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Book Name: The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror

Author: Beverly Gage

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Overall Rating: (4.25/5) View all reviews (total 24 reviews)
Description

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 to that point in U.S. history. InThe Day Wall Street Exploded, Beverly Gage tells the story of that once infamous but now largely forgotten event.Take a Look at Wall Street Political CartoonsPolitical cartoons in 1920 reflected public perceptions of the attack on Wall Street and its aftermath. Cartoonists directed their satire towards the villains of the age: communists, anarchists, and--according to one cartoonist--greedy employers. These images are featured in the decorative endpapers ofThe Day Wall Street Exploded. (Click on any image to enlarge).SolidarityDecember 17, 1921New York Daily NewsSeptember 17, 1920Chicago TribuneDate Unknown

Reviews

Terror Before 9/11

by Andrew Desmond
(3/5)

It is often said that history repeats itself. Certainly, this thought came to me as I read Beverly Gage's "The Day Wall Street Exploded".On 16 September, 1920, a huge explosion rocked Wall Street. A horse and cart carrying a load of dynamite detonated during the lunch hour killing 39 people and maiming many more. No, 9/11 has not been America's first brush with mass terrorism.At the time, blame was focussed upon anarchists who, unquestionably, had form. Indeed, less than a generation earlier, it was an anarchist who assassinated President McKinley. Anarchists were also responsible for the death of a Russian Czar and numerous other European heads of state. How could they not be blamed for this most recent outrage?Yet, for all the huffing and puffing, no perpetrator was located. Many came under suspicion, but to none could blame be sheeted.Beverley Gage is to be commended for bringing the bomb of 1920 back to public attention again. However, her writing style leaves a bit to be desired. Unfortunately, I found it rather terse, perhaps even academic. Nonetheless, do not let this criticism persuade the reader from not attempting the book. It remains highly insightful.Finally, anarchists have disappeared from the scene. The new foe is militant Islam. I am not for a minute trying to make light of this new threat. It only goes to show how little is truly new in history.


Timely reminder of a forgotten crime

by Andrew S. Rogers
(4/5)

As it becomes more apparent that America's "war on terror" really may be the generational conflict some commentators were predicting shortly after September 11, perhaps historians' minds are turning more to similar periods of uncertainty and generalized threat in American life? It would seem that way, given that a few months ago saw the release ofAmerican Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century, Howard Blum's well-done re-introduction to us of the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910, and now we have Beverly Gage's "The Day Wall Street Exploded," about a violent attack on America's financial center a decade later. While it might be too much to call "The Day..." a sequel of sorts to the earlier book, the two could certainly be two volumes in a series, and it works well to read the two together. Many of the same personalities appear in each, and the fundamental movements and trends at work -- labor unrest, financial centralization, fear of immigrants and radicals -- are at work in both. People interested in one of these books will certainly want to check out the other.Gage has done a fine job here with research and reporting. She is somewhat less willing than Blum was to try to interpret her subjects' thoughts and motivations, but her ability to tell her story does not suffer because of this. For a look at this earlier, almost forgotten, period of "terror" in American life (or certain parts of it, anyway), "The Day Wall Street Exploded" is not only a worthwhile resource to turn to, but one with some obvious current application as well.


reads like a textbook

by Anonymous
(3/5)

Don't get me wrong, the story is interesting. It is just a slow and tedious read. I can't quite put my finger on it other than the writing is just very dry. So many back stories and facts are presented and the timelines jump around a bit it was hard for me to keep straight what was happening when, and sometimes even why it was relevent to the day in question. Really, it seems like it is more of a history of the union politics and 'terrorist' tactics that were used to gain rights for workers than a focus on that particular day. It seems the book would have been a bit more successful in addressing it from that direction and leading up to events of that day instead of going back and forth, trying to tie everything together in a haphazard way. That being said, I learned quite a bit from this narrative and feel that it presents a side of American history that certainly wasn't taught in any of my history classes. I would say it is worth the read, just be prepared for it to take some dedication to finish!


A thorough historical recap of what is essentially a forgotten major terrorist act

by Charles Ashbacher
(5/5)

In the aftermath of the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center by terrorist acts, it is easy to forget that terrorism has a long and convoluted history in the United States. For decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, foreign-born individuals came to the United States and planted bombs to further their social, economic and political agendas. A great deal of this activity was intertwined with the labor movement as it fought a vicious battle with the wealthy class. Thousands of workers were killed in preventable industrial accidents each year and workers were determined to force the ownership class to make changes in salary, hours and the workplace environment.The anarchists and other advocates of violence were largely Italian or Eastern European in heritage and legal measures to keep people from those areas from immigrating to the United States were enacted in the early 1920's. Much of what was done then was repeated after September 11, 2001 only then the legal measures were aimed at people from the Middle East.It is surprising that the events of September 16, 1920 are not more widely known. For on that day, a horse-drawn cart packed with explosives exploded on Wall Street in New York City. The blast killed 39 people and wounded hundreds more, some of them very seriously. It was one of the major events in a campaign by radicals and anarchists to upset the economic structure and wrest additional rights from the owners. However, no group ever took credit and the crime was never solved. Even today, as Gage points out, there is no group or persons that can definitively be tagged as "likely suspects."Gage does an excellent job in providing the historical context for the blast, spending a great deal of time explaining the industrial conditions of the period. In most places they were very harsh, working conditions were often atrocious and the owners found it easier to simply hire another worker to replace one injured or killed. Workers that could no longer earn a living were given little or nothing in the way of workman's compensation. In fact, the owners hired their own mercenaries to battle with workers when they proved too unruly. There were sometimes events that could only be described as small wars when the two sides battled for control. At one point, striking workers even commandeered a plane and dropped bombs on strikebreaking workers.Students of history will also recognize this event and the aftermath as the beginning of the rise of J. Edgar Hoover to control of the F.B.I., a position that he retained until his death. This is a point that is not lost on Gage. The book is a fascinating account of what should be considered a major event in American history, for in many ways it was the last of the major industrial terrorist acts. As the 1920's began in full, the country began moving forward into the era of consumerism and in the words of President Calvin Coolidge, "The business of America is business."


