The bomb that shook San Francisco
The 1916 Preparedness Parade. courtesy US Library of Congress
Over a century ago, tensions about the war in Europe, labor unrest and the Committee for Law and Order exploded. Quite literally on July 22, 1916, a suitcase bomb killed 10 and seriously injured 40, at the city’s “Preparedness Day” parade—one of the largest parades in the city’s history with 51,000 marchers participating. Everybody seemed to be there including Phoebe Hearst leading delegations of women down Market street. The bomb exploded at 2:06 at Market and Steuart Streets.
The idea behind a “preparedness” demonstration, which also took place in New York and Washington, D.C, was to support the American military in the event of the nation entering World War I - which we did one year later. But many were against this interference overseas, and labor leaders protested it was another get rich scheme for industrialists on the backs of working men. So after the mystery bomb blast left little evidence, the police and government was eager to find the criminals. Immediately socialists, anarchists and pro-labor organizers were targeted. Two labor activists, whom the papers referred to as "radicals", were convicted and jailed then released in 1939 after the police were accused of witness tampering in a mob scene trial.
Whoever planted the bombs remains a mystery. Some theories suggest German sabotage. What is certain, is the 1916 bombing is one example of how extreme tensions between unions and businesses had become at this time, and how determined some groups were to either prevent or support the US entering the war. But the tide of opposition was turning.
needed By 1916 daily news reports regarding the suffering and humanitarian crisis in Europe were unavoidable. Headlines were sensational and told harrowing stories of the crisis. The German invasion of Belgium was brutal. They destroyed agriculture, livestock, burned cities and villages causing the deaths of 23,700 Belgian civilians, 22,700 temporary invalids, with 18,296 children became war orphans.
The Commission for Belgian Relief (CRB) was partially responsible for turning the tide in sentiments towards the war. Established in October 1914, Daisy was there at the formation as were many others instrumental in the Hoover directed American Relief Committee (ARC). With ARC's mission to help Americans leave Europe at the declaration of war accomplished, the young entrepreneur Herbert Hoover turned his organization's attention to the growing humanitarian crisis in Belgium and Northern France. The CRB mission was to import food and ensure its distribution within German-occupied areas to civilians. No easy task, it was a logistic and diplomatic triumph.
In 1915 Daisy took a needed break from her work in Europe and along with Lou Henry Hoover and many others, travelled North America raising funds for the CRB and sharing her personal stories about the horrors on the Front. She was supposed to come home to rest, but undaunted she travelled and everywhere she spoke there were headlines. The CRB had no equal in the scope of its responsibility to feed an entire nation of nearly 7.3 million. They quickly became one of the foremost international relief organizations in the First World War era and San Franciscans were major benefactors and shipments of California products were organized from her ports. I'll write a full article on that organization soon!
Five months after the San Francisco bombing in December 1916, Daisy was chosen to lead a humanitarian project in Northern France rebuilding the ruins of Vitrimont on the Western Front. The project was a model for rebuilding and entirely funded by Mrs. William (Ethel Mary Sperry) Crocker. It was front-page news in San Francisco, and was covered in every major newspaper, magazine and many books of the time.
For more information on the SF Bomb see The Library of Congress article
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