Monday, April 27, 2015

MS Monday—PPIE Part 5: Industrial peace and the Preparedness Day Bombing

The Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) symbolized a dawning era of industrial peace, class harmony, and economic growth. According to labor historian Michael Kazin, the fair also represented the beginning of the decline of organized labor’s political influence in San Francisco, as the voice of labor was drowned out by a duplicitous message of class cooperation. 

The Preparedness Day Bombing of July 22, 1916 shattered the illusion of class harmony that prevailed in the "Exposition City" with terrible violence. The bombing was the worst attack in the city's history, killing ten people and wounding forty. It was also the final nail in organized labor's coffin, turning public opinion against the unions and providing the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the Law and Order Committee with an opportunity to push forward anti-picketing and closed-shop policies. 


 

Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings were tried and convicted for the attack in what was considered by many to be a frame-up. (Mooney was ultimately pardoned in 1939.) The case bitterly divided the San Francisco labor movement, with the majority of the city’s labor leaders backing San Francisco District Attorney and Mooney prosecutor Charles Fickert.  As the pamphlet above makes clear, Mooney’s defenders believed that he had been betrayed by San Francisco’s politically compromised labor elite. 

These pamphlets can be found in the California Historical Society’s collection of papers pertaining to the Mooney case (MS 3976), which appears to have been collected by San Francisco Chronicle political editor Earl Behrens. The collection includes an extraordinary statement made by sports writer Afred H. Spink implicating German agents in the bombing. Spink had been dispatched to the Bay Area in 1914 to report on the Exposition for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Stay tuned for more on the Spink affidavit next week.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
msilva@calhist.org
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