Monday, May 11, 2015

MS Monday—PPIE Part 6: More from the Mooney papers

Another, strange connection between the Panama Pacific International Exposition and the Preparedness Day Bombing of July 22, 1916, is revealed by the Alred H. Spink affidavit of 1927, found in the California Historical Society’s collection of papers pertaining to the Mooney case. Spink, an influential St. Louis sports writer, was dispatched to San Francisco in December 1914 to report on the Exposition for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He relocated his family to North Oakland, where his German American wife quickly befriended a neighboring family of German immigrants. In addition to reporting for the Post-Dispatch and other St. Louis newspapers, Spink made regular contributions to the Oakland Tribune under the nom de plume of Mr. Muldoon.

Alfred H. Spink affidavit, 1927, Papers relating to the Mooney case, MS 3976, California Historical Society

At this point in Spink’s affidavit, his story takes a surprising and sinister turn. He reports that his wife’s new friends used his telephone frequently, often discussing explosions that were occurring on the Pacific Coast in the months before the Preparedness Day bombing. According to Spink, his wife told him “that something awful was going to happen in San Francisco” several days before the July 22nd attack, and was warned by her friends not to attend the Preparedness Day parade. Spink attributes the San Francisco bombing and other attacks to “agents of the German government , and their associates and accomplices” who congregated at the Germania Café.  

Although convinced of Tom Mooney’s innocence, Spink did not report his suspicions to the authorities, at the request of his wife. He states:

“Since the death of my wife, I have thought much about the occurrence in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and, when, in the 'St. Louis Globe-Democrat' of December 29, 1926, I saw a news item to the effect that Governor Richardson had not extended executive clemency to Mooney but desired to be fair in the matter and would not deny the application, I was prompted to make a statement.”

“I am in very poor health and it is a relief to my conscience to make a statement of these facts, because I am firmly convinced that the Preparedness Day Explosion was the work of the parties to whom I refer in this statement, who had the mistaken idea that they were helping Germany by committing acts of violence in this country.”

All in all, a strange tale, told by an unlikely teller, reminiscent of Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Whether or not it contains any truth regarding the actual facts of the Preparedness Day Bombing, Spink’s affidavit reminds us of the fearfulness, anxiety, and suspicion that swept across the country in the years leading up to the United States’ entry into World War I. 

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
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