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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building


The bombing of the Los Angeles Times in the early 20th century was a major political event.



98 years ago today.

From the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive...

"From 1886 to 1917, Harrison Gray Otis was the owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. During that time the newspaper pursued a strong conservative viewpoint, and was militantly anti-union in its editorials and in its relationship with employees.

On October 1, 1910, in the middle of a strike called to unionize the metal trades of the city, the Times building was dynamited. The south wall facing Broadway Street collapsed, causing the second floor to also collapse under the weight of its machines onto the first floor. The first floor then collapsed into the basement, destroying the heating plant and gas mains. The building, with many of its workers trapped inside, was soon an inferno. There was a loss of life of at least 20, and about the same number were injured, some of them permanently.




In an unusual move the mayor hired a private investigator who was able to implicate a number of men in the bombing. These included Ortie McManigal, James B. McNamara, and his brother John J. McNamara (secretary-treasurer of the International Union of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers). McManigal agreed to testify against the McNamara brothers.

Organized labor, in turn, saw this as an all-out attack on the unions and labor in general. Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, hired Clarence Darrow to defend the brothers. Darrow called them "pawns in a vast industrial war."

By the time the trial began, however, Darrow had come to the conclusion that the brothers were guilty. Rather than fighting a hopeless battle, he persuaded the brothers to plead guilty. That decision stunned the city and inferiorated the Gompers (sic).

James McNamara got a life sentence, while his brother received a sentence of 15 years. Two others, David Caplan and Matt A. Schmidt, were later implicated and received life sentences. The damage from the trial was to plague Clarence Darrow for the rest of his life." [additional photos and information]

Submitted by Brian Humphrey,
SpokesmanLos Angeles Fire Department

Video supplied by Daniel Mitchell Professor-Emeritus UCLA

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