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Author Gage Discusses ‘The Day Wall Street Exploded’

Author Beverly Gage discusses her book, "The Day Wall Street Exploded," which examines the fallout from a 1920 bomb attack that killed dozens of people and wounded scores more during lunch hour on Wall Street.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Just before noon on Sept. 16, 1920, a horse-drawn cart pulled up near J.P. Morgan banks' headquarters on Wall Street. The explosion from the dynamite on the wagon killed 38 people and wounded 143 more.

    Until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, it was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. And yet this attack, coming at a time of enormous social and economic tumult, is little known and little marked in our history books.

    A new book, "The Day Wall Street Exploded," sets about to correct that. Its author is Beverly Gage, an historian at Yale University.

    Welcome.

  • BEVERLY GAGE, Yale University:

    Thanks.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    So the target seems fairly clear, but in many ways this event is a great unsolved mystery.

  • BEVERLY GAGE:

    That's right. The moment this bomb went off, everybody assumed that it had been a blow at American capitalism, aimed at the Morgan banks, the New York Stock Exchange, which was just down the street.

    And they assumed it had been radicals of some sort who had set the bomb, probably anarchists or communists, but there was a four-year investigation into it, and they actually never ended up solving the crime at all.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Huge investigation, no indictments, no trials. What's the thinking on who did it and why?

  • BEVERLY GAGE:

    Right. Well, you had the Federal Bureau of Investigation involved. You had the New York Police Department involved. You had private detectives all over the country involved. They all tripped over each other trying to figure this out. And as we said, they failed.

    Probably the best theory is that it was an Italian anarchist who was part of the same circle of anarchists that Sacco and Vanzetti, the famous defendants, were involved with and that this was set in part in response to their arrests, but also to the enormous repression and battles over capitalism that were underway.

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