Lehr und Wehr Verein

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The Lehr und Wehr Verein (Educational and Defense Society) were a Chicago-based socialist military formations founded in 1875.

The Lehr und Wehr Verein was registered with the Illinois state authorities on 19 April 1875 with about 30 Bohemian and German members. The organization used to train and drill in anticipation of an envisaged confrontation between Capital and Labor.

In 1879 the State Legislature passed an act establishing a state militia and obliging all other militia to obtain a license from the Governor. That December Lehr and Wehr Verein paraded 40 strong, armed with rifles. They were headed by Herman Presser a socialist worker armed with a saber. Presser was arrested, as the organization had no license.

As lawyers disputed whether the new law breached the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, Presser became a test case which proceeded through the Criminal Courts, via the Illinois Supreme Court to the Supreme Court of the United States. In each court his conviction was upheld and became known as Presser v. Illinois. The Lehr und Wehr Verein never again paraded in public.[1]


  1. ^ The Lehr und Wehr Verein, New York Times, 20 July 1886

Further reading[edit]

  • Christine Heiss, Der Lehr- und Wehr-Verein von Chicago, 1875-1887: Ein sozialgeschichtlichter Beitrag zur Radikalisierung deutscher Arbeiter in den USA (The Lehr und Wehr Verein: A social history of its contribution to the radicalization of German workers in the USA). Masters' dissertation. Munich: Ludwig-Maximilians University, 1981.
  • Paul LeBlanc, "Revolutionary Socialism in America, 1877-1887." Masters' seminar paper. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1979.

See also[edit]