On June 2nd, 1919, Galleanist Anarchists carried out a series of coordinated bombings across the Eastern United States. Sacco and Vanzetti are the best remembered members of this group, due to their infamous execution in Massachusetts a few years later.
Galleani was the most influential Italian anarchist of the early 20th century. He was an accomplished radical orator, strongly charismatic, who inspired countless followers among his Italian comrades. He edited the principal Italian anarchist paper,
The story of the June 2nd bombings have been recounted many times, any book on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, or on the Red Scare of 1919 will discuss them. Suffice it to say that they miscarried, --in Pittsburgh, nobody was killed, and if anyone had been killed, it would have been a terrible tragedy, since the explosives were all planted at the wrong houses.
In studying the Pittsburgh Press accounts of the bombings, several things are apparent:
1) Reporting eighty years ago was much like it is today, sensational whenever possible, with a big emphasis on the "human interest" side of things, and little attention to the real issues behind the news. Lots of space is given to stories of those who slept through the blast, and recounting the damage done to people's living rooms, but nothing at all is devoted to discussing the plight of the workers that led to these desparate acts.
2) The paper ran the complete text of the Galleanist broadside "Plain Words" which I find surprisingly fair, --why would the authorities provide free publicity for the anarchist message? Unless of course, they figured it would only scare and inflame the public against the revolutionaries.
3) The public was terrified! Why else did the reporters take such pains to carefully record the names of each arresting detective? One can imagine the detectives seated in some saloon puffing cigars and proudly recounting how they nabbed the treacherous anarchists, or proudly showing the Press articles to their families. If you read between the lines of these articles, you can easily see the fear which the 'man in the street' felt from such revolutionary actions. Such an attitude held by the "solid citizens" must have helped lead to the excesses of the Palmer administration and the mass deportations later that year.
4) The prejudice against immigrant workers is quite evident; --" the men held as suspects all are foreigners." Also note "Hundreds of men were stopped on the streets, and made to give a satisfactory explanation as their being out at that hour." Can you imagine crying 'police brutality!' in 1919?
With nearly a score of suspects under arrest, police and department of justice agents today tightened the dragnet thrown out late last night following the bomb outrages in two widely separated sections of Pittsburg. City and government authorities, after working all night on the case, promised many more arrests within a few hours.
There is little doubt, police say, that the bombing was a part of the nation-wide plot to assassinate prominent men, coming at almost the same hour as bombing outrages in Washington, Philadelphia and Paterson, N.J. That the man principally marked for death in Pittsburg was Judge Thomson, of the United States court, is evidenced by the bomb planted on the front porch of the home of B. J. Cassady, 5437 Aylesboro St., next door to the home of Judge Thomson. Many windows in the judge's home were shattered, and damage amounting to $ 2,000 was done to the home of F. B. Lincoln, 5441 Aylesboro st. The home of W. P. Witherow, 5448 Northumberland st., was damaged to the amount of $ 500. The explosion occurred at 11:30 p.m.
City Detective Jacob Isler narrowly escaped being killed at 11:30 a.m. today in a raid on alleged I.W.W. headquarters, 301 Apollo bldg. When Isler opened the door of the room, John Johnson, aged 35, of 429 Second ave., said to be the president of the local I.W.W. organization, and internationally known as an agitator, opened fire and the bullet went through Isler's coat and grazed his arm. Isler jumped over a table and overpowered Johnson just as Detectives Kaiser, Dailey and Patton entered. Johnson was arrested and taken to detective headquarters. Earlier the detectives had arrested Ike Zelesto, alleged agitator, who had keys on his person to Moorhead's hall and 301 Apollo bldg. I.W.W. literature was also found on him, police say. The keys found on Zelesto were used to open the door to Johnson's office.
Almost at the same time the blast occurred in Aylesboro ave., another bomb was exploded on the front porch of the home of Herbert E. Joseph, 2625 Glasgow st., Sheraden, seven miles from the Aylesboro st. blow-up. The blast did considerable destruction to the Joseph home, the home of Jacob Gross, 2637 Glasgow st., and that of W. W. Sibray, chief inspector of the bureau of immigration, 2635 Glasgow st. It is the belief of the police that this bomb was intended for Sibray, inasmuch as he had been active, it is said, in reporting the movements of aliens to government officials.
A partial list of those arrested follows: John Makawsiewski, aged 23; Mike Ronanit, aged 32; Adam Balalak, aged 36; all of 2203 Tustin st; Martin Stefcunkal, aged 36, of 828 Hassam way; Louis Bachul, aged 30, Forbes st. and Murray ave.; Frank Braida, aged 37, 1824 Rose st.
