Lunchtime. Wall Street, September 16, 1920.
Secretaries and clerks crowded the streets of the financial district as a man parked a horse-drawn wagon opposite the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan bank and walked away. The wagon was a bomb: dynamite, with sash weights and other metallic objects serving as makeshift shrapnel. Shortly after noon it exploded.
The blast shredded the wagon, killed the horse and took the lives of 38 people. Hundreds more were injured. Buildings were damaged and broken glass littered the street. The need to get hundreds of victims to hospitals meant that many were delivered not by ambulance, but by cars that were parked nearby. The street was cleaned. Some evidence was surely lost.
On that first afternoon, police weren’t sure whether the bombing was deliberate or the result of a crash between an automobile and a truck delivering explosives to a nearby construction site. Before long, though, members of the bomb squad became convinced it had been a bomb. Once that was determined, police began trying to figure out who had done it.
The explosion was big news across the country. Thanks to wire service reports, afternoon papers in the Midwest and West could publish stories about it on the day it happened. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram used the Associated Press story, under the headline “Blast Wrecks J.P. Morgan Offices; Over Score Killed.”
A mysterious explosion, disastrous in its effects, occurred today in Wall Street, killing more than a score of persons and injuring hundreds.