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

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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 ...

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

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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, 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:

"Outstanding."
—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

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Outstanding."—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 engageing narrative."—The New York Times

"Gage has produced 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

"Writer and historian Gage presents a gripping account of class war and violence during the turn of the 20th century. Weaving the story of the explosion and botched investigation with a masterful account of labor unrest over preceding demecades, this is a highly relevant, hard to put down history of terror and civil liberties in America."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"The best account of the vicious 1920 cluster-bombing on Wall Street."—Mike Wallace, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

"The fearful politics of the last decade are a tale foretold in this extraordinary history of the original 'war on terrorism' and its sinister legacies."-Mike Davis, author of Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb

"Like all good historians, Beverly Gage is a great story-teller, and what a timely tale she has to tell in The Day Wall Street Exploded. With subtlety, precision, and in a captivating prose style, she recalls for us that moment in September 1920 when 'a bomb planted on a horse-drawn wagon exploded into the lunchtime crowd at Wall and Broad.' Her story begins with the deed, but goes far beyond it to describe the nationwide search for the responsible 'terrorists' and the short- and long-range effects on American politics, society, and culture of that extended manhunt."—David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for The Chief: The Life and Times of William Randolph Hearst

"Brisk, suspenseful and richly documented..."—The Chicago Tribune

"Beverly Gage has written a richly detailed and superbly rendered history of one of the worst—and most neglected—terrorist bombings in American history... Gage's account...reads like a great detective novel."—Journal of American History

Kevin Baker
Beverly Gage…has brought the bombing to life again in her outstanding first book. The Day Wall Street Exploded describes in detail both the bombing itself and the hunt for the perpetrators, but Gage also does us the great good service of placing it in the wider history of industrial warfare that once proliferated in America.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195148244
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/6/2009
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverly Gage teaches U.S. history at Yale University. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Slate.com, The Nation, and The Washington Post. She has been featured as a guest commentator on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and in Time magazine.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: September 16, 1920
Ch. 1 The Middle of Things
Ch. 2 The End of the World

Part II: The Story of Dynamite
Ch. 3 The First Terrorist Act in America
Ch. 4 American Roughneck
Ch. 5 The War At Home

Part III: A National Crime
Ch. 6 The Great Detectives
Ch. 7 Business As Usual
Ch. 8 Usual Suspects
Ch. 9 A Perfect Alibi

Part IV
Ch. 10 The Anarchist Fighters
Ch. 11 Illegal Practices
Ch. 12 The Martyr Who Wasn't

Part V: On to Russia
Ch. 13 The "Great Detective" Returns
Ch. 14 Triple-Cross
Ch. 15 Red Scare
Ch. 16 The Roar of the Twenties
Notes
Index

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