Just after noon on September 16, 1920, as hundreds of workers poured onto Wall Street for their lunchtime break, a horse-drawn cart packed with dynamite exploded in a spray of metal and fire, turning the busiest corner of the financial center into a war zone. Thirty-nine people died and hundreds more lay wounded, making the Wall Street explosion the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history until the Oklahoma City bombing.
In The Day Wall Street Exploded, Beverly Gage tells the story of that once infamous but now largely forgotten event. Based on thousands of pages of Bureau of Investigation reports, this historical detective saga traces the four-year hunt for the perpetrators, a worldwide effort that spread as far as Italy and the new Soviet nation. It also gives readers the decades-long but little-known history of homegrown terrorism that helped to shape American society a century ago. The book delves into the lives of victims, suspects, and investigators: world banking power J.P. Morgan, Jr.; labor radical "Big Bill" Haywood; anarchist firebrands Emma Goldman and Luigi Galleani; "America's Sherlock Holmes," William J. Burns; even a young J. Edgar Hoover. It grapples as well with some of the most controversial events of its day, including the rise of the Bureau of Investigation, the federal campaign against immigrant "terrorists," the grassroots effort to define and protect civil liberties, and the establishment of anti-communism as the sine qua non of American politics.
Many Americans saw the destruction of the World Trade Center as the first major terrorist attack on American soil, an act of evil without precedent. The Day Wall Street Exploded reminds us that terror, too, has a history.
Praise for the hardcover:
--New York Times Book Review
"Ms. Gage is a storyteller...she leaves it to her readers to draw their own connections as they digest her engaging narrative."
--The New York Times
"Brisk, suspenseful and richly documented"
--The Chicago Tribune
"An uncommonly intelligent, witty and vibrant account. She has performed a real service in presenting such a complicated case in such a fair and balanced way."
--San Francisco Chronicle
On September 16, 1920, 81 years before 9/11, America experienced its first modern terrorist attack, a car bomb in the heart of New York's financial district that killed dozens, injured hundreds and was never solved. Writer and historian Gage presents a gripping account of class war and violence during the turn of the 20th century with deep resonance in the current state of the Union. A long time coming, 1919 saw a series of strikes sweep the country-including policemen, steel workers, miners, and a five-day general strike in Seattle-accompanied by a bombing campaign; 30 mail bombs were sent to prominent financiers, industrialists, and politicians in April 1919 alone. FBI director William J. Flynn, head of the Wall Street bombing investigation, believed members of an anti-capitalist anarchist sect were to blame, and sought unsuccesfully to condemn them with flimsy evidence (prompting muckraker Upton Sinclair to label Flynn a "self interested liar"). Weaving the story of the explosion and botched investigation with a masterful account of labor unrest over preceding decades, this is a highly relevant, hard to put down history of terror and civil liberties in America.