Saturday, July 04, 2015

Today -100: July 4, 1915: This explosion is the exclamation point to my appeal for peace

J. P. Morgan Jr. is shot twice by one “Frank Holt,” a teacher of German at Cornell. The corpulent banker will be okay, though.

It was “Holt” who set that bomb in the Capitol Building. In a letter to several Washington papers under the nom de boom “R. Pearce,” he explains that he placed the bomb because he opposes the US selling munitions to the Allies: “This explosion is the exclamation point to my appeal for peace.”

Then he placed another bomb... well, no spoilers... then he trained it to J. P. Morgan’s Long Island mansion. Morgan is helping finance the Allied war effort, so “Holt” planned to convince him to stop doing that, only, after “Holt” forced his way past the butler by brandishing two revolvers, Junior impolitely refused to engage in a friendly dialogue about the war and munitions and current events and instead rushed him, so “Holt” shot him twice in the groin. He was then brought down by Morgan, Morgan’s wife Jane, and a butler, who brained him with a lump of coal. He was then tied up by the servants and, just to class this whole scene up a bit, the British ambassador.

Holt is actually Erich Muenter (which authorities are already beginning to piece together). He was born in Germany in 1871 and emigrated to the US in the ‘90s. He taught German at the University of Kansas and then at Harvard until he took a... sudden sabbatical... in 1906 after killing his wife, who died 10 days after giving birth from slow poisoning by arsenic (yes, he was poisoning her while she was pregnant). Muenter shaved his beard, changed his name to Frank Holt, remarried, had two more kids (the two from his unfortunate first marriage staying with their grandparents), and started working his way up the academic food chain again, teaching at the University of Oklahoma, Emory, and Vanderbilt and getting a PhD at Cornell (his dissertation: “The Effect of the Works of Shakespeare on German and French Literature”). He would have moved on from Cornell to Southern Methodist University in the fall, as head of the just-opened university’s German department, presumably because at SMU he would be less likely to run into someone who knew him at Harvard – he once had to take several days off when a Harvard German professor came to lecture at Cornell.

The America’s Cup yacht race is almost halted out of respect for Morgan, but he sends word that the show must go on.

Francisco Lagos Cházaro formally takes over as President of Mexico. No one pays much attention.

Meanwhile, Huerta’s co-conspirator Gen. Pascual Orozco, supposedly under close observation by soldiers and Justice Dept agents in El Paso, escapes and crosses into Mexico. Huerta is re-arrested.

Sing Sing’s Warden Thomas Osborne tells a meeting of prison reformers that he won’t be forced out (he will totally be forced out). He says before he arrived, “The old system was rotten from top to bottom.” The keepers went about the prison with bottles of whiskey over their necks and fed it to paying prisoners through a rubber tube stuck between the bars of their cells. “There was corruption all around them, and there was no possible chance of a man leaving a prison of this kind without being more corrupted than when he came in.” He more or less accuses Superintendent of Prisons John Riley of being part of the old “grafting ring.”

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