In the years leading up to the United States’s entry into World War I, Dr. Addison Lysander Lincecum (1874-1965) was occupied as the Assistant Health Officer for the state of Texas. In 1917, if not earlier, Dr. Lincecum began receiving odd and unsolicited letters from a man named Oscar J. Mayer. Mr. Mayer purported himself to be a physician in Tampico, Mexico.
The letters were suspicious enough to Dr. Lincecum that he reported them to the FBI (known then as the Bureau of Investigation). Dr. Mayer was looked into as being “very pro-German,” but his ties to Mexico at the time likely didn’t go unnoticed. Some background –
The Tampico Affair began as a minor incident involving U.S. sailors and Mexican land forces loyal to Mexican dictator General Victoriano Huerta during the…Mexican Revolution. A misunderstanding occurred on April 9, 1914, but developed into a breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries. As a result, the United States invaded the port city of Veracruz, occupying it for more than six months…
…In January 1917, Germany sent the so-called Zimmermann Telegram, which implied that a Mexican alliance with Germany against the US would result in Mexico regaining territory taken from it by the US in prior wars and that Germany’s forthcoming unrestricted submarine warfare campaign would guarantee defeat of the British and French. The British interception of Zimmermann’s telegram and the German unrestricted submarine warfare against US merchant ships, soon afterward, were effectively both final justifications that President Wilson needed to request a declaration of war against Germany, in April 1917.
Anti-American sentiment in Mexico from the Tampico incident was the chief reason that the government kept Mexico neutral in World War I. Mexico refused to participate with the US military excursion in Europe and granted full guaranties to German companies for keeping their operations open, specifically in Mexico City.– From Tampico Affair via Wikipedia.org
Text of first report in the case file:
Report Made By: Erby E. Swift
Place Report Made: Laredo, Texas
Title of Case and Offense: Dr. Oscar J. Mayer / German Matter
At Laredo Texas:
If the number of unfavorable reports partly substantiated count for anything, the man listed in above caption is certainly playing a highhanded game of intrigue.
The Military, Immigration, Health and Customs Depts. have all stated to me that they believe Dr. Mayer is very pro-German. Dr. A. L. Lincecum, Asst. State Health Officer while here recently stated to me that he was actually afraid of the man as he was making from one to five trips monthly into the states from Tampico Mexico without apparent reason. That he writes him (Lincecum) letters of such a nature that if they were read by anyone it would be thought that he was an intimate personal and professional friend, while he hardly knows the man and has no business relations with him whatsoever. That these letters are written from all points in Mexico and the U.S. and refer to Colonization, Health, friendly meeting etc. and that he cannot explain such uncalled for letters except that Mayer is doing it with intent to make him a ‘goat.’
Attached to special Agent in Charge Barnes’ copy of this report are two original letters which Dr. Lincecum sent me as samples with the request that I bring them to the notice of the Dept. I will only quote one which I must admit certainly has an unusual compostition in view of the statement of Dr. Lincecum that he has no relations of any nature to in any way justify such mystifying letters which infer decided intimacy between the two. The one letter reads as follows:
Monterrey, Mexico, May 24th, 1917.
Dr. A. L. Lincecum, Asst. State Health Officer, Austin Texas.
My Dear Doctor: Just to tell you that I am on my way to Mexico City where I will stay some 3-7 days. I may then have to go to Washington or return to Laredo prior to going back to Tampico. I will keep you informed so you are posted. Trusting you are attending to our mutual interests, I am, with best regards.
Yours very truly,
OSCAR J. MAYER”
In the other letter attached written from New York and date June 16th, last he informs the Dr. Lincecum that he is in Washington on matters of great interest about which he will acquaint him (Lincecum) when he seems him etc.
Lincecum assures me that the letters are absolutely unwarranted in their freedom of expression, apparent familiarity and the appearance of professional relations and that he believes this man Mayer may be simply using him as a protection.
Dr. Mayer is at all time interested in all Germans detained at the Detention Quarters of the Immigration. While he claims to have only a benevolent interest I distrust him as does every person who knows him.
His unwarranted letters to Dr. Lincecum, his too frequent trips to our cities of New York, Washington etc. from Tampico where he is simply a physician, his general appearance and the many reports from Tampico as to his anti-american stand there at which place he is the official physician of the German interned sailors causes me to consider him as up to dangerous work which he is “putting over” in a very delicate manner.
He crossed to Mexico through this port yesterday and will return soon. It is possible that more would be gained by closely watching him than in searching as he would be more apt at seeing someone than in carrying papers etc. Could I have instructions regarding him?
About 10 months later, another report was written on the subject of Dr. Oscar J. Mayer, Pro German Suspect, and his relationship with A. L. Lincecum, who had recently been called into active military service:
Report Made By: R. W. Tinsley
Place Report Made: San Antonio, Tex.
Date: April 27, 1918
Title of Case and Offense: IN RE: DR. OSCAR J. MAYER / PRO GERMAN SUSPECT
At San Antonio, Texas.
The following information from A. L. Lincecum, Capt. E.R.C. Co. 9, 3rd Battalion, Camp Greenleaf, Chickamauga Park, Ga, dated April 25, 1918, has been received at this office:
“In reply to your request for information as to the whereabouts of Dr. Oscar J. Mayer, formerly of Tampico, Mexico, I will state that I have heard nothing from or of him since last July or possibly August first. The last correspondence I had from him I sent to Mr. Swift by D. H. C. Hall of Laredo, Texas. I was in Tampico in September 1917, but Dr. Mayer was not there. Harry Greer of Tampico thought your department possibly had him in charge at that time. Dr. Mayer’s wife resides in San Francisco, and her brother in Chicago, so Mayer told me. My suspicions were first aroused by his scheme to colonise American-German farmers in the state of Vera Cruz adjacent to the oil bearing territory. He then began to wire me of his moves in Mexico and the U. S. Those telegrams I could find I sent to Mr. Swift.”
Copies of this report are being furnished the New York Office and Major Barnes, Intelligence Officer, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for their information.
The file contains further information about the searching for Dr. Mayer in New York. He was not located, but his brother Adolph was. Adolph claimed Dr. Mayer had been in New York, but left “several months ago” and “returned to Tampico, Mexico, where he is practicing medicine. At the same time [June 1918] he is engaged in selling oil lands around Tampico to people in the United States. About one and half years ago he was conducting some money transactions between the United States and Tampico, Mexico. This fact aroused suspicion and he went personally to Washington, where he succeeded to prove that the money belonged to people who bought property in Mexico…No other information is obtainable in this City at present.”
And so ends the file.
After the war, Dr. Lincecum continued to practice medicine in Texas. He died 6 December 1965 at Lavaca County. Visit Dr. Addison Lysander Lincecum’s page in the Lincecum Lineage database.
Mexico and the World Wars:
The History of Germany’s Efforts
to Involve Mexico in World War I
and World War II
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