When a bomb went off near Wall Street

By all accounts, September 16, 1920 started out like any other workday for the financial institutions centered around lower Broadway.

Just before noon, however, a wagon led by a lone horse stopped near the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, in front of the headquarters of J.P Morgan and across from the United States Assay Office. The New York Stock Exchange was around the corner.














At 12:01, a bomb hidden in the wagon exploded. Witnesses reported the carnage as horrific. Thirty-nine people were killed and 300 injured; bodies (and body parts, including horse parts) lay in the street, and maimed Wall Streeters took refuge in Trinity Church. Most of the dead were clerks, messengers, and other office staffers.

The bomb was immediately denounced as the work of anarchists. The next day, thousands of people came to the corner where it detonated and sang America the Beautiful. Many suspects were questioned, but no one ever charged, and the bombing—the worst in the U.S. until Oklahoma City in 1995—remains unsolved.

An eerie reminder of the destruction: Pockmarks from shrapnel are still visible on the J.P. Morgan building.

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4 Responses to “When a bomb went off near Wall Street”

  1. I Scream for Ice Cream? Taste It, and You Might - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    […] reminder of an unsolved horse and carriage bombing on Wall Street in 1920, which reportedly killed 39 people. [Ephemeral New […]

  2. w Says:

    It seems likely that the bombing remains “unsolved” because post-Palmer Raid paranoia led authorities to suspect the labor leaders they had already pursued and imprisoned. They did suspect a particular group of Italian anarchists with the means and the motive (ironically the result of shoddy prosecution) but never gathered enough evidence.

    The most likely suspect was a man named Mike Buda, an Italian anarchist and friend of Sacco and Vanzetti. It was his car alleged to have been used in the robbery for which Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted, and it is his anger at that show trial and its results which provides a very plausible reason for the Wall Street bombing. Further, he left New York for Italy immediately following the bombing.

    The nascent FBI may not have solved the crime but a great deal of evidence (and the man’s own admission) make a strong case for Mike Buda as a key figure.



    Mike Davis – “Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb”

  3. A peaceful scene on Wall Street « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] judging by the suits and hats, it must have been post-1920. That’s the year a bomb left behind in a horse-drawn wagon ripped into this exact location in front of Federal Hall on the right, killing 38 people—mostly messengers, stenographers, and […]

  4. Jeff Caligari Says:

    Must have been the oil rich arabs, or hadnt the british found oil on arab land yet?

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