8
William Pelley with Silver Legion members
Pelley is in the top row on the far right.
1 9
William Pelley and Silver Legion members in front of the Silver Lodge
Pelley is in the middle of the second row to the bottom wearing black.
1 10 August 1939
1 11 August 1939
1 12 1939?

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)

Personal Names

  • Pelley, William Dudley, 1890-1965--Photographs

Corporate Names

  • Silver Shirt Legion of America. Washington State Division--Archives