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LA’s Vital Fluid

In response to:

Chinatowns from the October 21, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

In John Gregory Dunne’s otherwise admirable review of William Kahrl’s Water and Power [NYR, October 21], he wrote that, “the Wobblies tried to blow up the [Los Angeles] Times,” and went on to describe Clarence Darrow as “a member of the Wobblies’ defense team.”

In fact, the bombers were two staunch craft unionists, Democrats, and devout Catholics—brothers John and James McNamara. Their crime was the culmination of a bombing spree undertaken by the Structural Iron Workers union against an open-shop employers association. Harrison Gray Otis and his Times were notorious symbols of resistance to any labor organizations—from the revolutionary IWW to the conservative bastions of the AF of L.

Michael Kazin

San Francisco State University

San Francisco, California

John Gregory Dunne replies:

Mr. Kazin is right. The McNamara brothers were not members of the IWW. Staunch trade unionists, Democrats, and devout Catholics though they were, however, they did confess and plead guilty to the bombing, on October 1, 1910, of the Times building, and this culmination of the Structural Iron Workers’ union bombing spree resulted in the death of twenty-one people.

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