|The Times' Eagle - An Important Clue
Just recently, I am not sure what month it was I sent my article of one of the greatest
tragedies in American History--
The fire and explosion and destruction of the Los Angeles TIMES. And since writing
this story I have been besieged with many request for more details of this terrible
tragedy in which twenty or more lost their lives. This is not much more to report on
this case, something I had witnessed first hand, as Lieut. Ferns (Now Deceased) were
walking towards the old Central Police Station on First Street between Broadway and
Hill Streets. As I first stated in my article both Ferns and myself thought it a great
earth-quake, we were so close, and we lifted from our feet, that turned out to be
suitcases filled with dynamite.
As I stated before if I lived to be a thousand years of age, I could not forget this great
tragedy. The suitcases, as it developed containing the dynamite were placed in
Ink-Alley which was in the rear of the old TIMES Building at First and Broadway. And
because of the floors being soaked with benzene, which every Fireman knows is one of
the most inflammable liquids known. As close as we were to this Times building and
as quickly as Ferns and I could run, the heat was terrific, and it seemed the flames
quickly covered each floor, burning those poor humans employed there on the night
shift. Remember this happened on October 10, 1910, that is fifty years ago, but my
recollection is as clear of events, as if it were but yesterday. In fancy I can hear the
screams of those poor souls, and tired in our feeble way to stay the jumps or falls from
that burning building. Some tried to talk to Ferns and I before others came running, but
their sufferings were so intense that they could not talk, only scream, and moan in their
misery. Some that jumped from the top floor were killed outright on the cement
sidewalk, others died on the way to the Receiving Hospital which was just around the
corner on Hill Street at First Street.
The smell of burning human flesh was most nauseating, and I remember I became
violent sick in carrying burned humans dying or dead to the hospital. The heat as I
stated before was so intense that Ferns and I pulled our coats up over our heads in
trying to carry those poor souls away from the heat and the flames. Never did I ever
see a fire that was hotter, and I have seen many in my time. The old Eagle that stood
as a symbol of our beloved Nation and which stood atop of those stones walls of the
Times building stood there all through that dreadful fire. And I heard some thoughtless
persons who stood watching that fire say that they wished the Eagle would fall from its
resting place atop of that building. As you know the remains of those terribly burned
persons, were buried side by side in Hollywood Cemetery.
Fifty years have gone by since that terrible night, or I should say early morning for it
was just 1:10 A.M. October 1, 1910, that this city witnessed one of its greatest
tragedies. As the embers of that fire cooled we who stayed on the job until the last,
found one body, pressed flat on its stomach in the farthest corner of that cement
basement. This body like many others was burned black only the underneath side of
the body was white where the fire cold not get to it. Ghastly you say, and how right
GOD in his merciful administration of human affairs, may forgive those responsible for
that tragedy, but here is one who cannot forgive or forget.
they struck the sidewalk. Ferns and I because of the terrible heat of that fire pulled our coats
up over our heads and got as close as we could so that we dragged several dying
employees back farther from that awful heat and got as many as we could away from
the fire. By this time the morning watch of Central Station came running down First
Street and assisted Ferns and myself carry several of the poor victims up First Street to
the Receiving Hospital.
Twenty of the employees of THE TIMES perished in that terrible explosion and fire and
because of the small number of police officers of the Department at that early day of
1910, all of us stayed on the job for several days, without sleep or rest. As was later
found several suitcases of dynamite (exact number of sticks in each suitcase) was later
brought out at the trial of those that were responsible for that terrible tragedy.
Ferns and myself, because of others who thought they knew it, called it a gas
explosion, but when the facts were at last known, we helped for days with the
four of us were baiting the trap, that we so fondly hoped would catch the fiend. When
ten of the women of Boyle Heights (all from that district) had been assaulted and raped,
on the open streets during the early hours of each evening our Officials of the police
department decided drastic measures were necessary. Detective Charley Leanard and
and myself had the job of luring the fiend, by disguising (by dressing) in women's
clothing and we were accompanied by Sergeant A. H. Ferns and Jerry Hickey as our
This fiend had a habit of accosting a couple (man & woman) on the dark streets and
tieing up the man, then raping the woman. Leanard and myself had wigs, veils, and
woman's clothing at the home of Sergeant Gus Smith, where we dressed each evening
while Ferns and Hickey awaited us, then each couple traveled the streets in opposite
directions. After this detail was established, the fiend did not strike here in this city
from that day on, but the detail was kept up all during the month of September and until
the early morning of October 1st at which time the detail was discontinued, as the
rapist had discontinued his fiendish acts and our Officials called the detail off.
