SKU: A01782 Category:


Description: In this March 12, 1932 autograph letter signed from San Quentin Prison to Henry Hart, the labor unionist James McNamara mentions Clarence Darrow who, on behalf of the AFL (American Federation of Labor), defended the McNamara brothers and managed to save them from the death penalty for bombing the Los Angeles Times building (which killed 20 people) in 1910. McNamara also sarcastically comments on “Baby Bonds,” long before they were issued.

The bombing of the Los Angeles Times building, engineered by the brothers John and James McNamara of the IW (International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers) was a reaction to the “open shop” campaign to bust unions by the NEA (National Erectors Association). Harrison Gray Otis, the anti-unionist publisher of The Los Angeles Times, made a concerted effort to ban unions by pursuing ordinances to ban picketing and “speaking in public streets” in LA. The famous labor lawyer Clarence Darrow was hired to represent the brothers John and James McNamara, and he got them to plead guilty, saving them from death sentences.  Darrow was accused of bribing a juror which hampered the original simple plea deal. As a consequence of the bribery charges, most labor unions dropped Darrow from their list of preferred attorneys. This effectively put Darrow out of business as a labor lawyer, and he switched to civil and criminal cases.

In his 1932 letter to the publisher, Henry Hart, James McNamara mentions “the Darrow letter” and makes an elliptical reference to Darrow’s 1932 biographical book “The Story of My Life.”

“Dear Mr Hart,

I received your airmail letter of March 8th on the 11th p,m, Other matters prevented me from answering you at once, but I did the next best thing. I was writing to a friend in your District and requested him to call you up and give you a message. Barring accidents you should have the message by now. In case you did not receive it I will repeat: You can do as you see fit with the Darrow letter. 

Power of suggestion: Baby Bonds were suggested to bring forth the hoarded dollars which the Bankers failed to invent in Production in order that the people might continue to Consume, and the best known Baby in the land became a Baby Bond. Too high for the dollar hounds, but not “The Story of My Life” by Darrow, which would eradicate all dormant chloroformed minds.

Detained,  J B McNamara, 25314.” 

Hand written and signed on 11” x 8½” ruled ivory paper.  Item #A01782

James McNamara (1882-1941) was a labor unionist who bombed the Los Angeles Times building in 1910. Heeding his lawyer Clarence Darrow’s advice, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced for life.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) a prominent labor and criminal lawyer and member of the ACLU. His most famous cases were the Leopold and Loeb murder trial, the Scopes trial, and the racially charged Ossian trial. He strongly opposed the death penalty and is considered one of the greatest lawyers of the 20th C.

Henry Hart was an American writer (Dr. Barnes of Merion, 1963) and publisher who worked as Publicity Director for Scribner’s Sons, Editor-in-chief of Putnam’s Sons, an Associate Editor of Time and Fortune, the founding member and first editor of Films in Review and a founding member of Equinox Cooperative Press. He edited the American Writer’s Congress (1935) and was responsible for the English-translation publications of Thomas Mann’s works.     

Condition: Mailing fold lines with light toning. Legible and clear and in very good condition.