More for academics.

by Dick Johnson
(4/5)

Before reading this book, I knew little about the events portrayed. I now know much more. The title is a bit misleading. The sub-title "A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror" is really what the book is about. Beginning in the mid-1800's and extending for nearly a century, we receive the author's presentation of acts of terror leading up to the one day in New York. "The Day Wall Street Explodes" receives the main treatment, but all the build up receives way too much space. In my opinion the two titles should be swapped.Apparently this book is being marketed as a "popular history" book rather than a textbook. The problem is that it reads more like a dissertation than a book intended for the general reader who might have some interest in the subject. In the back there are four pages listing the "Abbreviations Used In Notes" followed by over forty pages of small print notes.While the author generally presents things in a chronological order, there are too many jumps forward and backward to keep the various events easily in mind. People involved come and go and reappear and get intermingled with numerous other players. The introduction of one of the original anarchists describes his entry into the US, but it isn't for several pages that we learn, kind of, where he arrived from (and it is germane to the story).The academic treatment is worthy of five stars; but the lack of readability puts it at best two to three stars.Unless you want minutiae, you would be better served by doing an internet search for the Wall Street bombing of 1920. A few pages of reading will give you the background, main event and conclusion to the September 16, 1920 explosion in New York.


An explosion on Wall Street

by Forrest Wildwood "Phil"
(5/5)

Beverly Gage writes an interesting history regarding a little know incident of an explosion that happened on September 16, 1920 on Wall and Broad streets. Damaging buildings and killing 38 people ( her back page said 39 but I could only count 38 on the list of known dead). This was either a anarchist attack on the Capitalist House of Morgan or merely an explosive accident from illegally moving dynamite into the business district. Either way "something had no lawful business there." More than merely a sleuthing who done it, the Wall street explosion, as it came to be known, became a catalyst on class struggle between labor, management, democracy and socialism. In the pursuit of an answer, civil rights were trampled on and justice was at times blinded by fear, hatred and bigotry. The explosion would become a curse to anyone trying to plum its' causes. Attorney General Palmer, of the infamous Palmer Raids,would tangle himself up in anarchist deportation and Bureau Chief Burns would crumbled between promises of reform and unreliable informants. Riding out the storm would be the eventual venerable Bureau Chief J. Edgar Hoover. My favorite chapter in the book is chapter 14 Triple Cross. It was a great summing up of a lot of the problems that the newly formed FBI would face in trying to find creditable answers to the mystery and how this pursuit created larger social injustices. Gage states that The Wall Street explosion would not be surpassed until 1995 when Timothy McVeigh would blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Several democratic challenges came out of the Wall Street explosion. It ironically help establish the Communist Party as the "defining organization of revolutionary left" as many of the anarchist groups were eliminated. Instead of deporting radicals, immigration quotas were imposed on certain groups and countries. Union movements become more paramount and were resolving their "right to exist" issues. Finally, the shifting in the relationship between business and government with the influence business has on private and public policy. What she shows in this book is the 1920's remarkable fusing of the financial banking power and the workings of the American government.Gage has done her homework here. This is one of those examination of a historical moment that delves down under the surface to reveal the shock of inequities and indignities that occurred when a terrorizing incident is pursued to far without definitive answers. It is also a great look at revolutionary labor terrorism and how it it has basically vanished from public memory today being replaced with better labor/management relationships. Well worth the read and addition to the history shelf.


Interesting Look at Forgotten History

by Frederick S. Goethel "wildcatcreekbooks"
(4/5)

This book provides an in depth and interesting look into a dark chapter in American history that is too often forgotten. This is a subject that is little covered in school history books and curriculum, but is an important piece of history we should all learn.Generally well written, although at times dense, this book is a good read for serious students of history.


