McNamara, James B. (James Barnabas), 1882-1941

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James B. NcNamara and his brother were tried and convicted of bombing the Los Angeles Times Building. James H. Maurer was president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor. A.J. Muste was chairman faculty at Brookwood, Inc., Katonah, N.Y.

From the description of James B. McNamara correspondence from prison with James H. Maurer and Philip Grosser, 1923-1929. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 53865489

John J. and James B. McNamara were labor activists in the early 20th century. They were from the neighborhood of Cumminsville (Northside) in Cincinnati, Ohio. They gained notoriety for bombing the Los Angeles Times Building in 1910, which killed twenty-one people and injured many more.

John J. was active in labor unions and served as the secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers (known today as the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers). Between 1908 and 1911, the Iron Workers allegedly carried out 70 dynamite attacks on non-union businesses. Although these were not done with the intention of killing anyone, they were certainly meant to intimidate bosses who had resisted organization campaigns by the Iron Workers. Under John J. and other union leaders' supervision, James B. began carrying out many of the bombings. On May 9, 1909, James perpetrated his first attack on a new bridge that was being built over the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

The bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building occurred on October 1, 1910. The owner of the LA Times, Harrison Gray Otis, was a vehement anti-unionist, and used the paper to espouse his views. His paper thus became a target for the McNamara brothers. James B. planted the dynamite in an area outside the building known as "Ink Alley." A fire resulted due to the natural gas lines located beneath the bombing site, and the barrels of ink ignited.

Members of the labor movement were shocked when the McNamara brothers were accused in the bombing. Samuel Gompers hired Clarence Darrow to defend the brothers. The trial began on October 11, 1911, but it quickly became apparent to the defense that there was too much evidence against the brothers. The brothers agreed to plead guilty. John J. served 15 years in prison. John B. served a life sentence.

The brothers were sent to San Quentin following the trial. James B. continued to stay in touch with his family, Clarence and Ruby Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, and many others during his time there. He also maintained his interest in leftist politics, and took pictures of prison life at San Quentin. Both brothers died in 1941, thirty years after their sentencing. James died March 8, and John died on May 9.

From the guide to the James B. and John J. McNamara Papers, 1905-1961, 1905-1961, (University of Cincinnati, Archives and Rare Books Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf James B. and John J. McNamara Papers, 1905-1961, 1905-1961 University of Cincinnati, Archives and Rare Books Library
referencedIn Harry E.B. Ault papers, 1899-1956 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Scott, Joe, 1867-1918. Joe Scott letter to C.J. Hyans, California State Federation of Labor : Los Angeles : typescript, 1950 Sept. 6. California Digital Library
creatorOf McNamara, James B. (James Barnabas), 1882-1941. James B. McNamara correspondence from prison with James H. Maurer and Philip Grosser, 1923-1929. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Ault, Harry E. B. (Harry Erwin Bratton), 1883-1961. Harry E.B. Ault papers, 1899-1956 (bulk 1919-1936). University of Washington Libraries
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944. Papers of C. E. S. Wood (Addenda), 1897-1970 (bulk 1912-1940). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Clarence Darrow Papers, 1894-1941, (bulk 1910-1935) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf McNamara, James B. (James Barnabas), 1882-1941. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1941. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Berger, Victor L., 1860-1929. Frances Nacke Noel/Job Harriman papers, 1889-1986 (bulk 1940-1980). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938. Clarence Darrow papers, 1894-1941 (bulk 1910-1935). Library of Congress
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Ault, Harry E. B. (Harry Erwin Bratton), 1883-1961. person
associatedWith California State Prison at San Quentin corporateBody
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America corporateBody
correspondedWith Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938. person
correspondedWith Filene, E. A. (Edward Albert), 1860-1937 person
associatedWith Grosser, Philip B., person
associatedWith International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Iron Workers - Membership corporateBody
associatedWith International Labor Defense corporateBody
associatedWith Maurer, James H. (James Hudson), b. 1864, person
correspondedWith McNamara, A. R. person
associatedWith Muste, A. J., person
correspondedWith Older, Fremont, 1856-1935 person
associatedWith Scott, Joe, 1867-1918. person
associatedWith Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
California
Subject
Bombings--California--Los Angeles
Prisoners--Correspondence
bombing
Labor union members
Union busting
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1882

Death 1941

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