Tuesday, February 16, 2010

delanceyplace.com 2/16/10 - bombing wall street

In today's excerpt - a bombing on September
16, 1920 in the financial district of New
York City killed 38 and seriously injured
143. The primary victims were employees of
J.P. Morgan Bank, adding to the fears of the
firm s head, Jack Morgan, son of the
legendary J.P. Morgan. The crime was never
solved, though most suspicions surrounded the
Italian anarchists prominent during that era:

"In 1920, just a few seconds after the
Trinity Church bell tolled noon on a pleasant
Thursday in September, a massive shrapnel bomb
shook the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in
New York. The blast set fire
to awnings twelve stories above, sprayed
hundreds of slugs into the facade of
the Morgan building, and killed thirty
employees instantly. The cloud of
greenish smoke that rose from the explosion
darkened the area for several
minutes. When the dust cleared, George
Whitney, one of the six Morgan partners,
walked outside and found that a fragment of
window sash weight had
pinned a woman's head and hat against the
bank's scarred north facade. He
reported, 'I'll always remember that. It hit
her so hard that it just took her
head off and it stuck right on the wall.'

"At the Stock Exchange, sixty paces around
the corner, brokers rushed to
the center of the trading floor to avoid
falling glass, and trading was suspended
within one minute, as William H. Remick,
president of the Exchange,
mounted the rostrum and rang the gong.
Trading on the Curb Market also
halted immediately; the downtown area became
a mob scene. The boys with
the telephones attached to their heads
weren't just swinging down from
windows - now they were jumping. Brokers
scattered, and federal troops
rushed from Governors Island to Wall Street.

"When the bomb hit, Jack Morgan was away
vacationing at his Scottish
shooting lodge. Jack already had been
paranoid, even before this attack on his
bank's headquarters. Just before the war, a
mysterious German man had
attempted to assassinate him, and he had
almost succeeded. Although Jack
had recovered from the gunshot wounds, he
still suffered from the emotional
blow. He was obsessed with his personal
safety and gripped by fear that he
had become a terrorist target. He had hired a
group of former Marines as
bodyguards, and scampered into hiding
whenever he heard reports of an
escape from a prison or mental asylum.

"Now, after the shrapnel bomb, Jack descended
into full-blown panic. When
justice Department authorities investigated
the blast and pursued dozens of
suspects, but could not pin the crime on
anyone, Jack concluded that he
must have been the target. If he hadn't been
off hunting in Scotland, he would
have been killed. Who was after him? Would
they ever stop?

"He posted thirty private detectives to watch
his brownstone on Madison
Avenue. He also began to view competition
from other banks as more than
merely business rivalry. He spun elaborate
conspiracy theories involving the
Bolsheviks and German-Jewish financiers. Jack
and his friends were on one
side of Wall Street; on the other side were
the enemy bankers - Kuhn Loeb,
Lehman, and Goldman Sachs - many of whom were
Jewish. Jack Morgan
neither trusted nor liked Jews. When Harvard
president A. Lawrence Lowell
sought to fill a board vacancy, Jack, who was
an overseer of Harvard and a
devoted alumnus, warned that 'the nominee
should by no means be a Jew ... the Jew is
always a Jew first and an American second.'

"Unlike Jack, investors ultimately shrugged
off the bomb. The new Federal
Reserve Bank reduced interest rates and added
money to the financial system
after the attack. The new Treasury Secretary,
Andrew Mellon, brought confidence with a
proposal for lower taxes. Investors came to
see that neither war
nor terrorists could defeat American

Frank Partnoy, The Match King, Public
Affairs, Copyright 2009 by Frank Partnoy, pp.


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