Ferns and I had been of the habit of catching the owl car from Boyle Heights which
|Interesting Note from Cindy Tarsi
I am writing to let you know that I think one of the pictures in your archive (located at
http://digarc.usc.edu/assetserver/controller/view/CHS-7958) was actually taken at a
much later date than that given (circa 1900).
I regular participate in Colleen Fitzpatrick's weekly forensic genealogy quiz (at http:
//www.forensicgenealogy.info/contest.html). This week, the picture (at
http://tiny.cc/8ur3x) was of a very similar picture, which she got from the Los Angeles
Times archive. As you can see from the link, that photo was taken in 1910 (October 1,
to be specific), when the LA Times building was bombed by "Unionists."
If you look beyond the bombed-out Times building in the Times archive photo, you can
see that there is a building that is still being built. In your photo, that building has
already been completed. I mentioned this to Ms. Fitzpatrick, and she also pointed out
that, in your photo, it looks like the LA Times building is no longer there, leaving just an
empty lot, since you can see a good deal more of the building beyond where it had
been. Therefore, the picture has to have been taken after 1910, probably at least a little
while, giving them time to finish building the one building, demolishing the destroyed
Times building, and repairing the building directly behind it.
I hope this information is useful to you.
Thank you very much for the correction; your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Yes, you seem to be absolutely right: the date on the photograph should be shifted
closer to “ca.1910” (or, better yet, “after 1910”). Besides the buildings you mentioned
in your message, please take a look at the automobiles in “our” (CHS) image: keeping in
mind the number of Ford-Ts shown in the photo, production of which was started in
1908, we may assume that the picture was taken between 1910 and 1915.
I’ll correct the record; all the changes will appear online after the next publishing
|How Carol Solved the Puzzle
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the Forensic Genealogy book.
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
|See Results of
Our Ninth Occasional PhotoQuiz Survey
|Answers to Quiz #324
October 2, 2011
|1. At what intersection was this photo taken?
2. What date was it taken?
3. What happened?
1. Broadway and First St. in Los Angeles, CA
2. October 1, 1910, exactly one hundred years ago
3. The Los Angeles Times Building was bombed
by steel union activists. Twenty people were killed.
|Tin Eye Alert!
You can find this photograph on TinEye,
but you will have more fun if you solve the puzzle on your own.
|Submitted by Quizmaseter Emeritus Dr. Stan Read.
|Congratulations to Our Winners
Cindy Tarsi Collier Smith
Jim Baker Tom Siegel
Carol Farrant John Chulick
Heather Tobey Bill Utterback
Gary Sterne Margaret Waterman
Marilyn Hamill Shirley Hamblin
Sally Garrison Alex Sissoev
David Haas Margaret Paxton
Mike Dalton Barbara Mroz
Diane Burkett Milene Rawlinson
Nicole Blank Donna Jolley
Daniel Jolley Joyce Veness
|Comments from Our Readers
|How Cindy Solved the Puzzle
|I took your advice and didn't "Tineye" the photo, and,
of course, if felt better finding it on my own. The
only thing I could read was "Thorpe Office
Building," which is on one of the buildings in the
upper center. This led me to Oklahoma City and the
I Googled (Google-Imaged) "Alhambra Hotel" and "Thorpe Office Building" but they
didn't pan out.
Since I thought the architecture seemed Californian, that plus "big fire" sent me to San
Francisco. Again, no luck.
Finally I thought of the Alhambra connections to L.A., and Googled "historic fire Los
Angeles", and this led me to a list of fires. The photo shows a horse-drawn steam fire
wagon, so it has to be early 1900s or late 1800s, and the fire in 1910 turns out to be the
shows your foreground bldg from another angle. That led to
which give accounts of the event and the prosecution of the supposed bombers.
The Alameda Hotel sign pointed me toward LA and a search for historical LA Fire
photos got me to the LAFD history site. Jim Baker
I googled images for "fire destroys building eagle statue on top" and found another
photo at this site.
Regarding the search, I did the same thing Thorpe Office Building (in quotes) and got
the same result at you. Then I hit upon the idea of putting "- oklahoma " in the search
line. It reduced the number of Jim Thorpe hits, and halfway down the search page I
found a USC archive photo from down the street. That was enough for me to start
searching for a big fire in Los Angeles. John Chulick
Really interesting story this week. Thanks! Shirley Hamblin
Googling street car on hill defaults to San Francisco 1906; Googling Thorpe Office
building defaults to Oklahoma City. LA Times on tintype not much help either. So with
your "way off" response [to my earlier submission] I then googled destroyed=building
iron eagle atop building and came up with a wikipedia page and a LA Times Framework
photo gallery. The photo gallery had the contest photo. Mike Dalton
Well it was challenging. I can't remember how I figured it out but I know I had to put
it aside and come back to it because I was getting no where. It was also an interesting
topic. Shirley Hamblin
I had to resort to Tin Eye to find the picture as none of the search combinations I tried
worked. Thanks for letting us know that Tin Eye was available for this.
