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

ISBN: 019514824X

ISBN13: 9780195148244

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

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Book Overview

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,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A forgotten piece of American history

Very few people recall the event. Even many of those who every day pass the pock marked wall on Wall Street have no idea what happened there on September 16, 1920. That day a horse drawn wagon full of dynamite exploded outside the J.P. Morgan building, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds, many very seriously. Until the Oklahoma City bombing, it was the deadliest terrorist bombing on American soil. Who committed this terrible deed? Was it an accident, a wagon transporting dynamite where it wasn't supposed to be? Or was it labor anarchists, protesting the brutal arrest of many of their brothers including Sacco and Vanzetti? Or was it communists trying to stir up anti-labor feeling in the US after their recent success in Russia? Beverly Gage starts by taking us to the Haymarket riot of the 1880's and leading us through the successes and failures including the violence of the anarchist labor movement. With World War I and Woodrow Wilson's anti-sedition laws, many in the labor movement found themselves in prison and those on the outside became more inflamed by the anti-union position of the Federal government. Were they the ones who placed the bomb on Wall Street? Next, Gage takes us through the investigation and describes perhaps the most inept attempt at solving a crime ever attempted by the Federal government. The predecessor to the FBI was assigned the task and two directors found themselves out of jobs, not because of their failure to solve the crime, but because of the embarrassing way they failed to solve it. Only a few short years after the bombing, with the Roaring 20's in full bloom, the bombing became a thing of the past and the investigation was never concluded. Gage makes some interesting points about how the government used the fear after the bombing to ignore civil rights and jail suspects secretly and without trials that can perhaps be tied to more recent history. But she avoids the mistake of trying to tie 1920 to 1995 or 2001. Each of these bombings has its own history and its own cause. Gage does a brilliant job of discussing the bombing and the history of the suspects, especially the US labor movement, as well as the investigation that became a wasted effort of forcing the evidence to fit preconceived notions. This is an excellent book about a mostly forgotten piece of American history that is well worth reading.

Fascinating book about a forgotten event in US history

What a great book! Although I studied history I never knew about this chapter of American history. In short this book is about the struggle between workers and business owners from the nineteenth to the twentieth century and how the struggle culminated in a bombing of the center of capitalism, Wall Street. This book details the outrages inflicted upon workers, the cruelty of mine and mill owners, and the jailing of labor leaders, as well as the beginning of unions. If you are interested in American History, the rise of the Labor movement and unions or in early terrorism in the US you will enjoy this book.

Great Exploration of a Forgotten Incident that is Relevant Today

I love American history and I was surprised to see a book that talked about a bombing on Wall Street that happened in 1920. I had heard about the bombing at Black Tom Island in New York Harbor in 1916 during World War I but had never heard of a peacetime bombing on Wall Street. The Day Wall Street Exploded taught me not only about the bombing itself but also about terrorism in the United States that occurred in the late 1800's that I never knew existed. It also gave me a great sense of the conflict between unions and capitalists, communists and members of the United States Government and anarchists and every government. This book is well footnoted so the author clearly has done her homework. This is not a brief look into the subject but an exhaustive look at terrorism before the bombing, the bombing itself, the search for the culprits and the world which allowed the bombing to occur. Living just outside New York City I remember what it was like after the September 11 bombing. I remember the concern that something could happen so near. I remember the added security and the desire to find the masterminds behind the bombing. The reaction by people to the September 16, 1920 Wall Street bombing was no different. An appendix at the end of the book lists the names, ages and occupations of the 38 men and women who died in the bombing. Despite its' much smaller scale innocents were killed (including students and secretaries and messengers and grocery clerks), people were amazed a bombing could occur on Wall Street and kill people for no real reason. People wanted to find those who were responsible. The search was not perfect and some investigators had their own agenda in identifying the culprits. Some politicians used the bombing for political gain. Others were only interested in finding the culprits and were true patriots. America survived the bombing, people were not afraid and the nation became even stronger. Some things never change. The author takes on a lot in this book. She is writing about a complex investigation that occurred some 90 years ago and attempting to give the reader a sense of the times, which is not easy considering the period in American history. She succeeds. While the author gets into some pretty specific details the books flows well. It took me a number of days to read because to the amount of information she includes and the detailed footnoting but I would not have wanted her to do otherwise. The information is necessary to tell the whole story. If you are interested in this time period this is a great book. If you want to see that people have not changed much in 80 years when it comes to reacting to terrorism read this book. For me the names, occupations and ages of people killed by terrorism some 90-year's ago looks much the same as it does today. After reading the book and reading the names I felt sorry for those killed by terrorists so long ago. The next time I visit Wall Street I will pay my respects to those who

Terrorism is timeless it seems ! This book is impossible to put down I'm not exagerrating and I'm a

Hard to think at first a story about a 100year explosion in front the NYSE could be so interesting but Gage has gift of reciting history. It is a unique style that seemed to reside between Mark Bowden Black Hawk Down Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and James B. Stewart Den of Thieves Den of Thieves. The prose isn't rigidly chronological which too many financial books have to be, she carries the reader into the incident then back into the events and planning that lead to the day while keeping the villain for the end. And I bet you didn't know this event was seminal in shaping the FBI and even J. Edgar Hoover ! I don't want to spoil the story because it is one of the most interesting historical events I've learned about in a long time and Gage tells it with a unique reverence and respect. I researched the author and this seems to be her first book but Gage is widely read in the NY Post, Washington Times and other successful experiments in publishing you may have heard of. If my review seems obsequious, prove me wrong and research my review history and you'll see I have a reputation for seeming harsh but I'm really just honest and it takes a lot to earn my praise and my time. I loved every page, chance are you will too !!!

Recalling a significant but little known chapter in American history.

"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 tacti
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