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The Wall Street bombing of 1920 — 100 years later

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The Wall Street bombing of 1920 — 100 years later

At 11:45 on the morning of September 16, 1920, it was a glorious time to be on Wall Street. The stock market ascended, the sun shined and elaborate business lunches beckoned. But at 12:01 p.m., everything changed in a flash as an explosion rocked the Financial District.

Parked in front of 23 Wall St., headquarters of the J.P. Morgan & Company bank, a horse-drawn cart was loaded with 100 pounds of explosives. The incendiary materials set off a blast so powerful that City Hall windows shattered. Flames enveloped sidewalks, a messenger boy reported “being lifted off the ground” and overturned Model Ts littered the asphalt.

For anyone within proximity of the banking dynasty’s stronghold, it must have seemed as if the world was coming to an end. “You would have seen people falling and dying all around you,” Beverly Gage, author of “The Day Wall Street Exploded,” told The Post of the event, which took place 100 years ago today. “If you were anywhere near the blast, you were no longer a complete person.”

In fact, according to an account in “The Great Game” by John Steele Gordon, the millionaire restaurateur Edward Sweet was “virtually vaporized. All that was found of him was one finger, encircled by his ring.”

Crowd gathered following the explosion on Wall St. on September 16, 1920.
Crowd gathered following the explosion on Wall St. on September 16, 1920.New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Initially, investigators thought that the explosion could have been an accident. After all, downtown resembled a construction zone. Dynamite was routinely used at building sites, and horse-pulled carts transported the stuff. But, in short order, a devious detail proved otherwise. Scattered through the streets, mixed in with the explosion’s detritus — including remnants of the horse — were an estimated 500 pounds of metal window-sash weights.

“Most people who were killed or injured were hurt by shrapnel,” said Gage of the 38 dead and hundreds hurt. “The metal shards were packed in with the dynamite. It indicated that this was a deliberate bombing and not an accident. It was set off in front of J.P. Morgan to make a statement. They aimed at what J.P. Morgan stood for: capitalism in America.”


The incident was far from isolated. During the early 20th century, bombers were on a rampage in the United States. Violent groups of anarchists, socialists and communists were thought to be at the core of a movement to unsettle capitalist and government institutions. It was a time of social upheaval, with 25% of workers on strike in 1919 in search of higher pay and better working conditions.

Prior to this attack, bombs had been sent through the mail, addressed to the likes of Morgan himself, John Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson. Some of those elites were saved by the penny-pinching of radicals: Lacking sufficient postage, the packages never reached their targets.

Photos from the scene.
Photos from the scene.George Grantham Bain Collection

In 1919, a coordinated attack had bombs going off in seven cities, including Washington, DC, where an explosive was supposed to land on the porch of US Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. But, said Gage, “it was set to a timer and went off prematurely. The guy carrying the bomb, an Italian anarchist, got killed. Pieces of his body were found all over Palmer’s neighborhood.”

Awful as past incidents had been, the Wall Street event was different. “Most of the bombings were not designed to cause mass casualty or to hurt a lot of innocent people,” said Gage. In this case, though, “most of those who were killed or injured were not the wealthy.”

Their remains were quickly disposed of. “Forensics were not well developed at the time,” said Gage. “Workers washed down the streets, cleared evidence, dumped it. There was a powerful sense that the market needed to reopen. Just one day after the bombing” — coincidentally, the same September 17 date on which the exchanges opened after 9/11 — “workers came back. They came in limping. They had arms in slings and bandages around their heads. Wall Street had to show that it was functioning.”


As the financiers regained their footing, the NYPD, the FBI and private detective firms such as Pinkerton and the William J. Burns International Detective Agency began investigations.

An immediate suspect was Edward Fischer, an investment-world gadfly and former employee of a well-regarded brokerage firm. Shortly before the bombing, he sent missives to two former bosses. They warned, “Get out of Wall Street as soon as the gong strikes at 3 o’clock Wednesday, ‘the fifteenth.’ Good luck.”

Bodies being removed after the Wall St. explosion.
Bodies being removed after the Wall St. explosion.George Grantham Bain Collection

But Fischer, whom an ex-employer described as the victim of a “nervous breakdown which left him mentally deranged,” was in Toronto at the time of the bombing.

Authorities briefly held and questioned Fischer before cutting him loose and turning to a powerful tool created years earlier by J. Edgar Hoover.

“He made an early surveillance system by creating a database of all the radicals in America,” Susan Bellows, director of the “American Experience” documentary, “The Bombing of Wall Street,” told The Post. “It was the first example of peacetime surveillance.”

Known anarchists and communists were uncovered and questioned with the help of Hoover’s system. Additionally, hundreds of tips rolled in and there were loads of eyewitnesses — but their recollections were so contradictory that they couldn’t even agree on the color of the bomb’s smoke.

“A lead theory was that bombs were set by a prominent Italian anarchist, but investigators were unable to build a case,” said Bellows. “Hoover thought that the bombing was directed by forces in Russia. That didn’t go anywhere either. No arrests were ever made.”

