The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: 1910 L.A. Times bombing

The Joys of Research

The denominations and serial numbers of bills used as evidence in the Clarence Darrow jury tampering case: $1,000, A 6335; $500, C 60895; $500, C 72583; $500, C 62865; $500, C 20406; $500, C 23172; $500, C 61827. Check your change purse.
People vs. Darrow, 1721-1722

‘A Terrible Roar’—Updated

Times bombing  
Courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Special Collections.

Oct. 1, 1910:  The Times Building in flames, as seen from Broadway
just south of First Street. Notice The Times Eagle outlined by the fire.

Oct. 15, 1929, Times Bombing

El Alisal, Oct. 1, 1910:

This is a sad day for me and for every other man that loves Los Angeles.

At one this morning I was dictating to Brownie and heard a terrible roar in town and remarked that it sounded like dynamite and just casually thought it might be The Times.

This morning Quimo had to rustle around twice before he found the little four-page sheet telling us that The Times was dynamited by the union brutes at 1 o’clock. It’s the greatest sensation in the town since I have lived here and I am sorry my acquaintance is so largely among lawyers and other people who would not join a lynching party. If I knew more of the roughnecks I would go out and form a vigilance and we would hang all the labor union agitators in town just for general results. They need hanging anyhow, and while probably none of them were foolish enough to do this dastardly deed, which killed 15 or 20 people, and jeopardized one hundred more, they are morally responsible. Mebbe I can find some way yet to get at this – though the roughnecks don’t know me and would think me too find haired; and most of the people I know that are not roughnecks have become too lazy and too wealthy to show a hand.

The brutes also set dynamite at Gen. Otis’ house and Zeehandelaar’s house, but luckily it didn’t go through in either case.

Then down to First and Broadway and saw the smoldering ruins of The Times Building with the 15 or 20 poor devils still roasting underneath and then up to the temporary office at 5th and Spring where I left my telephone address as good for two guns and any amount of time as a watchman.

--Charles Lummis, former Times city editor
from Lummis’ journal , courtesy of the Braun Research Library, Southwest Museum.

Monument Names There was a rumble and a roar. Lights went out. Plaster fell. Women screamed (nearly half the proof room force were women). We dashed to the First Street windows. Then we headed for the First Street stair. Mrs. Palm was dragged from the cloak room trying to retrieve her wraps. A lad stepped on Miss Copp’s skirt as she fled down the stairs. She fainted. The lad and a big printer named Charley Baker picked her up in the dark and carried her across the street to the corner drugstore.

The proof room folk all escaped. Then turned back to look at the blazing building…

--Paul Lowry
from Among Ourselves, a Times employee publication, September 1930, courtesy of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

All at once a terrific force from below seemed to raise a section of the floor clear to the roof. The upheaval came between two Linotype machines. Flames and broken timbers flew in all directions. The force of the thing was indescribable. Grant Moore, a machinist, was directly over the spot where the impact came through the floor. His body was hurled against the ceiling. E.A. Jordan, a head-setter, and E.W. Wasson, a galleyman, were nearest to him and they, too were hurled against the ceiling of the composing room. Every one of the typesetting machines were thrown down and they were hurled in all directions.

--Sim Crabill, foreman of The Times mechanical department
--The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 5, 1910   


I jumped on my bicycle and went directly towards the sound of the explosion. When I got to the corner of First and Broadway, I saw The Times Building in flames and went directly over there. The fire apparatus was gathering around; people were going in and out of the front portion of the building on First Street.

I went directly to Ink Alley, as that was the entrance to that portion, and I tried to gain entrance there and could not; we could hear the cries of those that were pinned inside; there was no other way out of that particular part, and going to the back I found a wall had fallen in and there was no way to get in there....

LAPD Officer John S. Hendrickson
--U.S. vs. Ryan, courtesy of the Huntington Library

The Fire Department was not what it is today. We had only one little life net and it was not what you would today call modern. For instance, the modern life net is manned by not less than twelve men and many lives have been saved by people jumping from great heights. But three of us tried to save men jumping from the windows of the upper story.

