4. 23 Wall Street Bombing

We laugh now at the terror invoked by the so-called “Red Menace,” or shake our heads at the careers curtailed by Hollywood blacklisting and HUAC, but there was a time when leftist radicals were seriously terrifying. 1919 saw a wave of bombings, from the mailed explosive package that took off the hands of the secretary to the commissioner of immigration, to the street bomb that killed two passersby outside the house of then Undersecretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

These were nothing compared to the tremendous bomb that went off on the corner of Wall Street the next year. Porters had just finished carrying bullion into the Subtreasury Building (now the Federall Hall National Monument Courthouse, aka the building in “Night Court”) and were sitting down to lunch when a huge bomb detonated in a horse-drawn wagon in the street below, sending five hundred pounds of shrapnel flying in every direction and breaking windows for half a mile around. Thirty-eight people died in the blast, including millionaire Edward Street, of whom nothing remained but a pinky digit and a signet ring.

Though the press was quick to finger leftist terrorists, no one was ever charged for the blast. The old J.P. Morgan building on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets bears the marks of the explosion to this day: inch-deep craters pockmark the lime stone beneath the second window sill from the building’s east end.