baker-650.jpgSaturday afternoon I took a small group of students on a walk from Broome Street south through the Civic Center, past City Hall, then down Broadway to the lowest tip of the island: destination, Melville’s birthplace. A good time was had by all.

While we were on Wall Street we talked briefly about the anarchist bombing of 1920, which left several dozen people dead or injured and pock marks that remain in the marble walls of the JP Morgan building, just across the street from the New York Stock Exchange.

By coincidence, the novelist Kevin Baker (Dreamland, Paradise Alley, Strivers Row) reviews a new book on this very event in today’s New York Times Book Review. The Day Wall Street Exploded, by Yale historian Beverly Gage, situates the bombing not only in its Red Scare context but also in the longer history of labor, unions, anti-union violence, and leftist terror tactics. The review begins:

At the stroke of noon on Sept. 16, 1920, a bomb exploded along Wall
Street, killing 38 people and maiming hundreds more. It was the worst
terrorist bombing in the United States until the Oklahoma City attack
in 1995, the worst in New York until the 9/11 attack on the World Trade
Center.

The bomb was an immeasurably cruel device, most likely dynamite tied to
iron sash weights that acted as shrapnel. It blew people apart where
they walked out on a cool, late-summer day, tore arms and legs, hands
and feet and scalps off living human beings. Others were beheaded or
eviscerated, or found themselves suddenly engulfed in flames. Still
more injuries were caused by a cascade of broken glass and the
terrified stampede that followed.

The rest of the review is here.

Someone asked when the NYSE buliding at Broad and Wall was erected. I promised to look up the answer and report back: according to the NYSE timeline it was 1903.