Radicalism, socialism, and communism at the turn of the century

by J. Green
(2/5)

It's pretty much been forgotten but on September 16, 1920 Wall Street was the site of an explosion that killed 39 and injured hundreds. While it was widely believed to have been a terrorist attack at the time (likely by radicals of some type) no one was ever brought to justice, and some thought it might simply have been an accident.This book starts out very strong. Ms. Gage briefly paints a picture of the importance of the banking industry and it's stabilizing influence in the economy. Then she presents the flip side of that immense creation of wealth, and discusses the working class and their dismal conditions - 12 hour workdays, frequent on-the-job accidents, and the harsh crackdowns on striking workers. I once had a labor economics professor who said that if a company treated it's employees so poorly that they unionized, that company deserved it, and this point was illustrated perfectly in the book. After that brief setting of the stage she moves on to a riveting account of the bombing itself. All this is very promising and happens in about 25 pages. Unfortunately it turns immediately dull as she goes back to the 1880s to discuss in very dry and boring detail the history of labor radicalism in America. This lasts for another hundred pages or so until she returns to the bombing - or rather to the investigation of the bombing, and every wrong turn and dead end made by the many agencies involved.I felt obligated to finish this book and had to force myself, thinking there would be some sort of conclusion at the end. But there wasn't, and maybe if I'd known that up front I might have appreciated the history better. There's a lot of detailed information but it comes off like a boring and tedious textbook. I usually like this type of history (and I'm surprised at all the positive reviews so far) but for me this was a chore to read. Plus, I don't know if it was intentional or not by Ms. Gage, but I couldn't help but feel that comparisons were being drawn with the Sept 11 terrorist attack and the failure to adequately deal with the threat of Al Qaeda. If so, some of the conclusions expressed at the end about just forgetting about it and moving on seem rather calloused.


An interesting book

by Kurt A. Johnson
(4/5)

Right at noon, on September 16, 1920, an explosion occurred in the center of Wall Street, in New York City, right between J.P. Morgan Bank and the U.S. Treasury. In this interesting book, author and professor of U.S. history, Beverly Gage, puts the explosion into the context of early twentieth century America. Much of the book focuses on labor relations in the U.S., and the Leftist organizations that arose as a consequence of the labor unrest that plagued the country.Overall, I found this to be an interesting book. Now, it must be admitted that the book did tend to drag a little in the middle, with the story of America labor relations being told in a somewhat turgid manner. But, even though the explosion itself is largely forgotten today, the whole labor situation brought about the Red Scares, the rise of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, and so much more. So, I do think that this is quite an interesting book, with a lot of facts and little-known history in it, and I do recommend it.


Conversational Historical, Yet Antiquarian, Discourse on America's Early Age of Terror

by Kyle Slayzar
(4/5)

With terrorism as a seemingly contemporary issue and therefore recent, it is difficult to find any genuine analysis written on the subject beyond haphazard commentaries from political candidates, pundits, and news anchor blowhards. However, many in the American public, and even in academe, seem to forget that terrorism is not a recent concept in American history; the media and generational gap just make it seem as such.Enter Beverly Gage's new book, "The Day Wall Street Exploded" ("The Day" for short).Gage, a professor from Yale, painstakingly researched (or had her graduate students do it for credit) and analyzed multiple primary sources to bring forth a comprehensive history of terrorism in the early 20th century using the 1920 Wall Street Bombing as a lynchpin. Granted the main emphasis is the bombing itself, however, Gage spends quite an amount of space analyzing terrorism at that time.I was impressed at Gage's bibliography, which was almost 50 pages long, as she utilized good primary sources such as public speeches, newspaper articles at the time, investigative notes, etc. etc. and did not fall into the trap of intellectual laziness and rely on secondary sources. Many historians have fallen into this trap as popular history outlets such as the History Channel have made it more demanding for historians to make good products faster and flashier, placing academic discipline on the backburner. Kudos to Gage there.Gage also masterfully places the topics in a comprehensive chronological order. However, most chronological histories fall under the academic category of just another history or an antiquarian text. While such texts are fascinating reads, they fail to address any historical questions beyond who, what, where, when, and why to a certain extent, but do not address "so what?" In her introduction, Gage says one purpose of The Day was to "rediscover the genuine drama of class conflict in the United States," which is fine by a Marxist historical (NOT POLITICAL) standard but still fails to address why we need to know about this event.Now, before you all turn on me, lemme say where Gage redeems herself. Gage also mentions that this has been an ongoing project since before 9/11 and the modern context of the War on Terror and placing it in a modern context become much more complicated after 2001. Amidst the country feigning fear of terrorism as many of us thought terrorism in the US was a new thing, Gage begged to prove otherwise. Fair enough. It is true that public memory is as fresh as a day old soda and we do need to be reminded that certain things, that freak us out, are not new concept such as high gas prices. However, by doing this, Gage then opens up a new can of worms.Gage then focuses on stating how terrorism is not new because Wall Street exploded almost a century ago. This, by itself, is not a bad thing and Gage tries to briefly discuss other acts of terrorism in the US such as the anarchist rampages in the 1880s, but then calls those the first terrorist acts in Part II. This is inaccurate as there had been several acts of terrorism in the US such as Quantrill's Raid, John Brown, and the Nat Turner Rebellion (which was, by definition, terrorism), all occurred decades earlier. It doesn't help that Gage does not define terrorism, but portrays it as horrific acts of violence against the masses. However, this part is marginal to the overall narrative. I also have to respectfully disagree with many of Gage's assertions from the US' involvement in WWI, but this review is long enough.My last criticism to Gage is her nearly conversational tone. She tends to use a more lax language compared to most, which almost leads into conversational, but not quite. She seems to have spent more time researching and analyzing than writing, which is understandable.All in all, The Day is a great read but still fails to prove itself in the greater historical discourse beyond "a great drama."