Mario Buda
Mario Buda

It’s widely speculated that an Italian anarchist named Mario Buda did the deed in retaliation for the murder-robbery indictment of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (better known as Sacco and Vanzetti). Buda, who was thought to be involved in the 1919 bombings, was never brought in for questioning and fled to Italy soon after the Wall Street attack.

While the investigation trundled into the late 1930s, the bombing disappeared from the public’s memory. Around 1925, a Wall Street Journal reporter visited the site on the explosion’s anniversary. Financial District workers barely recalled a thing.

Today, nothing commemorates the site of the Wall Street bombing, although there are powerful remnants: grapefruit-sized pocks in the limestone exterior of the building that once symbolized capitalism in America.

“It’s easy to imagine that terrorist violence only began in the late 20th century,” Bellows said. “But this is a reminder that it’s always been in the system and, most likely, always will be.”

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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Child found safe in NYC after Amber Alert sent over her abduction

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Child found safe in NYC after Amber Alert sent over her abduction

A 7-year-old girl who was abducted in Pennsylvania — allegedly by her body-armor-clad estranged father — has been found safe in New York City, an NYPD spokesman said.

An Amber Alert had been issued Friday evening saying the girl, Giselle Torres, had been abducted at around 2:18 p.m. Friday in Elkins Park, and was believed to be heading to New York City with the dad.

Juan Pablo Torres, 41, Giselle’s biological father, who does not have custody of the child, wound up taking her to the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood, Queens, an NYPD spokesman said.

The Ambert Alert initially warned that Giselle was in imminent danger.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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Woman arrested for injuring 2-year-old in road rage incident

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Woman arrested for injuring 2-year-old in road rage incident

Massachusetts police arrested a woman they said threw a cup of iced coffee at a sleeping 2-year-old boy in a road rage incident.

Emma Silva, 20, of Marstons Mill, Mass., was charged with assaulting a child with a dangerous weapon and negligent operation of a vehicle.

Barnstable police said the boy’s mother reported the road rage incident, which happened Wednesday afternoon on Cape Cod.

They said she told police “another woman operating a white Jeep Liberty was ‘riding her bumper’ and ‘laying on her horn’ while yelling at her.”

She said the suspect “threw a cup of iced coffee into her vehicle, striking her sleeping 2-year-old son in the face while he was seated in the rear of her car in his child safety seat,” police said.

The cup bloodied the boy’s face and nose, according to police.

Police said a short time later an officer made contact with Silva and she agreed to come to the police station. She was arrested after the boy’s mother identified her.

Silva was arraigned in Barnstable District Court Thursday morning, and released on $540 bail and is due back in court on Nov. 4.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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AG Letitia James recommends NYPD no longer conduct traffic stops

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AG Letitia James recommends NYPD no longer conduct traffic stops

The New York State Attorney General will not be filing charges against an NYPD sergeant for a 2019 police-involved shooting death but did recommend cops no longer arrest people during traffic stops if they have certain open warrants, an AG report released Friday states.

The report, completed by AG Letitia James’ Special Investigations and Prosecution Units, analyzed the death of Allan Feliz, 31, who was shot by Sgt. Jonathan Rivera during an October 2019 traffic stop in the Bronx.

Feliz had been pulled over for allegedly not wearing a seatbelt but instead of handing over his own ID when cops asked, he gave his brother’s license. The sibling had three open warrants for littering, spitting and disorderly conduct, which are all violations and not crimes.

Feliz was asked to step out of the car, but he soon got back into the vehicle and attempted to drive away, sending Rivera jumping into the vehicle from the passenger side.

Feliz refused to surrender to police and continued to try to drive the car away, eventually leading Rivera to discharge his weapon when he thought his partner had been run over, the report states.

The AG found no reason to charge Rivera but did say car stops such as the one with Feliz shouldn’t be performed by officers because “the vast majority of traffic stops — including this one — do not involve criminal conduct, yet the involvement of police in such situations can result in violent interactions.”

“The report also highlighted studies demonstrating disparities in the use of force during traffic stops against Black and Latino men. The untimely death of Mr. Feliz further underscores the need for this change,” the report continues.

If the NYPD does decide to continue conducting traffic enforcement stops, the AG said officers should not arrest motorists who have low-level warrants, such as a failure to appear on a summons or bench warrants for violations like littering.

“The OAG believes that such a policy properly balances the risks to the community and the public interest in avoiding unnecessary arrests during car stops. In addition, the OAG encourages state lawmakers to consider whether this issue might also be more fully addressed through legislation,” the report states.

“It is highly unlikely that the incident involving Mr. Feliz – whose warrants (Sammy Feliz warrants) were for the violations/offenses of spitting, littering, and disorderly conduct – would have escalated in the manner it did in the absence of this automatic arrest policy.”

However, following a search of Feliz’s car after his death, police found over nine grams of cocaine and 1.3 grams of methamphetamines in tablet form and determined he was on parole for a previous federal offense, the report states.

“Because Mr. Feliz was under federal parole supervision at the time of the incident, possession of these controlled substances would likely have violated the conditions of his release and, if convicted for possession of one or more felonies, subjected him to a mandatory New York State prison sentence.”

James called Feliz’s death a “tragedy” and said her office is “gravely concerned” by the actions of Rivera and the other responding officers.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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