This Day in History – September 16th, 1920

Just before noon on September 16th, 1920 a horse drawn wagon pulled up to the side of the road on Wall Street, the financial district of New York City. Messengers, stenographers, clerks, brokers, and others passed the wagon, just going about their daily work routines, and totally unaware of the hundred pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of metal that hid in the cart. At 12:01PM the explosives were detonated. 38 people died, and more than two million dollars worth of damage was done to surrounding property.

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At first police and the Bureau of Investigation were puzzled by the explosion as it seemed to lack a specific target, but this was essentially a terrorist attack on the nation’s business center. The bombing was never fully solved, although investigators and historians believe the Wall Street bombing was carried out by Galleanists (Italian anarchists), a group responsible for a series of bombings the previous year.

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Luigi Galleani

The Galleanists were followers of Luigi Galleani (August 12, 1861 – November 4, 1931). He was an Italian anarchist, active in the United States from 1901 to 1919, best known for his enthusiastic advocacy of “propaganda of the deed”, i.e. the use of violence to eliminate “tyrants” and “oppressors” and to act as a catalyst to the overthrow of existing government institutions. Galleani was deported from the United States to Italy in June 1919, but his followers continued to carry out a series of bombings and assassination attempts against institutions and persons they viewed as class enemies.

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