Terrorist on Wall Street

by M. A. Ramos
(5/5)

September 11, 2001 is a day no American will forget, especially if you lived in the city of New York. That is what we all say and believe when these horrible acts happen. But how many remember the terrorist bombing on Wall Street that happened in 1920. It is in our nature to forget the bad and put it out of our mind, even if it takes a century to do so. Since the invention of dynamite there has always been acts of terror by anarchist that have done great damage to large amounts of people and property. Of course terrorism in one form or another has always existed in every situation, but dynamite allowed a "common man" to do a great deal of damage.So yes we do forget these horrible events and are forced too relive history. Though this book starts off with the 1920 Wall Street Bombing and the not so thorough investigation of the bombing is an ongoing theme for the book. The author has really chosen to use this large bombing to write social structure of the anarchist against every government in the world and communist parties against the U.S Government all with the socialist trying to not be associated with there violent actions and stay a viable political party. And shows how most of the anarchist where originally deported from Russia and Europe to the Land of the Free through New York.New York then as now is considered the heart, even if symbolically, of Capitalism. So that seems to always be the target of terrorist when they feel they want to strike at the U.S.A. Regardless of year. It shows then as now politicians tried to use this tragedy where we have the loss of innocent lives for political gain.Gage does a very thorough job on relating the history of terrorism in the United States that occurred in the late 1800's that that lead up to the 1920 Wall Street bombing. I feel I should tell you I love reading history books and found this one quite compelling. Though she is writing about a complex event that took place almost a century ago it read as if we were following the events in real time. She goes into some great detail though I am sorry to say many references had to come from News paper clippings; and as we know all papers have their own agenda. As is needed in this kind of book, the author has gone to great extent to document her book with footnotes. I would expect no less from any history book from Oxford Press.I enjoyed reading this work of good scholarly writing. But if you are not use to reading books by historians you may find it a little hard to read. And though the book is about the bombing and the investigation, it could be subtitled 'A Study of the Socialist and Anarchist movement in the early part of the 20th century'. All in all I enjoyed the book and its attention to detail.


A New York bombing in a bygone era

by Mark Klobas
(3/5)

The Wall Street bombing of September 16, 1920, is an excellent example of the vicissitudes of historical memory. A dramatic terrorist event that captured the nation's attention, it subsequently receded to little more than a footnote before the September 11 World Trade Center attacks once more revived public interest. Today's reader probably cannot help but view the Wall Street bombing through the perspective of modern events, yet in her introduction, Beverley Gage states that her interest in the earlier attack predated 9/11, being stimulated not just by the relative paucity of awareness of it but in the reaction of a much different time to the event.It is this perspective which informs her approach. Beginning with a description of the events of September 16, she proceeds to set up a background for the bombing, describing the decades-long experience Americans of that time had with explosive-fueled terrorism. Left-wing radicals instigated much of this terrorism, and her book spends several chapters describing this history. Though the history she describes is interesting, the Wall Street bombing gets lost in these pages, only returning when Gage turns to the ultimately fruitless investigation of the event, an investigation that dominates the remainder of the book.Gage's book offers a good summary of the history of the Wall Street bombing, one that serves as a reminder of how much the nation has changed over the course of the century. Yet ultimately it feels incomplete, partly because the question of who was responsible for the bombing has never been answered, but also because Gage's effort to provide context distracts from the event itself. Nevertheless, for anyone seeking to learn about the New York City bombing of a bygone era, this is the book to read.


The First Time Wall Street Exploded Provides a Window on a Turbulent Era.

by mirasreviews
(5/5)

"The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror", true to its subtitle, tells a complex, dramatic story of the socio-political climate in which a bomb exploded on September 16, 1920 at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway in New York City, killing 38 people and maiming more. Historian Beverly Gage uses this act of violence, one of the last notable terrorist acts of the four-decades-long conflict between labor and capital in United States, and the efforts to find the perpetrators to explore the later years of the great class conflict that seemed poised to consume the nation during the Gilded Age. The few years between the US entrance into World War I and the Roaring Twenties were the end of an era, and that bloody explosion between the J.P. Morgan Bank and the Treasury became the climax of the labor-capital conflict before an economic boom and labor reform put out the fire of that particular political war.The labor-capital conflicts of the 1880s-1920s brought on the longest and most pervasive "age of terror" in American history, but the abolitionist-inspired violence of the 1850s-1860s has the distinction of being the first, to my mind. Nevertheless, the radicals of the labor-capital conflict were the first to use explosives, setting hundreds of bombs in their quest to leverage the cause of a workforce that toiled long hours in dangerous conditions for barely subsistence wages and met with violent resistance whenever they attempted to organize. This dissatisfaction was fodder, not only for progressives and socialists, but also for more radical and revolutionary syndicalists, Wobblies, communists, and anarchists, who believed in "propaganda by deed" and a literal war on the "capitalist class". The author distinguishes these groups of people by their actions and ideologies, providing an overview of the radical Left at a time of great economic and social change.Against that background, the investigations into the Wall Street bombing proceed. We're introduced to the detectives: William J. Flynn, chief of the Bureau of Investigation at the time of the bombing. Private investigator William J. Burns, who would later head the Bureau. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the General Intelligence Division and second under Burns. Arthur Woods, former NYC police commissioner and founder of the city's bomb squad. Embattled Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, famous for his deportation raids on foreign-born radicals. Basically, Flynn's Bureau suspected Italian anarchists, and Burns' suspected Russian-backed communists. In trying to understand one monstrous crime, the author touches on the major points behind the civil unrest of the era: abused and angry laborers, leftist ideologues, revolutionary politics, anti-Italian sentiment, and the question of the degree to which fear and persecution may have been justified, or not.


