By David Wallace-Wells.
One September morning in 1920, a horse-drawn wagon made its way along Wall Street in lower Manhattan, came to a stop in front of the J.P. Morgan building and exploded. The wagon, which has been called the world’s first car bomb and was likely delivered by an Italian anarchist named Mario Buda, had been loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of cast-iron slugs. It was detonated, for maximum effect, at the start of the noon lunch hour at the busiest corner in New York’s financial district; the explosion killed 39, wounded hundreds more and remained, until the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst terrorist attack in American history. You can still see the pockmarks made by the bomb in the building’s façade, but, as Beverly Gage reminds us in “The Day Wall Street Exploded,” the episode, and the age of terrorism that spawned it, has more or less disappeared from our national memory. The Morgan building doesn’t even have a commemorative plaque.