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John Robert Bishop papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 152
The John Robert Bishop papers, 1951-1977 and undated, consists of four series: Personal papers, 1951-1977 and undated; American Nazi Party - Iowa papers, 1962-1976 and undated; American Nazi Party - national papers, 1951-1970 and undated; and Other papers, 1951-1969 and undated. Materials are in English and German.

The Personal papers series, 1951-1977 and undated, contains Bishop's personal correspondence, financial papers, and photographs. The American Nazi Party - Iowa papers series, 1962-1976 and undated, contains papers related to the operations of the Davenport, Iowa, unit of the party. This series includes correspondence, clippings, artwork, posters, and newsletters. The American Nazi Party - national papers series, 1951-1970 and undated, contains letters, printed material, and objects created by the national unit of the American Nazi Party. Other papers, 1951-1969 and undated, mostly consist of printed material and financial papers.

Dates

  • 1951-1977 and undated

Creator

Language of Materials

English and German

Conditions Governing Access

Material in box 2 closed to researchers for 75 years from date of creation. Redacted copies of these materials have been made available for access in box 1.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from Augustana College Special Collections and the copyright holder.

Extent

3.5 Linear Feet (/ 3 boxes and 1 oversize folder)

Overview

John Robert Bishop was born in 1926 and grew up in Clinton, Iowa, before moving to downtown Davenport, Iowa, where he worked as a television repairman. He is most notable for founding the American Nazi Party - Iowa unit in Davenport in the early 1960s. Bishop died in February 1985 in Davenport. The John Robert Bishop papers, 1951-1977 and undated, consists of four series: Personal papers, 1951-1977 and undated; American Nazi Party - Iowa papers, 1962-1976 and undated; American Nazi Party - national papers, 1951-1970 and undated; and Other papers, 1951-1969 and undated. Materials are in English and German.

Historical Note

John Robert Bishop Jr. was born in 1926 and grew up in Clinton, Iowa, before moving to downtown Davenport, Iowa, where he worked as a television repairman. His adoptive parents were John Robert Bishop Sr. (1889-1931) and Hazel Tiffany Bishop (1887-1957). He became interested in the American Nazi Party in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and wrote to the party's founder George Lincoln Rockwell expressing his loyalty in 1962. He aimed to establish a local unit of the party in Davenport, Iowa. He was also active in the foundation of another extremist group, the Christian Brotherhood, around the same time.

Bishop was officially accepted into the American Nazi Party on 1 April 1964 and began organizing a local unit, which he alternately called the American Nazi Party - Iowa Unit or the American Nazi Party - Tri-Cities Unit. In a 14 June 1965 issue of the Des Moines Register, Bishop stated that the Iowa unit's mission was to "enlighten the public by shock methods as to the internal menace of Communism." He began recruiting members to his organization almost immediately. He frequently wrote to party leaders in Virginia with recommendations for new members, and they often responded by sending him the names of people in the Quad Cities area who had recently ordered merchandise from their catalog, hoping he would reach out to them.

One of Bishop's most successful recruitment methods was his outreach to area student groups and businesses. In 1965, he spoke in favor of the American Nazi Party before a student group at the University of Iowa, which likely spurred the flurry of letters he received from young people in the Iowa City area interested in joining his unit. A year later, he again traveled to the University of Iowa to speak to the engineering faculty, urging them to take steps to combat Communism. In 1966, Bishop offered the assistance of the Iowa unit in providing physical protection to the Western Iowa Pork Company during a strike.

In June 1969, Bishop was arrested and charged with conspiring to pass one million dollars in counterfeit bills through the American Nazi Party. He entered a plea of guilty in exchange for a probation sentence, and largely disappeared from public life after 1970. Bishop died with no surviving relatives on 16 February 1985.

The national headquarters of the American Nazi Party was founded in 1959 by George Lincoln Rockwell in Arlington, Virginia. The organization was originally called the World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists, but Rockwell changed the name in 1960 to generate more media attention. Members were referred to as "Storm Troopers" and occasionally dressed in outfits modeled after World War II German Sturmabteilung uniforms.

In the late 1960s, after living in poverty for many years, Rockwell decided to reorganize the American Nazi Party as a legitimate political party and tone down some of its more extremist views. He renamed the organization the National Socialist White People's Party in 1967 and began to implement ideological reforms that alienated many of the party's members. In August 1967, Rockwell was assassinated by a disgruntled party member.

Matt Koehl, Rockwell's second in command, took his place as commander of the party following his death. However, Koehl experienced trouble reuniting the party, as many members had become dissatisfied with the party following Rockwell's reforms, and many splinter factions had formed. The party continued to experience ideological divisions, and membership declined throughout the 1970s, especially after Koehl attempted to recast the group as a religious order and disbanded the Storm Troopers in 1979. The group continued to disintegrate throughout the 1980s, with Koehl's faction calling themselves the New Order and going underground.

Arrangement

Materials are arranged chronologically within folders. Original folder order and folder titles have been maintained.

Custodial History

Received from the Rock Island Fire Department, March 1986.

Related Materials

MSS 156 Peter Beckman teaching collection

Processing Information

Processed by Samantha Crisp, March 2015. Updated by Samantha Crisp, December 2016.
Title
John Robert Bishop papers, 1951-1977 and undated.
Status
completed
Author
Samantha Crisp
Date
March 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Augustana College Special Collections Repository

Contact:
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Thomas Tredway Library
Rock Island Illinois 61201 United States