Anarchy in the USA

by MJS "Constant Reader"
(5/5)

Why couldn't Beverly Gage have been my high school history teacher? Don't get me wrong, I had some great history teachers but never a great American History teacher and if this book is any indication, Beverly Gage is a great teacher.Gage tells a forgotten or, at least in my case, unknown part of American History about time when labor and business seemed locked in a battle to the death. This isn't a story of Wall Street. It is a story of class war, of labor versus big business, about immigrants versus natives, about haves versus have-nots, about people who've been thrown out or fled their homelands and came to America hoping to continue their fight against oppression. Oppression wasn't in short supply. It takes a bit of effort to envision a time when work could, literally, kill you; when a day off probably meant you'd been injured on the job. Fighting for better pay and working conditions sometimes meant literally fighting. On occasion business owners fought back with guns. On fewer occasions, more militant workers returned the favor via dynamite.Against this background, an explosion on Wall Street wasn't as surprising as it might first seem. Wall Street, especially J. P. Morgan, was seen as being the power behind big business. There was no shortage of suspects or suspect groups. Gage follows the threads of these suspects going back to the Haymarket explosion to the "first" anarchist to hit our shores (Johann Most) to the Wobblies and Big Bill Hayward, Emma Goldman, and one time presidential candidate and federal inmate Eugene Debs. She then moves on to the law side of the story with various agencies, police departments and the nascent Bureau of Investigation all trying to track to answer the question of who did it and why.This is not a mystery story nor is it true crime - you won't find a satisfying answer to the question above, for instance. What you will find is a very satisfying story of anarchist and Socialists in the United States in the early part of the 20th Century. This is an informative, entertaining book that is a must for anyone interested in American history.


The Wall Street explosion story -- Brilliantly written! (details)

by Patrick W. Crabtree "The Old Grottomaster"
(5/5)

World War I had run its course and America was just returning to some much-desired domestic bliss... but then Wall Street blew up!In 1866 Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. This singular invention came to change world politics forever. Fifty-four years later, at lunchtime on September 16th, 1920, a wagonload of explosives was detonated in front of the House of Morgan (bank) on Wall Street in New York City. The chaos and carnage was widespread and ghastly. 38 people were killed and over a hundred were badly injured, many losing arms and legs. Due to the preceding mass deportations of Italian anarchists from the United States it was this ethnic group which was chiefly suspected of engineering and executing the plot.A few nationally famous investigators promptly gravitated to the scene of the horror and each man competed for jurisdiction in the case, each with his personal agenda and specific reasons for wanting to solve the crime. The son of J.P. "Jack" Morgan, Junius Spencer Morgan, was meeting with associates in his family's bank when the bomb detonated and while he suffered a number of lacerations, he still rushed to the aid of others in the bank who were more egregiously injured, even though Junius and his family were hardly viewed by the American people as humanitarian personalities -- rather, along with their financial peers they were more often characterized as Robber Barons and this opinion was markedly asserted by organized labor groups and subversives. And it probably speaks directly to the point to observe that, at the specific direction of the local financial movers and shakers (such as the Morgan family), the street was entirely cleared of rubble and cleanly swept by the following morning and the only remaining signs of the explosion were the pock-marked concrete facades and number of empty window frames to which the hustling glaziers had yet to attend.So while there were many players in this sojourn of terror, the essential principals were clearly the detectives, the financial elite, the politicians, and the subversives who came from various factions including labor organizations, socialists, communists, and anarchists. The suspects were equally of assorted nationalities including Italians (mostly), Americans, Germans, Russians, and finally as World War II arrived, even the Japanese!While it may sound strange to us today, the overwhelming single dilemma which the detectives faced was trying to identify the responsible faction. Nowadays terrorists can hardly wait for the bomb to explode before claiming responsibility but it was not that way in 1920. I clearly recall on 9-11-01 while on vacation in Vermont and saying to some folks who were standing nearby, (even before the second plane had flown into the South Tower), "Well, we'll be invading Afghanistan before the week is out." My point is that we now have little difficulty in determining who the bad guys are subsequent to attacks such as this -- even lay people like me are often quite aware of both the terrorist signature and their home base.Author Beverly Gage's book goes on to detail the various investigations as well as the prior activities of many of the ultimate suspects. Gage additionally provides strong context in the form of obliquely related incidents of the period including, but not limited to: Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter's concern over civil liberties trampling by the authorities; the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia; World War I; national, presidential, and regional political activity; the assassination of President McKinley; the impacts of the media and of subversive propaganda; robber baron [my term] philosophy; and other anarchist-related activity including the Chicago Haymarket bombing (this is a fictional account but still terrific:The Bomb.), the Los Angeles Times explosion, and the Sacco-Vanzetti robbery-murder trial (here's a superb book about this famous case:The Black Flag: A Look Back at the Strange Case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.)I'm a Social Science major and, after reading just a few pages, I immediately recognized this book as a distinctive manuscript of history -- and a fine one too. The entire work is copiously detailed and well-documented with 47 pages of reference notes at the end of the text, all in very small fonts! But the author did not permit the details of her research to cloud the readability of the text. If this book doesn't precisely read like a great novel it at least measures up with a darn good one - it's undeniably a page-turner. The reader is empowered to take on the story - the action is not just somewhere way back in time. I'm 54 now and my father was born four days after this bomb exploded so, with that in mind and additionally armed with Gage's terrific writing style, I was able to solidly connect with this not-so-well-known event.The advance reading copy of the book is 381 pages in length. The regular First Edition is also slated to contain 40 or so black-and-white photos which will emphatically punctuate the text. If you harbor the slightest interest in early 20th Century American history then you'll very likely find this book as compelling as any comparable works which you may have read to date.Highly recommended!