N.B. Tineye is there if you need it - like the answers at the back of the book. I just
rather not have people using it as a quick fix before they try it on their own. I'd
rather you use it than not solve the puzzle. - Q. Gen.
Love the old pictures! Daniel Jolley
Not sure how, but I always knew that the picture was taken in California. I was torn
between L.A. and S.F. I must have seen this one or a similar photo while doing some
research (Aside: The USC archives has amazing photographic history of California).
The Thorpe Building was a definitely a red herring! Like you I kept getting the Jim
Thorpe buillding in Oklahoma. The one thing I knew, without a doubt, was that it took
place in the early 1900s. The steam fire engine gave me that clue. The trolley and trolley
tracks also helped to narrow down the date. Now that I think about it, the tracks may
have been what kept drawing me back to California as the location. Thanks for another
enjoyable quiz. Sally Garrison
|I searched all over for photos of vintage fire trucks trying to get a
handle on the time frame. I was surprised to learn that the type of
fire truck in the photo was used until 1923 in Chicago. While my
Dad did not live in Chicago, it boggles my mind to think that was the
type of equipment in use when he was a kid.
While it was interesting looking at the old fire trucks, it wasn't getting
me any closer to the answer. I almost gave up until I decided to
cheat. I used Tin Eye which said absolutely nothing about the
content of the photo, except that it was an LA Times photo. A
newspaper photo could still be of anything and of anyplace. I never
would have guessed that it was a picture of the LA Times building,
itself. The Los Angeles Public Library has an on-line collection of old
photos. A search there brought up the exact same picture.
|How David Solved the Puzzle
|This one took a bit longer to solve than the previous ones. Dated it to
between 1890 and 1915 by a guess but most likely after 1900. (That
type of street light didn't exist until the 1890s at earliest and the high
number of men wearing straw boater hats helped) I was unable to
find anything related to the photograph by searching terms including
"fire", "Thorpe Office Building", "Almahara Hotel", etc.. The trolley
cars may have been considered a California clue but there were
trolley systems in use in various areas of the country in the late 1800s
|USC Photo from Digital Archives
|Next building up
from Times Bldg.
|Same building has lot
in front of it in USC pic
|Jim Thorpe office building, which is near the Murrah building, which
was blown up by Timothy McVeigh. The photo had to be much
older than 1995. Beyond the obvious (the Jim Thorpe Building and
the Alfred P. Murrah Building look nothing like any of the pictures in
the photo and black & white photos are so uncommon after the 60s),
the crowd's clothing was much older than that. So I kept surfing.
Eventually, I came to the following link: http://tiny.cc/s36lm
So now I knew that the street
was Broadway. I looked at the
picture that appeared with it and
recognized the Thorpe Office
Building as well as others. But
this was taken from a block
south, at Second Street. I then
wasn’t sure if, by going north
|one block, I would wind up at First Street or Third Street (or, for
that matter, some other street name). So I kept looking. I did
several searches on various names I saw in the picture, starting with
“Martindale & Son” and “Chamber of Commerce” as well as
“Broadway and “Los Angeles,” but at first these were not much
more helpful. Somehow, though, I finally came to Brent C.
Dickerson’s website (http://www.csulb.edu/~odinthor/index.html),
which features “A Visit to Old Los Angeles,” including a “walk”
|down Broadway. By reading through his
description of the walk, I was able to find
a picture of the L. A. Times Building
from exactly the same angle, in better
shape than in your picture. There was
another picture, from a different angle, of
the Building right after the bombing, with
|a note that it was “looking rather the worse for wear, having just
been blown up by Unionist terrorists.” From there, I Googled “L. A.
Times” and “Unionist” and was able to get the “rest of the story.”
This was definitely an interesting one. It’s funny, when I first saw
the photo, I thought looked like a bomb might have been involved, but
I didn’t think that a bombing would have occurred that far back in
history. (I think of it as much more “modern” than that.) So I
figured it had to be a fire that caused the damage. Little did I know…
Also, and I’d like your opinion before I do anything more about this, I
think that the photo that I found in the USC archives has to be
misdated. (See remarks to the left.)
|or early 1900s. I began looking for unique
features in the photograph and got rather lucky
when I searched "burned eagle building" in
Google images. I immediately recognized the
placement of the eagle on the building in this
illustration (http://tiny.cc/42rzq) and from there
I was able to identify it. I was nearly stumped!