There were Charlie Pollman, fireman; a policeman named Martz, and myself; with an old rope net attempting to break the fall of these jumping men. And, strange as it may seem, one jumping from the fifth floor, whom I was told later was the night editor, struck the net with terrific force, and the three of us holding the net were all in a heap on the sidewalk. But when we managed to regain our feet, this editor got up and walked away – unassisted. But four others, making the same attempt, lost their lives. There were screams and cries for help coming from all directions.

Twenty-one [20--lrh] lives were lost and for three straight days the firemen worked around the clock, recovering bodies from the wreckage of those collapsed walls. The Tahoe [Tally-Ho] Stables, across the street, had caught on fire, but the second alarm companies, arriving on the scene, took care of all the spot fires and, through their effort the fire was contained to The Times Building, which of course was a total loss.

No fireman lost his life during the process of this fire but I could give you the names of several of the old-timers who worked so hard and so long and inhaled so much smoke and gases in attempting to make those rescues their health was greatly impaired for the rest of their lives. Fire Chief Archie J. Eley remained on the scene, working like a Trojan, until he fell exhausted. There are only a few men living today who took part in that Times fire, but I am sure that each and every one of them would tell you, even today, that it was Los Angeles’ greatest fire disaster.

--Fire Department Battalion Chief Ernest Rhodes, July 8, 1957
Courtesy of the Huntington Library

Clarence Darrow at the Higgins Building

Clarence Darrow, 1912
Los Angeles Times file photo

Landmark alert! Clarence Darrow had an office on the ninth floor of the Higgins Building, in the southwest corner, on the west side of the hall. 

--People vs. Clarence Darrow, Page 721.

Google and History


Clarence Darrow, the lead defense attorney for the McNamara brothers in The Times bombing,  vs. Gloria Allred in Google searches for the last 12 months.

Quote of the Day

Jan. 7, 1937, James B. McNamara
Los Angeles Times file photo

“I never saw a Chicago policeman that would not take some money.”

-- James B. McNamara, shown at Folsom Prison with Tom Mooney in 1939. 


The Times Eagle [Updated]


Dec. 5, 1891: The Times Eagle is installed on the roof of Times Building No. 2 at First Street and Broadway on Dec. 5, 1891, after being made by the J.L. Mott Iron Works of Chicago and brought to Los Angeles by rail.

“And so from this lofty perch I send greeting and goodwill to all who pass beneath; but let it not be forgotten that the eagle sees in the night as well as the day, and that his vision can pierce the drawn curtains of a cab at 8 a.m. as easily as [Verona] Jarbeau can ‘wink the other eye.’ ”

[Update: A previous version of this post gave the incorrect date of Dec. 5, 1896]
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Fragments of History


image Feb. 5, 1896: The Times published a line drawing of its  counter, which in true Victorian fashion, was made from an array of historic artifacts: Wood from Union and Confederate ships, a piece of the famous Aliso tree that was cut down in the 1890s, wood from California missions, a piece of an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane,  a bit of the bed in which Abraham Lincoln died, and a "piece of wood taken from the mast of the U.S.S. Hartford to which Admiral Farragut was lashed." 

Because the building and its contents were destroyed in the bombing, there are very few photographs of the exterior of Times Building No. 2 and no photos showing the interior. This is the only artwork I have found so far that shows the interior. This would have been on the first floor. Presumably the doorway to center-right was the corner entrance at First Street and Broadway, with the arched window to the left. 

On Assignment – Times Bombing

Oct. 2, 1910, Times Bombing

As the anniversary of The Times bombing draws near, I thought I’d ask Daily Mirror readers what they might like to know about the incident. I have spent the last few weeks researching the bombing and I’ve had access to a great many original documents, which have been enlightening. It’s been a rather bittersweet journey to see how many artifacts (and buildings) have been lost over the years.

