The Reign of Terrorism

Picture this: There is a mad bomber on the loose that mails packages to important people that explode when opened and is meant to kill the person that opens the small package and anyone else near the opener at the time. Further, in the same era, a man drives up to a federal building, parks his vehicle and quietly walks away. The vehicle explodes shortly after and causes extensive damage to the building. Many people are killed in the explosion. The events, coming so close together, causes a panic among many Americans. In just one year the United States Congress submitted no fewer than seventy new bills aimed at helping to prevent terrorism. When did these events happen? While most would answer that these events happened in the early 1990’s, (the Unabomber and the destruction of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City) the answer would be correct. However, these same two events also happened in America in 1919 and 1920.

On April 29, 1919 a small package was delivered to the home of Senator Thomas Hardwick in Atlanta. Mrs. Hardwick sat at a table on began opening the day’s mail. Among the envelopes she found a small package. The return address was from Gimble Brothers the famous department store in New York. The package also had the word “Sample” stamped on it. She handed the package to their maid and resumed opening the other mail.

While the maid untied the string securing the package an explosion occurred. Shrapnel flew about the room. The maid’s hand were blown off. The upper third of Mrs. Hardwick’s body was severely burned. Both had extensive lacerations about their bodies. Amazingly, both women survived.

Letter bombs were also mailed to several other influential people, including the mayor of Seattle Washington, Ole Hanson, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, the Postmaster General Albert Sydney Burleson, as well as others. Fortunately, the only letter bomb to explode was the one delivered to Senator Hardwick. The same day, a letter bomb was delivered to the home of the mayor of Seattle. However, since he had already received several death threats due to his public denouncing of terrorism, he was cautious and called the police before opening it. The police were able to defuse the bomb without anyone being injured. Luckily, these were the only two to be actually delivered to the addressee. The rest were sent back due to insufficient postage on the packages. All were defused at various post offices by the police before doing any further harm.

Also, fortunately, the bomber was discovered before he could send out his next round of letter bombs. The F.B.I and the C.I.A. were in their infancy and very small in that period of American history. The director of the Bureau of Investigation at the time was a man named Mitchell Palmer. Two months after the Atlanta bombing, police were called to the home of Palmer as several reports of an explosion at his home had been reported. After investigating the agents discovered that in fact Palmer had been the mad bomber.! Palmer had just spent the evening preparing another batch of letter bombs he intended to mail the next day. One of the bombs detonated prematurely and leveled Palmer’s home as well as killing him. Within his home were booklets published by radicals whose intent was to overtake the United States Government.

The following year on September 16, 1920 a man drove his horse and wagon to the front of the J. P. Morgan building on Wall Street and parked it there. He quietly walked away. This building was the hub of the nation’s financial district at the time. Five minutes later, at 12:05 the cart exploded. The only thing left of the cart and horse were the horse’s hoofs! The building was extensively damaged also. Witnesses described the explosion as a great cloud, like a mushroom, that rose high in the air and it rained debris back onto the street. Shock waves of the explosion could be felt as far away as across the river to Brooklyn. Many other buildings close the to Morgan building also received excessive damage. Windows for blocks around were blown out by the shock wave. With so much damage to buildings, it is fortunate that while two hundred were wounded, only thirty-five people were killed in the explosion. Officials traced to bombing back to radicals who were trying to overtake the United States government. Unfortunately, no one was brought to trial for the bombing.

To read an actual newspaper account of the bombing of the J.P. Morgan Building go to HistoryBuff Online Newspaper Archive.

At least in this case, history does repeat itself. It was seven decades before Americans would experience another round of terrorist activities on American soil similar to those of 1919 and 1920.

Constantino Brumidi Who?

I doubt there is anyone on Earth that hasn’t heard of Michelangelo and his fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (Fresco is the art of adding color to wet plaster and using the colored plaster to “paint” a picture.) In America there is another fresco in a public building that equals the grandeur of the one by Michaelangelo. His name is >Constantino Brumidi and he did his fresco in 1865. The work is The Apotheosis of Washington and is on the ceiling of the Capitol rotunda in Washington, DC.

Constantino Brumidi was a native of Italy. He fled Rome in the early 1850’s when he was in this fifties to escape political persecution. He immigrated to America. Several years later, while touring the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, he noted how blank and dull the rotunda ceiling of the Capitol Building was. Being a masterful artist in Italy with a good reputation, he lobbied the American government to commission him to “paint” a fresco on the ceiling of this building. After submitting sketches of his concept to fill the ceiling he was commissioned to do the work. He was paid $3,200.

Scaffolds were erected that were 180 feet high. Brumidi lay on his back to mix the plaster with colors and apply it to the ceiling. His face was just inches away from the ceiling. He often worked day and night since the art of fresco painting is so demanding; Chemical changes in the plaster add beauty and permanence to the work but also require the artist to work for extended periods without a break. Those areas not completed before the plaster dries must be scraped off and redone. He often worked 20 to 30 hours straight.

