Reds Under the Bed

International alarm over the terrorist threat is not new. Anthony Read relates how the appearance of Bolshevism created a state of near hysteria throughout the Western world.

At 10.45 pm on December 30th, 1918, a bomb exploded at the home of Ernest T. Trigg, President of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Ten minutes later another went off at the apartment of Acting Superintendent of Police Captain William B. Mills, throwing him out of bed and into a corridor ten feet away. Minutes after that, a third bomb blew the front off the house of Supreme Court Justice Robert von Moschzisker. By some miracle no one was killed or seriously injured in any of the blasts.

Ignoring the claims of anarchists to have set off the bombs, Captain Mills announced they ‘were part of the plot which the Bolsheviki are starting on a nationwide scale.’ Amid a massive security operation, Mills’s officers picked up a fifty-six-year-old former hat-maker, Edward Moore, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer labelled ‘one of the city’s most intractable revolutionists’. Mills told reporters:

We are holding him [Moore] right here in City Hall, incommunicado. I don’t give a damn if he is being held without the advice of an attorney. I will even refuse him the rights of Habeas Corpus. This is not the time for legal technicalities. They used brute force, and the Police Department, in hunting these criminals down, will resort to the same methods.

The Chief Postal Inspector, whose agents were involved in the search, added his own gloss: ‘There is a lamp-post for every Bolshevist who has taken part in these murderous and insane outrages.’
Moore was released four days later on the orders of a judge who found there was no evidence of any kind against him. The real perpetrators were never identified, but the press and the general public had little doubt of who was responsible. William H. Wilson, Director of the Department of Public Safety, announced that he would not tolerate any further meetings of radical organizations in Philadelphia, declaring ‘This is America – not Russia’.  The Red Scare had begun.

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