The "Times" inscription on the front of the
building from a clearer picture matched the
|burned building in addition to other features from other photos I
found after looking for the old LA Times building.
|Eye Witness Account of the Bombing of the LA Times Building
The Fireman's Grapevine, September 1960
By Eddie King
All during the month of September 1910
from about 6:30 P.M. until the wee hours
of the next morning, some thirty officers
of the L.A. Police Department had been
doing our best to catch one of the boldest
and most ruthless criminals of that day.
Known as the RAPE FIEND OF BOYLE
HEIGHTS he was making life miserable
for all members of the police department,
and striking terror in the hearts of all
citizens. Four of the thirty were on special
duty, in other words the
would bring us to First and Spring Streets at about
1 A.M. And I was especially glad the detail had
ended, for it was no fun to travel all night long and
into the wee hours of each morning in women's
shoes and with women's clothing. So Ferns and I
were happy when we alighted from the Boyle
Heights car at 1:10 A.M. October 1st, 1910, and
started towards Central Police Station on First
Street between Broadway & Hill Streets. We had
just crossed Spring Street and started west on
First Street, when we were accurately lifted by
what Ferns and I had first thought to be a terrible
earth-quake, and we were, thrown by the blast
against each other, then looking towards the west,
we saw the first flames shooting from the floors
of THE TIMES building. There was not another
soul on the streets at that hour of the morning, and
from the windows and the front door, came those
poor souls crashing to the sidewalk with their
clothing afire, and crashing to their death when
A suitcase of dynamite was placed under the bedroom window of
General Ottis's home it failed to explode at the same time that the
suitcases of dynamite was placed in ink alley, back of THE TIMES
building at First & Broadway. The Eagle that stood on the building
stood all through the blast and fire, and was there until the walls
were torn down for the new building, moving later to First and
Spring Streets, their present location.
The Fireman's Grapevine, December 1960
|Young Gutzon Borglum began to
paint portraits and landscapes with
great success and opened up his
own art studio in the basement of
The Times building in downtown
Los Angeles. He was
commissioned by the Times
publisher Harrison Otis to
construct an eagle to adorn the top
of the building. The finished
product sculpt from wood weighed
200 pounds with a wingspan of 7
1/2 feet. It perched atop three
Times buildings. Showing extreme
wear, it was moved inside to
protect it from decay and it can be
|today in the lobby of the Times building on Broadway.
Dec. 5, 1891: The Times Eagle is installed on the roof of Times
Building No. 2 at First Street and Broadway on Dec. 5, 1891, after
being made by the J.L. Mott Iron Works of Chicago and brought to
Los Angeles by rail.
“And so from this lofty perch I send greeting and goodwill to all who
pass beneath; but let it not be forgotten that the eagle sees in the night
as well as the day, and that his vision can pierce the drawn curtains
of a cab at 8 a.m. as easily as [Verona] Jarbeau can ‘wink the other
prosecution of those that had caused this
what became one of the greatest tragedies
of the century.
Ferns and myself having been the very
first on the scene on that terrible morning
and witnessed those poor souls jumping
from those windows, saw some trying to
climb out those windows, only to fall back
into the fire, is a sight I shall carry with
me until my dying day. Often at night I have been awakened time and again by that
As an after thought the rape fiend of Boyle Heights was caught by an officer dressed as
I had been in woman's clothing, during an attempted rape in the city of Omaha, several
months after his fiendish acts here in L.A., but was killed by the arresting officer while
trying to escape by running.
P.S. Although THE TIMES building was completely destroyed with the loss of twenty
lives in that tragedy, and while the building was still a raging inferno of flames and
hottest embers, THE TIMES appeared on time, as usual to its subscribers. What
appeared to be a miracle to all was explained. THE TIMES had another building and
other presses on College Street between Main and Alameda Streets, that put out the
issue of October 1st, 1910 as usual, the very day that THE TIMES was destroyed by
dynamite and fire.
The Los Angeles Times bombing was the
purposeful dynamiting of the Los Angeles
Times building in Los Angeles, California, on
October 1, 1910 by a union member belonging
to the International Association of Bridge and
Structural Iron Workers. The explosion
started a fire which killed 21 newspaper
employees and injured 100 more. Termed the
"crime of the century" by the Times, brothers
John J. ("J.J.") and James B. ("J.B.")
McNamara were arrested in April 1911 for the
crime. Their trial became a cause célèbre for
the American labor movement. J.B. admitted
to setting the explosive, was convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. J.J. was
sentenced to 15 years in prison for bombing a local iron manufacturing plant, and
returned to the Iron Workers union as an organizer. Read more...
|James and John McNamara