anarchy archives

An Online Research Center on the History and Theory of Anarchism



About Us

Contact Us

Other Links

Critics Corner


The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War

The Sacco-Vanzetti Case and the Grim Forces Behind It


In the cold dawn of May 3, 1920, an Italian printer named Andrew Salsedo plunged from a fourteenth-story window of the Park Row Building in New York City, and his life was crushed out on the pavement below. He had been held captive there in the lofty offices of the Department of Justice for two months without hearing or trial. He had been beaten and tortured by attackers of that department.

Immediately a cry of public indignation arose. Demands for an investigation of Attorney General Palmer's secret policy and their unlawful conduct were loudly voiced. Newspapers and individuals of note scathingly condemned Palmer and his regime. How and why did Salsedo die? The question was hurled at those who head the national Secret Service.

They said he jumped.

Secret service Chief William J. Flynn tried to parry the attacks by asserting that Salsedo had confessed in the bomb explosions of June 2, 1919 and had implicated others. But Salsedo was dead and could not reply. Roberto Elia, another printer who had been held prisoner with Salsedo and who was broken with terror, was promptly deported. No one was ever prosecuted on the strength of the alleged confession.

Two days after Salsedo's death, two other Italians were arrested on a street car in Brockton, Massachusetts. They were Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, labor organizers and friends of the dead printer and they were at that time arranging a ______ meeting to protest against what they openly called the murder of Salsedo. Some days before he died, Salesedo had managed to smuggle a letter out of his prison, and word of his plight had sped to the big colony of Italian works in and around Boston.

Vanzetti had journeyed from his home in Plymouth to New York City to get a competent lawyer for Salsedo and to take legal steps for the rescue of him and Ellia. Before those steps could be taken, Salsedo had left his torture chamber in terrible and violent fashion.

While Vanzetti was in New York, his friend Sacco was busy in the shoe towns of Eastern Massachusetts raising money in Salsedo's behalf. The protest meeting was scheduled for May 9 in Brockton. It was choked off by the sudden arrest of the two on May 5. They were practically the last of the Italian radicals in New England who had not been jailed or deported in the big anti-alien drive there.

Highway robbery and murder is the charge against Sacco and Vanzetti, but that is obviously a mere device to get them out of the way. When they were arrested, the intial questions asked by the state and municipal authorities indicated that the two were wanted as "reds." But Salsedo's death carried so much nausea with it into the headlines of the press that

Up  Next-->

This page has been accessed by visitors outside of Pitzer College times since September 12, 2001.


[Home]               [Search]               [About Us]               [Contact Us]               [Other Links]               [Critics Corner]