The following names of others arrested were given out later:
L.M. Walsh, aged 36, arrested at his home, 436 Charles st. by Detectives William Bauer and Walter Marsh, John Blum, aged 24, and Rudolph Blum, aged 35, arrested at their home, 722 Emlin st., by Detectives Dailey and Patton. John A. Borat, aged 52 of Brooklyn, N.Y. arrested in a downtown hotel by Detectives Nauer and Marah. Mike Zelesto, aged 33, arrested at his home, 223 Sheridan ave., by Detectives Walter Kiser and Jacob Taler. David Borodin, aged 28, of 9 Superior st., Duquesne, and Don Dobdendrest (?) aged 34 of Illinois, living in Duquesne arrested by Detectives, Patten, Daffly(?), and Snee.
The [ ] four suspicious named were arrested at 6 a.m. at their rooming house at the Tustin st. address, by City Detectives Charles Freedborn and Albert Beebe. They say they found Makowszewski in bed with his clothes on.
Stefcunkal was arrested at his boarding house in Hassam way by City Detectives Guy Dailey and Robert Patton at 7 a.m. and Braida was arrested at his home in Rose st., by Detectives John Liebrecht and John Snee.
The force in the Squirrel Hill district was doubled today and several policemen were stationed at the Cassady and Lincoln homes where hundreds of spectators gathered to view the damaged dwellings.
The suspects, mostly Russian Poles who were apprehended in the Hill and Soho districts were taken to Central Police station and were charged with being suspicious persons. They later will be turned over to the department of Justice Agents.
A list of the homes damaged last night, their owners and locations follow:
...the department of justice, held a conference in Director Pritchard's office today to devise means to prevent additional explosions.
Every outlet of the city is being closely watched by detectives and police. Director Pritchard said, and every suspect and suspicious character will be arrested. For some time the police and government authorities have been in touch with the situation in this city and every hangout of the I.W.W. and Bolsheviki will be cleaned out, Director Pritchard said.
Barnatowicz, [ ] is said is proprietor of the rooming house. In the clothing of one of the suspects, according to Detective Freeborn, a dues book of the I.W.W.: was found. The literature confiscated by the detectives was printed in foreign languages.
All suspects were remanded to jail today by Magistrate Sweeney in Central police court, until detectives make a further investigation of their movements while in this city.
As soon as police learned the nature of the explosion, news was sent broadcast to every police station in the Pittsburg district and hundreds of police and detectives were assigned to blanket the city. They raked the district from one end to the other, guarded railroad and street car stations, in an effort to make it impossible for the bomb-planters to escape from the city.
That the bombs were planted by outsiders brought here by local men who engineered the plot, is the opinion of the police. They base this upon the fact that although it is evident the bombs were intended for Judge Thomson and Mr. Sibray, in neither case was the bomb placed at the right house. That the outrage was a part of a nation-wide plot is apparent, since it came at the same hour of the explosions in other cities, recalling the bomb plots of May 1.
Detectives searching the vicinity of the Aylesboro st. explosion found many bits of pink paper. One was large enough to be interpreted. It was captioned "Plain Words" and signed "The Anarchist Fighters."
This literature was found by Commissioner of Police Calhoun of the Frankstown ave. district and Police Liet. Edward Barry. Both officials declared the reason the bonb was not placed on Judge Thomson's porch was due to the fact that the Thomson and Cassady homes are almost identical in architectural design.
Mr. Cassidy, manager of the paint department of the Pittsbrg Plate Glass Co. was out of town last night, Mrs. Cassidy and her four small children who were in the house were throw from their beds by the force of the exploaion, but were uninjured.
The detectives place value on finding the red posters picked up at the Cassady home. Similar circulars were found at the home of Attorney General Palmer in Washington, wrecked by a bomb at the same hour. This links many things together which will serve as clues in running down the men who planned the outrages police assert.
Within few hours after the explosions the police were arresting suspects, ghathering them in from the streets, cheap-lodging houses and [ ...soris] Hundreds of men were stopped on the streets, and made to give a satisfactory explanation as their being out at that hour.
Acting Capt. Of Detectives Crooks said early today that the men held as suspects all are foreigners. None has been given a complete examination, but this was to come later this day.
Following is a copy of a hand bill found near the scene of the Aylesbora ave. bomb explosion. It was printed on pink paper. The caption is "Plain words" and it reads as follows:
The powers that be make no secret of their will to stop here in America, the world-wide spread of revolution: The powers that be must reckon that they will have to accept the fight they have provoked.
A time has come when the social question's solution can be delayed no longer: class war is on and cannot cease but with a complete victory for the international proletariat.
The challenge is an old one, oh "democratic" lords of the autocratic republic. We have been dreaming of freedom, we have talked of liberty. We have aspired to a better world and you jailed us, you clubbed us, you deported us, you murdered us whenever you could.
Now that the great war waged to replenish your purses and build a pedestal to your saints is over, nothing better can you do to protect your stolen millions and usurped fame, than to direct all the power of the murderous institutions you created for your exclusive defense, against the working multitudes rising to a more human conception of life.