Terror in America

by Paul Gelman "PAUL Y. GELMAN"
(4/5)

The book is about the terror attack on one of the American temples of Mammon,namely: the Stock Exchange on Wall Street.It is well-researched and interesting,providing a panoramic view on the origins of anarchism in the USA, and the procedure of invetigations led by the FBI.However,the first third is too long and could have been offered in one long chapter rather than discussing almost each anarchist in detail.I recommend this book to those who do not have the faintest idea about how anarchism worked in the USA.There are many parallels to be found between those days and today,although one must caution the reader about the different backgrounds which were responsible for the 1920 unsolved mystery and the 9/11 bombings.


Recalling a significant but little known chapter in American history.

by Paul Tognetti "The real world is so much more...
(5/5)

"As it grew, New York had become not a melting pot but a city of extremes: the capital of capitalism and of radicalism, of wealth and poverty, of high-minded reform and pragmatic enterprise, of the war effort and the antiwar crusade. Its very success as a magnet for the rich as well as the poor, for left as well as right, made it a city of frequent discord, a place where the conflicts of the rest of the nation--indeed of much of the world--were compressed into a few square miles." This quotation, lifted from page 21 of Beverly Gage's compelling new book "The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America In Its First Age of Terror" seems to capture precisely what was happening in New York City in the year 1920. On September 16th of that year an explosion took place at high noon in the heart of Wall Street right across the street from the Morgan Bank. The results were devasting. Thirty nine people were killed that day and hundreds more injured. The tiny 100 bed hospital that served the area was ill-prepared for the casualties. Prior to the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 it was the deadliest terrorist attack in American history and yet very few Americans have ever even heard of it. "The Day Wall Street Exploded" explores what was taking place in our country at that juncture in our history and attempts to determine who might have been responsible for this heinous act. It is compelling reading.Now in order to help her readers to fully comprehend the environment in which these events took place Beverly Gage opens "The Day Wall Street Exploded" with an extensive history of radical thought in America. You will meet many of the prominent radical activists of the day including Big Bill Hayward, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Eugene Debs and Luigi Galleani to name but a few. Not all radicals were advocating the same ideas. There were socialists, communists and anarchists. They had come to America from countries like Germany, Italy, Russia and France. What they all shared in common was a hatred for industrialists and for the money men on Wall Street. Given the tenor of the times it is remarkable that a lot more violence did not occur during this extremely volatile period. But make no mistake, there had been violence. The famous Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886 had started out as a rally in support of striking workers. Someone threw a bomb into the crowd and eight policemen and an undetermined number of civilians were killed. Beverly Gage also discusses other significant terrorist incidents including the McNamara Affair and the May Day bomb conspiracy which had targeted Jack Morgan and dozens of other businessmen and politicians. Finally, based on thousands of pages of Bureau of Investigation reports "The Day Wall Street Exploded" traces our governments four year hunt for the perpetrators of Wall Street bombing. You will be introduced to the public officials who led the investigation and learn of some of the highly questionable tactics they employed to try to get a break in the case.I found "The Day That Wall Street Exploded" to be an exceptionally well written book. Meticulously documented, Beverly Gage leaves no stone unturned in her effort to figure out just what went down on that long ago September afternoon. While this is a "must read" for history buffs it is also a book that general audiences should enjoy as well. Highly recommended!


Fascinating overview and examination of one of our lesser known terroist incidents

by R. C Sheehy "deadsox"
(4/5)

I have to say that I enjoyed this book as much because it was such a revelation. On the one hand it is both shocking and sad that until Tim McVeigh and Oklahoma City this was the worst terrorist incident in U.S. history. I also find fascinating the amount of time that was spent providing a background of America's anarchist leaders that have hardly ever been presented in any format other than as some monster hiding under the bed.The story does lag in trying to talk about the investigation and resolution of the bombing but otherwise it's a solid piece of historical footwork and investigation. I recommend it to anyone interesting in learning about an unknown chapter in American History.


