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McNamara Case


McNAMARA CASE. On 1 October 1910 an explosion set off by a dynamite bomb destroyed the Los Angeles Times building, killing twenty people. City officials and business leaders insisted that the bomb had been planted by labor activists upset by the virulently anti-union sentiments of the newspaper and its owner, Harrison Gray Otis. Union leaders heatedly rejected this accusation. The arrests of James McNamara and his brother John, secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, further infuriated trade unionists, who became convinced that the arrests represented an attempt to discredit organized labor by framing them for the crime. For a brief moment disparate elements of working-class America were drawn together in a common cause: to defend the McNamara brothers. Clarence Darrow, one of America's most prominent defense attorneys, was hired to head their legal team, and the case quickly attracted national attention. Shortly before their trial began in the fall of 1911, however, the brothers confessed. This shattering revelation was a serious setback for the labor movement in Los Angeles, in California, and in the nation at large. This case was also the precursor for the Indianapolis Dynamite Conspiracy trials in 1912, where thirty-nine other union officials were convicted. These trials further damaged the reputation of the American labor movement.


Adams, Graham, Jr. Age of Industrial Violence, 1910–15: The Activities and Findings of the United States Commission on Industrial Relations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.

Cowan, Geoffrey. The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America's Greatest Lawyer. New York: Times Books, 1993.

Greenstein, Paul, Nigey Lennon, and Lionel Rolfe. Bread and Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles. Los Angeles: California Classic Books, 1992.

Daniel J.Johnson

See alsoAssassinations and Political Violence, Other .

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