Anarchist Bombings

Luigi Gallaeni, Wiki Commons

The anarchist bombings of 1919 consists of two separate instances, both occurred only a month apart from one another. The anarchist movement in America was largely comprised of Italian immigrants. The movement was led by Luigi Galleani; throughout his career he gained many followers who were referred to as “Galleanists.”
Although many of the racist sentiments were directed at German-Americans for their role in the first World War, many other immigrant groups received poor treatment. Therefore, the retaliation if Italian American immigrants targeted the people institutions that oppressed them.

On April 28, 1919 the first of thirty six mail bombs was received. The attack, attributed to the Bolshevik community in America, happened a few days before May Day. Falling on the May 1st, May Day was a day for laborers of the world to come together and to hold protests and give speeches. This occurred less than a year before the Bolsheviks took over Russia creating anxiety within America. The most notable targets of these bombs include:
Postmaster General A. S. Burleson
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer
Supreme Court Justice O. W. Holmes
Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Mayor John F. Hylan
Businessman John D. Rockefeller
Businessman J. P. Morgan
Mayor Ole Hanson

All of the bombs were intercepted with the exception of one that detonated, seriously injuring a house worker. On May 1, 1919 federal and municipal agents attended a conference that concluded in increased surveillance and early deportation of radical groups.


On June 2, 1919 the anarchist movement in America struck again. This time, the Galleanists set off ten bombs, each containing 25 sticks of dynamite. Anarchists placed the bombs in private buildings, rather than mailing them. The targets included:

Mayor Harry L. Davis
Judge W. H. S. Thompson
Immigration Chief W. W. Sibray
Representative Leland Powers
Judge Charles C. Nott
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

These men were prominent figures that often expressed anti immigrant and anti anarchist policy and ideas in their public lives. The attack consisted of ten bomb explosions in eight different cities. Authorities believed that the attack was by the same group that sent mail bombs just a month prior. The attack ultimately killed two people, the attack in New York, targeting Judge Nott, killed a private watchman, William Boeher. The other man who died in Washington, D. C. was an Italian anarchist accidentally detonated a bomb outside of the Attorney General’s house. The headquarters of the anarchist group was in Philadelphia and nineteen arrests followed the attack.


Although none of the targets died, the American government retaliated with anti immigration policy. This resulted in many trials as well as the famous Palmer raids. The anarchist’s target and potential presidential nominee, A. Mitchell Palmer conducted the mass deportation of immigrants.

“10 Explostions in 8 Cities Lead to Hunt for Ferrer Anarchists As Suspects.” The Evening World. New York, New York. 3 June 1919.

Coben, Stanley. “A Study in Nativism: The American Red Scare of 1919-20.” Political Science Quarterly 79, no. 1 (1964): 52-75. doi:10.2307/2146574.


“Red Killed By Washington Bomb Left Important Clues.” New York Herald. New York, New York. 4 June 1919.
“Mail Clear of All Bombs is U.S. Hope.” The San Francisco Examiner. 2 May 1919.

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