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Los Angeles Times Bombing (1910): Topics in Chronicling America

In 1910, an explosion at the Los Angeles Times office leads to arrests and a dynamite conspiracy. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Los Angeles Times Bombing" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Wreck of the Los Angeles Times building, photographed on the morning after it was dynamited... and a portrait of Detective William J. Burns." April 24, 1911. The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

At 1:07 A.M. an explosion rips through the offices of the Los Angeles Times. In the ensuing fire many fell to their deaths by jumping out windows to escape the fire, while even more could not escape the flames. 21 people died in the explosion and fire, but the investigation revealed the Dynamite Conspiracy, which was linked to more than 100 bombings across the country. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

October 1, 1910 An explosion tears through the offices of the Los Angeles Times, killing 21 people. LA Times officials immediately blame organized labor.
October 28, 1910 California State Federation of Labor releases a report concluding that the explosion was caused by a gas leak, not by dynamite.
April 12, 1911 James McNamara and Ortie McManigal are arrested in Detroit and taken to Chicago.
April 13, 1911 Ortie McManigal confesses to the LA Times bombing and provides evidence against McNamara.
April 22, 1911 John McNamara is arrested by detective William Burns in Indianapolis, IN and quickly extradited to California with his brother James and Ortie McManigal.
April 26, 1911 William Burns is arrested in Indianapolis, IN for the kidnapping of John McNamara.
December 1, 1911 John McNamara pleads guilty to first degree murder in the LA Times bombing and his brother James pleads guilty to bombing the Llewellyn Iron Works.
February 14, 1912 Nearly all of the fifty-four defendants indicted in connection with the “Dynamite Conspiracy” are arrested.
August 17, 1912 Clarence Darrow is found not guilty of bribing a juror during the McNamara trial.
December 28, 1912 Thirty-eight union officials are found guilty on charges related to the LA Times and other bombings, namely illegal transportation of explosives across state lines. Among the convicted was Frank Ryan, President of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers.