James Govednik's Reviews > The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror

The Day Wall Street Exploded by Beverly Gage
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's review
Mar 30, 12

bookshelves: history-biography
Read from February 04 to March 30, 2012

An engaging recount of an event seemingly forgotten: the deadliest terrorist attack in America until the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. At noon on September 16, 1920, a wagon loaded with dynamite and metal fragments exploded outside J.P. Morgan and Company bank, at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street in New York, killing 38 people and maiming many more. The nation was beginning to emerge from a frightened post-war era, in which the Palmer raids and “Red hysteria” had law enforcement looking for any reason to deport anyone whom they deemed suspicious. The author gives a thorough accounting of shattering events of the day and the ensuing investigation, which (after many dead-ends and questionable—even self-serving—turns on the part of the lead investigators) failed to conclusively identify the perpetrator. The book also details labors struggles from the late 1800s through the WWI era, from the Haymarket Riot through the Palmer Raids—an era of terrible violence on both sides—in the author’s words: “...an age in which thirty-five thousand American workers died each year in accidents, in which policemen and soldiers routinely fired on strikers and picketers….” I found myself frequently reflecting on how many lessons of history we have forgotten and have to keep learning over and over again, and how many dark chapters are contained in the history of our free society.

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