Minnesota likely had hundreds of Silver Legion members and thousands of sympathetic supporters. This list, supposedly taken directly from Pelley's files, details 112 Minnesotans that the Silver Shirt Lieutenant Roy Zachary was supposed to meet upon his arrival to the state. It is unknown as to whether any of these Minnesotans actually met Zachary, but several were recorded in attendance at his rallies including J. C. Hormel, President of Hormel Meats.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation Council of Minnesota formed in direct response to the threat of Fascism from the Silver Legion and other anti-semitic organizations in Minnesota (such as Social Justice run by Father Coughlin). Our knowledge of the parties complicit in the rise of Fascism in Minnesota is largely due to intelligence gathered by this organization and preserved in the papers of the Jewish Community Relations Council at the MNHS. Click the document to the right to see an incomplete list of hundreds of names of "subversive subjects" compiled by the Jewish Anti-Defamation Council of Minnesota between 1938 and 1941.
In 1934, a Teamster union strike grew violent after thugs hired by George Belden, President of the Citizen's Alliance, murdered protestors. Four years later, Belden aligned himself with the Silver Legion to advance his fierce anti-unionism. According to some papers, Belden was the sponsor that helped the Silver Shirts acquire large venues for their Twin Cities rallies.
The rise in Fascism in Minnesota coincided with the most successful third party movement in American history. The Farmer-Labor party was formed in 1918 and by the mid 1930s held a majority of seats in Minnesota state government and Minnesota delegates to the federal government. Aesthetics and rhetoric seeped from the Silver Legion and into the political positions of Hjalmar Petersen, a Farmer-Laborite who challenged the sitting Governor in the gubernatorial primary of 1938 and Harold Stassen, a young Republican challenger propped up by Fascist, racist, and misogynistic state officials like Ray Chase.
Petersen peddled a conspiracy theory of Jewish control of the state government, leveraging the same anti-semitic and anti-communist rhetoric as the Silver Legion of America. His appeal to fascist-sympathetic Minnesotans divided and ultimately destroyed the Farmer-Labor Party. After Petersen lost his primary challenge, Stassen adopted the same conspiracy, attempting to attract Petersen's supporters.
While Stassen publicly distanced himself from the Silver Legion of America, he actively benefitted from their campaign to get him elected. Further, private messages he exchanged with his staff currently archived in his papers at the MNHS show his willingness to use Fascist-sympathetic language in targeted campaigning and recruiting of donors.
Beyond politicians, the Jewish Anti-Defamation Council also identified collaboration between Minneapolis police officers and the Silver Shirts.
These editorials taken from the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Journal, two publications that would later merge with a third Minnesota publication to become the Star Tribune, show broad support for Fascist ideologies in the final years of the 1930s. Fascism built the foundations of Minnesota, first through Manifest Destiny and slavery, and later through political ideologies aligned with the Silver Legion of America.