A Notable Absence – Updated

Sept. 16, 1910, Mexican Centennial

Sept. 16, 1910, Mexican Independence

Note: A bloodless bullfight at Schuetzen Park. [Update: Schuetzen Park was renamed Rose Hills Park about 1923.]

Sept. 16, 1910: Many writers have noted that Gen. Harrison Gray Otis wasn’t in Los Angeles when The Times was bombed but almost no one examines the reason. Here’s what happened:

Otis was one of the prominent Americans representing the U.S. for Mexico’s centennial celebration in Mexico City. Other goodwill envoys included Massachusetts Gov. Curtis Guild Jr.; Judge James Watson Gerard; Sen. Lee Slater Overman of North Carolina; Rep. Edwin Denby of Michigan; Rep. William Marcellus Howard of Georgia; Col. Charles A. Rook, founder of the Pittsburgh Dispatch; Sen. Coe Isaac Crawford of South Dakota; and Rep. David J. Foster of Vermont. 

Continue reading »

Pages of History

Los Angeles -- The Chemically Pure

“Los Angeles – The Chemically Pure” by Willard Huntington Wright/S.S. Van Dine in the March 1913 issue of “The Smart Set” is frequently cited, but almost never quoted. I tracked down the article (which also appears in “The Smart Set Anthology,” 1934) in hopes of uncovering the roots of the ridiculous story about Gen. Harrison Gray Otis’ “armored car.”

There was nothing about the car, but I was struck by the tone of Wright’s article, for it is the full-blown “Los Angeles as the coastline of Iowa” attitude (fashionable writers would call it a “trope”) that defines the Eastern school of writing about Los Angeles and is readily found in just about any current issue of the New York Times or the New Yorker.   

“The Smart Set Anthology” is in the Los Angeles Public Library and many other Southern California libraries. Or you can find much of the article quoted in a rebuttal by George Wharton James in a 1913 issue of Out West. 

Bonus on the jump: The first page of James' article and a photo of Pershing Square as it appeared before the construction of the Biltmore.

Continue reading »

An Important Visitor

Sept. 16, 1910, Bankers Convention
Sept. 16, 1910: And what could possibly be interesting about a bankers’ convention? Notice the dates: Oct. 3-7. So if William J. Burns, head of the Burns National Detective Agency, comes to Los Angeles for the convention and arrives a few days early, he’ll be here  when The Times is bombed on Oct. 1. And “Goo-Goo” Mayor George Alexander can hire him to investigate the bombing. Which is exactly what happened.

Charles Lummis, Columnist

Sept. 13, 1917, Cartoon

image Sept. 13, 1917: I thought I’d take a little detour to 1917 after visiting the Southwest Museum the other day to go through Charles Lummis’ materials on the 1910 bombing of The Times. You may recall that “Charlie” Lummis was The Times’ first city editor.

One thing I came across was  correspondence between Gen. Harrison Gray Otis (referred to as the Chief or  the Old Chief) and Lummis over a column titled “I Guess So.” Lummis was being paid $25 [$414.61 USD 2009] per Sunday column and shortly before Otis died in 1917, he agreed to pay Lummis $20 [$331.69 USD 2009] for another installment of “I Guess So” that would run midweek.

After Otis died, Harry Chandler withdrew the agreement, explaining after a long series of protests by Lummis that the government had imposed wartime restrictions on newsprint, noting that newspapers were weighing whether to cut the comics, rotogravure sections and anything else that wasn’t news.  

I have no idea as to the artist on this editorial cartoon, which is unsigned. Edmund Waller “Ted” Gale was the usual editorial page artist in this era, but he always signed his work.

Lummis’ entire column is on the jump –- plus an editorial against saloons. The Times says it doesn’t oppose serving liquor with meals and calls “bone-dry prohibition” a failure. But the “stand up  and take a drink bar” should be closed, it says. 
Continue reading »

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