The Day Wall Street Exploded – Reviews


Journal of American History, 2009

By James Green. Beverly Gage has written a richly detailed and superbly rendered history of one of the worst—and most neglected—terrorist bombings in American history: the dynamite explosion of September 16, 1920, that killed thirty-eight people on Wall Street. Although all but erased from public memory (and ignored by historians until now), the event was sensational news in 1920 and remained so for the next two years during a series of fruitless and often bizarre investigations that failed to solve the mystery of who planted the bomb. Read more....


Chicago Tribune, April 4, 2009

By David L. Chappell. Americans often say they lost their complacency and innocence on 9/ll. Wait a minute, Beverly Gage's new history rings out like an alarm clock: We have been here before. Gage startles us with the thought that we should have lost something more important than our innocence on 9/ll: our amnesia about our rich prior experience with terrorism. Read the rest....

San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 2009

By Jesse Berrett. One of the first principles novice academic historians learn is that books that cater to the market are, at best, suspicious. Anything not published by a university press is by definition under-theorized, simplistic, too appealing. Certainly, when Erik Larson gins up suspense through exaggeration or artful juxtaposition, he's concocting something that's not exactly "history." But by the same token, the effort to entice readers should not be disdained, and minimal advances in knowledge won via hair-splitting interpretive battles do no one a favor. Read the rest....

Newsweek, February 6, 2009

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. Read the rest....

Newsweek Q&A, January 2009

At noon on Sept. 16, 1920, a carriage filled with dynamite exploded at the corner of Wall St. and Broad St.the heart of America's newly confident financial capital. The attack, which was clearly aimed at the headquarters of the era's dominant financial institutions, J.P. Morgan & Co., killed dozens of people and has remained one of the greatest unsolved mysteries. In "The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror" (Oxford University Press), Yale historian Beverly Gage details the dramatic attack and the ultimately unsuccessful efforts to finds the culprits, and revives the frequently forgotten history of radical-inspired violence that was surprisingly common in a period generally remembered as a triumphant one for big business.  Read the rest....


Reviews in American History, March 2010

By Bryant Simon. As I read Beverly Gage’s engaging, smart, insightful, and crisply written new book, I couldn’t stop thinking about J. Anthony Lukas. Before he took his own life in 1997, Lukas stood tall as one of the nation’s preeminent historians. Trained as a journalist, with apprenticeships at the Baltimore Sun and New York Times, he wrote sprawling, dramatic stories for a wide, yet still well-informed audience. He wrote epic tales built around fully fleshed-out characters, both the famous and the not-so-famous. The men and women that interested him the most typically found themselves embroiled in and affected by revealing and explosively violent moments: the death of a troubled New England socialite lost in the darkness of the counterculture, the vicious opposition to busing in Boston, and the 1905 murder of an Idaho governor. Read more....

Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, January 2011

By Richard Bach Jensen. Beverly Gages absorbing and colorfully written book restores the centrality of violence, and even terrorism, to American history from the 1880s to the 1920s. She does this by placing the deadly Wall Street bombing of September 1920 in the context of decades of violent class conflict in the United States. She provides a satisfying answer to the question of why a series of terrorist acts occurred in the United States, culminating in historys most lethal single act of anarchist violence, which took place not in Europe, but in New York. Among its many sources, her impressively documented book utilizes unpublished FBI material obtained through the Freedom of Information act. Read more....

Law and History Review, February 2009

By Alexander Tsesis. Beverly Gage has written an engaging story about the September 16, 1920 bombing on Wall Street. At times the work melds the historical with the current, demonstrating that a war on terror had been fought long before the Twin Towers attacks of September 11, 2001. Most of books content is historical, moving adroitly from Alfred Nobels invention of dynamite in 1866 to the Coolidge Administration. At the outset, Gage explores nineteenth century anarchic plots in Russia and the United States that relied on bombings to make political statements, with the !nal goal, being the overthrow of exploitative capitalism. The book is not written chronologically, but one of Gages skills as an author is the ability to transition between eras without losing momentum. Read more....

Journal for the Study of Radicalism, Spring 2010

By David Edgar. Beverly Gage has presented a readable, detailed, and enlightening history of the Wall Street bombing of 16 September 1920, the worst terrorist act in the United States until the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. The similarities between this bombing and later attacks in New York are obvious, but several significant aspects of this first car bombing in history merit study, including the abuse of intelligence, the suspension of constitutional safeguards in the name of patriotism, and the trajectory of radical movements. The ability of a small and still unidentified group to affect politics, business, and public confidence dramatically through the use of a simple but well-placed and highly effective explosive is unarguable, even today. Read more....

Business History, September 2009

Reviewed by Jonathan M. Soffer. Beverly Gage’s elegantly written book reaches beyond the Wall Street bombing on September 16, 1920, seeking to “rediscover the genuine drama of class confl  ict in the United States” (p. 8). The book has three main sections on the events of the bombing itself, the history of violent labor politics from the Gilded Age through World War I, and, in a brilliant account, the bumbling investigation of the crime by the police agencies of the day. Read more. ...