Ohio History Journal

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Problems in Peacekeeping:

The 1924 Niles Riot


On November 1, 1924, Niles, Ohio was the scene of one of the

state's most famous riots. Replete with violence, the riot was

characterized by beatings, overturned automobiles, and even

shootings. Bands of armed men freely roamed the streets of Niles,

meeting with little or no opposition from law enforcement agencies.

Local civil authority in the Niles area-both municipal and

county-had all but evaporated in the face of violence, and Ohio's

state government had refused to involve itself in what it felt to be a

local problem. Thus the forces of law and order had given way to mob

rule, and the result was that for a period of time domestic peace and

public safety ceased to exist. As one contemporary observed, the

situation in Niles was "a damned serious matter."1

Responsible for the "damned serious matter" were two

violence-prone groups who had been waging nearly open warfare for

some time: the Ohio Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a second

organization which had formed solely to oppose the Klan-the

Knights of the Flaming Circle. The Ku Klux Klan of the early 1920s

was a formidable organization, with estimates of its national

membership ranging around five million. In Ohio alone it numbered

approximately 450,000, with the bulk of its strength centered in

smaller towns and villages. Traditionally anti-Negro, the Klan had

increased its membership by broadening its program of intolerance to

include foreigners, Jews, and Catholics. Added to these warped

appeals was a fondness for secret rituals, burning crosses, outlandish

costumes, and impressive-sounding titles. In the unkind words of

Frederick Lewis Allen, "here was a chance to dress up the village

bigot and let him be a Knight of the Invisible Empire."2



Dr. Daugherty undertook his graduate studies at The Ohio State University and has

taught at Temple University, Morris Harvey College, and Fairmont State College.


1. Ohio, Adjutant General, Transcript of Evidence Taken by Military Investigation

Board Appointed by General Orders No. 7, November 3-12, 1924, 10. This document

may be found in the archives of the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.

2. Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the

Nineteen-Twenties (New York, 1931), 65. See also John A. Garraty, The American

Nation Since 1865 (New York, 1966), 290-91. For a brief look at the Ohio Klan, see