For eleven months Brumidi labored on the work even though his shoulders and arms ached. When his completed work was unveiled to the public it was met with tremendous enthusiasm. Despite receiving many offers for him to do frescos for other people, he turned them all down. He told everyone that his main goal was to continue doing additional frescos within the Capitol Building if the government would commission him to do so. They did! His next project was to create a fresco upon the blank section that was eight foot high and 300 feet in circumference surrounding the dome that circled the rotunda. He envisioned a series of vignettes depicting scenes from American history. He completed six of the vignettes before he died in 1877. For a larger photo of The Apotheosis of Washington on the ceiling of the nation's Capitol click the image above.

September Brain Teaser

Subscriber Barb Franklin has submitted a brain teaser for this issue. Her question is: Can you name a word in the English dictionary that contains all the vowels, in order (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y?) The word is an adverb and means to be playfully jocular or humorous.

Answer: Facetiously

October Brain Teaser

What is it that the buyer seldom, if ever, uses and the user seldom, if ever, sees it?

Answer: Next issue.

PS: If you make any money by winning bets on these brain teasers, a little commission would be nice :-)

September Contest

QUESTION: Which country sold the Louisiana Purchase to the United States?

ANSWER: France.

Seventy-two people entered the contest. Twenty-three were disqualifed due to an incorrect subject heading, did not indicate which prize they wanted if they won. Five people submitted their entry after the deadline. This left Forty-four people still eligible to win. From these forty-four poople, ten were selected as winners. All ten prizes were awarded.

(I am often asked how I select winners. As each entry comes in, after reviewing it, I move the entry to one of several folders in my email program. One folder is "Errors", one "Grand Prize" and the rest named after each individual prize - "Shirley Temple" for example. Soon after the contest deadline I open each folder one at a time and select one entry to be the winner of that prize. For some prizes, I select the first correct one. In other ones, I select the last one to enter in that category. The next might be from the middle of the list of correct entries. It never ceases to amaze me how many people put the incorrect subject heading as per the rules. They enter such subject headings as "contest question," "Alternate contest," "Answer to the question," "September question," etc. In addition, after the new newsletter is mailed I always receive a few emails asking that since their answer and subject heading were correct why they did not win.)

The September contest winners were:

  • Paul White - New York
  • Thomas Rung - New Jersey
  • Matthew Platt - Nebraska
  • Robert Milton - Alabama
  • Judy Jones - Missouri
  • Deborah Pike - Hawaii
  • Linda Walker - New Hampshire
  • Terry Barton - Tennessee
  • Jim Adams - North Carolina
  • Robert Dufour - New Mexico

This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, send by email an essay of not more than 75 words relating why you want to win it. One grand prize will be awarded.

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question below and indicate which ONE prize you want if you win. (Only one of each is available.)

Alternate Contest Question: Only one American has been elected twice to Vice-President of the United States AND elected twice to the President of the United States. Who was he?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Monday, October 17, 2005. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the newsletter.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but can only win one prize.

  • To enter either contest, email your essay or answer to

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading. Include ONLY your essay and NOT the answer to the alternate contest question. (Only one grand prize is available.)

  • If entering for any of the alternate contest prizes, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading and answer the Alternate Contest Question.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • Entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize.

  • From subscribers entering the Grand Prize contest and submitting an essay of NOT MORE THAN 75 words in length, correct subject heading, and submission received by the deadline, will be considered for winning. All other Grand Prize entries will be disqualified.

  • From subscribers entering the alternate contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE alternate contest prize they want to win, NINE will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.

Grand Prize
(One winner will be selected)

Newspaper Delivered to Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of War
Prior to the mid-1800's one could not purchase a single issue of a newspaper. Instead, the only option was to pay in advance for an entire year. Editors would hand write the subscriber's name on each copy to make sure he had printed enough copies for the subscribers. The Grand Prize here is one of the newspapers dated 1802 and delivered to Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of War Henry Dearborn.
Alternate Contest Prizes
(Only one of each offered)

Little Lord Fountleroy (1938)
Freddie Bartholomew and Mickey Rooney

Little House on the Prairie
Journey in the Spring - 2 Hour movie

Wild West Tech
Documentary by the History Channel

PC Game
Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Kids Edition - 8 Years and Up

Original Historic Newspapers

Original Boston Daily Advertiser historic newspaper from 1823

Original New-York Observer historic newspaper from 1836

Original The Massachusetts Spy historic newspaper from 1845

Original The Commercial Bulletin historic newspaper from 1867

Original The Cincinnati Daily Gazette historic newspaper from 1871
That's it for this issue.

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