Wall Street Bombing (03:57)
On September 16, 1920, an explosive outside J.P. Morgan and Company killed 38 people and wounded hundreds. Many worried it was start of attacks on American capitalism that new radical groups were calling for. The attack called into question how far the government should go to protect Americans against terrorist attacks.
Post-WWI America (07:55)
The American economy was booming after World War I, but most of the profits were being made by a select few. Woodrow Wilson passed wartime acts that prohibited speaking out against the government or the war; a fear of outsiders grew. Communism and other left-wing revolutions were happening throughout the world and the ideas resonated with working class Americans.
Communist Threat (05:30)
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, a left-leaning Democrat, tried to stop hysteria about Communism in Washington. In April 1919, bombs were mailed to 30 prominent capitalism and politicians who targeted radicals, including Palmer. May Day demonstrations throughout the country were attacked by anti-communist groups, but Palmer treated the mail bombs as a simple criminal investigation.
Radical Twenties (04:15)
Despite its reputation for prosperity, numerous ideological and labor movements grew during the 1920s. Most sought change through democracy but others, like the followers of anarchist leader Luigi Galleani, promoted political violence and terrorism.
Midnight Bombings (06:01)
About a month after the mail bombs were sent, bombs were delivered to the homes of anti-radical politicians, including Palmer. He used the attack to launch investigations into all revolutionary organizations. He created The Radicals Division to deport as many members as possible and put young lawyer J. Edgar Hoover in charge of it.
Palmer Raids (06:21)
To stop criticism about his lack of response, Palmer arrested more than 70 members of a Russian labor group on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Hoover had 200 Russian immigrants, most of whom had no radical connections, deported. In January 1920, more than 5,000 people were arrested and slated for deportation.
Criticism of Palmer (03:53)
Many began to think Palmer had gone too far with his raids and created radicals instead of finding them. He was summoned before Congress to defend his deportation raids, which were seen to have little evidence behind them. He did not receive the presidential nomination that he hoped for.
Anarchist Bombing (04:35)
Anarchist flyers were found on Wall Street just before the bomb went off on September 16. Most of the dead were young men, who made modest livings in nearby trading houses.
Aftermath of the Bombing (08:26)
Palmer called for more aggressive action against radicals, but others feared it would only punish innocent people again. Despite multiple false arrests, no one was ever convicted of the bombing. Most radical groups diminished in size as the 1920s continued, but Hoover kept files on them in his new role as the FBI director.
Credits: The Bombing of Wall Street (01:08)
Credits: The Bombing of Wall Street
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