The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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‘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
 
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Comments (5)

Regarding the plaque, I was struck by the hyphenation. Four hyphens are present, three of them consecutive. Really terrible, sloppy even. Could it possibly have been deliberate? I think it could have easily been fixed, or at least center-stacked, to avoid any hyphens at all. I like the "30!" though, standing for (as I recall anyway) 30 picas on a pica stick. Back when I was a proofreader at the Times almost 30 years ago, "30" would be written in pencil at the end of each story. I've never seen it used since.
-30-

It almost defies belief that there was not some degree of prior knowledge of the upcoming "stunt" by the McNamara brothers. After all, Herbert Hockin, one of the Dynamite campaign planners was on W.J.Burns payroll as an informant... Sadly, the McNamara's allied themselves with the Socialist labor coalition of Harriman, and forever blackened the Socialist movement in America by their foolish actions. A straight win for Otis, Chandler, the M and M, and the right wing conservatives of American politics. I went to Ink alley last night, it was, (barring the fellow who asked to buy a cigarette) at 1:07, desolate, just myself commemorating 100 years of the "crime of the century"...

I'm glad you stopped by Ink Alley and yes, I imagine you had the place to yourself.

Hockin was an informant, but not until December 1910, after The Times was bombed and the McNamaras began plotting assassinations, their first target being William J. Burns. And Hockin refused to take anything from Burns beyond money for his expenses, so I wouldn't call him a paid informant. In fact he was sentenced to prison. U.S. vs. Ryan, all 18,000 pages of it, is fascinating reading. Tedious, but fascinating.

The photograph leading this story reaches out and creates an amazing abstract of a moment of terror. It is also somehow beautiful beyond words. It is mesmerizing.

Too bad Pulitzers can't be awarded retroactively. That photo is priceless. The horses, the ghostly passersby, that eagle, the blinding glare. The photographer must have been shaken with the quality of his recording.


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