Not so ancient history

by R. L. Huff "An old reader"
(4/5)

Beverly Gage has reworked an old story with a post-9/11 twist. But as even she admits in her narrative this is not - to quote the subtitle - "a story of America in its first age of terror." That properly belonged to the Haymarket "riot era" of 1886-87. The 1919 Red Scare and its aftermath is a link between that age and the cold war witch hunts to come. Some of the McCarthy period's star actors were speaking their first on-stage lines here, with J. Edgar Hoover foremost.And we see the same mounting pattern as in the cold war: real acts of sabotage, followed by grandstanding prosecutions begun by Democrats, seized in turn by ambitious conservatives clawing back into power, and the reactionary clampdowns on civil liberties and due process. The real perpetrators of the Wall Street bombing at the House of Morgan were never clearly identified, though Miss Gage is doubtless right in seeing the Italian Galleanist-anarchists as the most probable culprits. Like American Moslems and the Middle-Eastern born following 9/11, Italian-Americans spent decades recovering from the racist stereotypes of this period.But history is an ever-shifting kaleidoscope. This story takes yet a new focus following the Wall Street implosion. We've seen that its "houses" do not need anarchists nor al-Qaeda to bring them down. The rage over the Street's malfeasance has breathed new life into a story of retribution; and though - thanks to the NYPD's post-9/11 surveillance state - a repetition of this event is unlikely, the hard feelings of a century ago live on.


New York, 9/16

by Robert D. Harmon "bobnbob3"
(5/5)

It's a scenario that resonates in our own time: a vehicle, parked at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets on a busy September day, explodes. 39 people die; news media and Federal investigators point to radical groups with long and recent histories of terrorist violence. Indeed, this 1920 bombing would be the worst such incident until Oklahoma City.Or was it an accident?One of the surprises of this book, which tells a long-forgotten story anew, is that author Beverly Gage manages to create an element of suspense. Who did it is a mystery to the reader as well as to the detectives of the day, and she explores all the various (and often dubious) leads into the explosion - including the possibility that it was an accident, after all. She must have had a daunting task of sorting through and describing, in succinct prose, each clue, each murky suspect, each doubtful tip, each sensational news story.She also provides context: that an explosion on Wall Street was seen as a likely terrorist attack was itself a likely leap of the day's logic. She devotes much of the book to a fascinating account of the labor and anarchist strife - punctuated by bombing and assassinations - beginning with the Haymarket Square bombing in 1886, and running through the Homestead strike, the miners' struggles in the West, and the rise of anarchist and syndicalist movements up through World War I. She introduces us to the vivid personalities spanning the period up to 1920 and beyond: anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, the firebrand "Big Bill" Haywood, lawyers Clarence Darrow and Frank Walsh.More importantly, Ms. Gage shows how the case would make and break careers. It was a crucial early test for the newly-formed ACLU, an early break for a young J. Edgar Hoover, and an impetus for new labor organizations like the AFL. It was also nemesis: embarrassment for Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer and for famous detective William J. Burns. The bombing case's hysteria would contribute much to the trial-by-press, conviction and execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and to the suppression of the Socialist Party and the IWW. All of this she puts in clear context.As someone who is familiar with U.S. history, particularly the decade of the LA Times bombing of 1910 up to the aftermath of World War I, I highly recommend this work as an important contribution to U.S. history. Indeed, I rarely see a historian who can take an incident like this (see, e.g., Curt Gentry's Frame-Up, about a similar explosion in San Francisco in 1916) and sort through its complexities and come up with a well-told mystery. Those interested in a vital period in labor, news media and civil-liberties matters - or those who simply like a good, well-told whodunit -- will find this well worthwhile.


fascinating and most excellent!

by Robert W. Smith "Robert Smith, Ph.D."
(5/5)

Wow! If you read my reviews, you know that I tend to give perhaps somewhat lower scores and reviews, certainly whenever I feel it's warranted. Well, I am pleased to say that this book is certainly one of the most outstanding books that I have read. It discusses an event, the 1920 bombing of Wall Street, that I'd not before heard of. It discusses bombings / terrorism in a limited way leading up to that event. It also discusses the manhunt following the event. This book was something, in my opinion, between a scholarly book and an enthralling masterpiece of fiction, although it was no fiction. This just means that the author wrote in a most captivating manner. I recommend this reading for unemployed Wall Street tycoons, anyone interested in terrorism, violent uprising against capitalism, and, as in my case, somebody who just wants an enthralling read over the weekend. I give this book a solid "A" and it comes highly recommended.


What is the History of Terrorism in the United States?

by Roger D. Launius
(5/5)

