Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

    October 1, 1910
    Los Angeles Times
    Building Explosion
    First Street and Broadway

The Bombing of the Los Angeles Times

From 1886 to 1917, Harrison Gray Otis was the owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. During that time the newspaper pursued a strong conservative viewpoint, and was militantly anti-union in its editorials and in its relationship with employees.

On October 1, 1910, in the middle of a strike called to unionize the metal trades of the city, the Times building was dynamited. The south wall facing Broadway Street collapsed, causing the second floor to also collapse under the weight of its machines onto the first floor. The first floor then collapsed into the basement, destroying the heating plant and gas mains. The building, with many of its workers trapped inside, was soon an inferno. There was a loss of life of at least 20, and about the same number were injured, some of them permanently.

In an unusual move the mayor hired a private investigator who was able to implicate a number of men in the bombing. These included Ortie McManigal, James B. McNamara, and his brother John J. McNamara (secretary-treasurer of the International Union of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers). McManigal agreed to testify against the McNamara brothers.

Organized labor, in turn, saw this as an all-out attack on the unions and labor in general. Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, hired Clarence Darrow to defend the brothers. Darrow called them "pawns in a vast industrial war."

By the time the trial began, however, Darrow had come to the conclusion that the brothers were guilty. Rather than fighting a hopeless battle, he persuaded the brothers to plead guilty.  That decision stunned the city and inferiorated the Gompers.

James McNamara got a life sentence, while his brother received a sentence of 15 years. Two others, David Caplan and Matt A. Schmidt, were later implicated and received life sentences. The damage from the trial was to plague Clarence Darrow for the rest of his life.


Hart, James D. A Companion to California. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Reference Center


Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File, 1982.
Reference Center HV6789.S54 1982
Robinson, William W. Bombs and Bribery: The Story of the McNamara and Darrow Trials Following the Dynamiting in 1910 of the Los Angeles Times Building. Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop, 1969.

Special Collections 343.1 F198 v.9


This article appeared in the USC Information Services Division.


Harrison Gray Otis

Harrison Gray Otis moved from Massachusetts in 1876 to the Los Angeles area, after working as a printer in several states.. Five years later the Los Angeles Times was founded, and in 1882 he bought a quarter interest in the fledgling paper. He became the editor, and in 1886 also became the sole owner. He headed the newspaper with an iron hand for 31 years.

Otis developed the newspaper into a major force in the area; his was a Republican and ultra conservative voice. The newspaper's militantly anti-union stance led to the bombing of the Times  in 1910. He constantly pushed commercial and economic development for the city in a number of directions.

During the Spanish-American War he was a brigadier general and was sent to the Philippines for service, where he served briefly during the summer of 1898. He had previously served as an officer in the Civil War.

He is buried in Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery where there is an impressive monument. 


Greenstein, Paul. Bread & Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles. Los Angeles: California Classic Books, 1992.
Doheny Book Stacks HX84.H3G74 1992


This article appeared in the USC Information Services Division.

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