The jails, the dungeons you reared to bury all protesting voices, are now replenished with languishing
by United Press
Washington, June 3. -- With the ablest secret service and explosive experts in the government working on the plot to kll Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer here last night, clues were being pursued to many points in the east today. Evidence thus far uncovered led officials here to believe thyat the terrorist ring which showed its hand in several eastern cities, operated either out of Philadelphia or Paterson, N.J.
The anarchist killed here by his own death weapon while preparing to blow up Palmer's house, was an "old hand" at the game, according to the expets. The bomb he used was of a type identical with that employed by Frank Holt on July 2, 1915, when he attempted to blow up the capitol here. Dr. ZCharles E. Monroe, explosive expert, who worked on the Holt case and who is now probing the Palmer case, believes that the attempt on the attorney general's life "was perpetrated by the same organization as that employing Holt."
As the police today continued their investigations, they discovered a Baltimore & Ohio railroad ticket on the emains of the dead anarchis, showing it had been punched t Philadelphia. That the terrorist had prepared for an emerngency was shown by the fact that the hat he wore to the scene was a black derby, while he had another soft hat, purchased recently in Philadelphia, in his suit case, apparently to wear away from the scene He carried two revolvers, one a 32 caliber Colt and the other an automatic. His hair was dark and worn long. He wore sandals.
That he came to his death by stumbling over a ledge near the front of the Palmer house, exploding the bomb before he had placed it, ws the decision of investigators here. Dr. Monroe said there were two explosions, either two bombs or one bomb and some other explosive Finding of a thumb by the police led Inspector Grnt to declare that there was sufficient evidence on hand now to establish soon the identity of the plotter.
Upon the sweatbank of the dead man's hat appeared the name "Deluca Bros., Hatters, 919 South Eighth St., Philadelphia." At some distance from his scorched and bloodstained clothing was found an Italian-American dictionary. Hat and book had been purchased recently.
Reports of bonb outrges almost at the same hour as the one here, in Cleveland, New York, Newtonville, Mass., Boston, Philadelphia, Paterson, N. J. and Pittsburg, left no doubt int eh minds of officials here that the plot was widespread.
That it may be the same gang that threatened a May day tragedy averted only by the finding APril 29 of a score of undelivered bombs in the New York postoffice after one had exploded following delivery at the home of former Senator Hardwick, Georgia, was the belief of officials here.
Working on this theory every precaution was being take to guard the homes of other government officials who, with Attorney General Palmer, were "marked" for death by the May day plotters. THese included Secretary of Labor Wilson, Commissioner General of Immigration Caminetti and Postmaster Burleson. Police and soliers have been thrown about the homes of officials whose safety may be threatened.
Immediately there was a bedlam in the neighborhood. People rushed from their homes in pajamas and night dresses, servant irls wringing their hands in excitement and fear. A pungent, acid smell, mingling with the odor of burned foliage, hung like a vapor over the streets. A few moments later Attorney General Palmer appeared at the front of this dwelling and about the same time police officers began to arrive. A search fo the perpetrator of the outrage was begun. Fifty feet from the steps a portion of a man's leg was found. Further seafrch revealed other fragments of a human form, ghastly evidence that whoever had aimed to kill Palmer had come tot he terrible end he had designed for his victim.
The man's hat was next dicovered. Reports of these finding to headquarters here met with the news that similar explosions had taken place elsewhere in the country. Ploice authorities here got into touch with the Philadelphia officials in an effort to trace the identity of the terrorist. Meantime, Supt. of Police Pullman sent the following telegrm to every large city.
"Unidentified man blown to bits while placing bonb at door of attorney general's house here tonight. Carried Italian and English dictionary and anarchistic literature entitled "Plain Words," and signed, "The Anarchist Fighters," printed on pink paper.
"Make investigation of bomb suspects in your city. Advise me if identified and if any of his associates are known. Almost certain bto be member of same gang who set bombs in other cities tonight."
Following discovery of one leg of the plotter, remains of the torso were picked up 100 feet away. nother leg was thought for a time to be the same as the first found - a left - indicating two men had been killed - but later it was decided that there had been only one.
The remains indicated to the police that the victim was a swarthy skinned man, quite slender, and with dark hair. He wore a collar of known brand, with Chinese laundry marks, which the police hope will aid them in their efforts to identify him.
Experts from the bureau of mines and army and navy experts in high explosives were called upon in the effort to determine the explosive used int eh bomb here. Some believed the machhine had been apcked with cordite and that a short commnerical fuse had been used as a detonator. Officials here believed that this fuse had burned so rapidly that the anrchist had insufficient time to escape.
It was beleived at gffirst that the fragments of a human body and scorched bits of cloth might supply a clue to the man who placed the infernal machine. Persons living across the street from the Nott home told the police they had seen two young women sitting on teh steps leading to the house for some time before the explosion Just before the blst, they said, they head a woman screm.
Two detectives were nearby and ran to the house after turning in a fire alarm. They found persons running madly about the streets.