I'm a little like Helene Hanff, who wrote in "84 Charing Cross Road": "I never can get interested in things that didn't happen to people who never lived." Fortunately "The Day Wall Street Exploded" is both a great adventure tale, and it has the added advantage of being true. It did happen to people who actually lived. And it is a quite a story. The climax of this book took place just after noon on September 16, 1920, near the corner of Wall and Broad Streets as workers were taking a break for lunch. A dynamite-laden horse-drawn wagon exploded killing 39 people, with more than a hundred wounded. It had been a deliberate terrorist act, with the J.P. Morgan company as the principal target, by radicals who viewed the inequity of the capitalist system as anathema as to the welfare of the masses.Beverly Gage begins with a discussion of the history of radicalism in America, and introduces the reader to such figures as socialists Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, and Big Bill Hayward, perhaps new to many readers but they are major figures in American history. She introduces socialists, communists, and anarchists, few of whom agreed with each other on goals, strategies, and tactics for change. Many were immigrants from other nations who saw both xenophobia among too many in the United States and a political and economic system that privileged a few at the expense of the many, despite national ideals that claimed equality. While they shared a hatred of "Robber Barons" and moneyed interests, whom they viewed as exploiters of common people, few actually engaged in violence. Nonetheless, acts such as this bombing painted all of these people, their ideas, and their interests with the same negative image. It was not unlike the Civil Rights Movement with its many groups and approaches to solving the problem of an American Apartheid, advocates of Martin Luther King's non-violent direct action was often smeared by equating it with the violence advocated by other fringe elements of the movement. In such a situation, Gage concludes, the attack failed to yield a group that might definitively be viewed as suspects. There was much guilt by ideology and guilt by association, but little else.She also introduces a young J. Edgar Hoover and the organizations seeking to capture "terrorists." Hoover, ambitious foradvancement, zealously pursued the investigation. That effort offers Gage the opportunity to tell a story of suppression and loss of civil liberties, not a few arrests that were predicated on the thinnest of circumstantial evidence, violence against any opposing corporate supremacy, and even murder.The comparison between this act of terrorism and the World Trade Center attack of 9/11 is too strong to let pass. Gage does a good job of separating the two, but most will immediately note the similarities--New York, attack on moneyed interests, etc. But acts of terrorism are present throughout American history. It might surprise some to realize that the "Sons of Liberty" were in essence a terrorist group in colonial Massachusetts, and there have been many others from anarchists to various types of instigators of riot to even the Pinkertons (who intimidated labor organizers)."The Day Wall Street Exploded" is a splendid reading experience, telling a dramatic tale of American history with verve and vigor. But it is also a sophisticated meditation on the nature of change and how it is accomplished, of the disparity between the powerful and powerless, between the rich and the poor, between the great and small. Well done. Enjoy.


The Terrorists Among Us

by takingadayoff "takingadayoff"
(5/5)

"The day of reckoning and revenge is near." -- anarchist Johann MostThe subtitle of The Day Wall Street Exploded is "A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror." The reference to a "First Age of Terror" may be more a marketing gimmick for a book published after September 11, 2001, than the promise of a historical prism through which to view the labor-management violence of the 1880s through the 1920s. But it's impossible to deny the echoes from the past that Yale historian Beverly Gage details.Besides stories of strikes, dynamiting, political trials, deportations, international conspiracies, and "propaganda by the deed" (assassinations and other direct action), The Day Wall Street Exploded is also the story of suppression of free speech, unconstitutional arrests, violence against workers and their families, and judicial murder.It's not just the tactic of terrorism that has antecedents in America's industrial past, it's also the tactics of the government. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer had in effect their own version of the Patriot Act.The battle that started with the execution of the Haymarket defendants (anarchists found guilty of inciting violence--but not of actually committing it--at a protest in Chicago in 1886) was "a showdown in the long-standing battle of 'the Workers versus the Plutocracy.' "In his legal defense of union leader Big Bill Haywood, lawyer Clarence Darrow condemned capitalists as "the spiders of Wall Street" and said, "I don't care how many wrongs they [union organizers like his client] have committed . . . how many brutalities they are guilty of. I know their cause is just."What caused so many people to support anarchist and socialist parties at the turn of the twentieth century, to the point of justifying violence against mine-owners, bankers, and politicians? Beverly Gage tells us:"In the spring of 1893, a new banking crash had plunged the United States into yet another depression . . . in New York: 70,000 men and women out of work, 607 infants dead in city tenements in a single sweltering July week."It was suffering like this that led Russian-born anarchist Alexander Berkman to try to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick. ("I am simply a revolutionist, a terrorist by conviction," Berkman wrote, "an instrument for furthering the cause of humanity.")One interesting thing Beverly Gage does is briefly outline the historiography of early anarchism, and points out the debt we owe to historians like Paul Avrich, "who transformed the study of American radicalism and labor in the 1960s and understood their task as a redemptive one."But The Day Wall Street Exploded is not left-wing propaganda. Beverly Gage shows how innocent people suffered from "propaganda of the deed." Gage's book is not academic, but is full of detail that makes the ideas and actions of the people she writes about seem just as relevant to today as to a hundred years ago.The similarities aren't just striking, they're uncomfortable.


solid

by Yalensian
(4/5)

Meticulously researched and competently written, THE DAY WALL STREET EXPLODED uses a single terrorist attack on September 16, 1920, to explore the history of domestic terrorism in the United States from, roughly, 1890 to 1930. It was an age of radicalism -- especially labor activism and anarchism -- and reading about this period underscores just how volatile and sometimes unstable American society was at the time, more so than most high-school history classes typically reveal. Gage tells the story of the radicals and of the government's reactions and overreactions. A sometime writer for the progressive magazine THE NATION, she tends to sympathize more than I would with some of the radicals, but she remains generally even-handed in her presentation of all sides. Though Gage's narrative offers occasional glimpses of above-average storytelling and manages to avoid the worst sins of academic history writing, the book does sometimes get bogged down in excessive detail, giving it the feel of the university-press title it is. All in all, this is a solid contribution to the scholarship of the period and will be enjoyed by most enthusiasts of American history.


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