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The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195148244
ISBN-10: 019514824X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. In The 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 Cartoons

Political 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 of The Day Wall Street Exploded. (Click on any image to enlarge).

December 17, 1921

New York Daily News
September 17, 1920

Chicago Tribune
Date Unknown

From 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

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019514824X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195148244
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,474,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kurt G. Schumacher VINE VOICE on March 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm very interested in this period in American history. But I still found this book very difficult to read. As other reviewers have pointed out, it's a scholarly examination of not only the Wall Street bombing, but the entire Socialist and Anarchist movement in the early part of the 20th century.

There are lots of names, lots of dates, lots of events. Chapters tend to jump back in time to cover a specific topic, which I found to be very confusing at times.

The book is very well written, but is very dry reading at times. I had to force myself through much of the last half of the book.

There was one statement in the book that made me step aside and do some research of my own. The author was describing the way that some communities "handled" the socialist movement, and she said: "In Bisbee, Arizona, mine bosses loaded some twelve hundred Wobblies and their families into rail cars and shipped them out to wither in the desert."

That sentence shocked me. Would people really have taken thousands of people (assuming "families" included women and children) into the desert and abandoned them to die? So I did a web search on "bisbee arizona wobblies".

I found a number of articles on the "Bisbee Deportation", all of which described the incident in much less sensational terms than the author. All of the articles described the people deported as "men" ("The deputies arrested more than 2000 men..."; "The posse rounded up more than 1,200 men..."). None of them mentioned "familes". The men were not "shipped out to wither in the desert", they were put on a train to Columbus, New Mexico. You can read the rest of the details in the articles you'll find. But I could find no account of anyone "withering in the desert".
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many books tend to get more interesting after they finish with the background material and get to the heart of the book; in a biography, for example, the background about the subject's ancestors and childhood is usually not as interesting as the story of subject's accomplishments, which is, after all, why we read the book. In The Day Wall Street Exploded, by contrast, the first third of the book, about the confrontations of labor, socialists, and anarchists with management and law enforcement in the late 19th century and early 20th century, was quite interesting. But, after the day that Wall Street exploded (Sept. 16, 1920, when explosives killed 38 people and injured hundreds), the book focuses solely on that crime (if it was a crime and not an accident) and the efforts to solve it, and it becomes more and more tedious. We learn about the competition and conflicts between federal and local authorities, and we learn about the numerous Italian anarchists and Communists who are arrested and released for lack of evidence. The details seem to be presented for their own sake and to have no larger point.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"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.
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