America’s first suicide bombing

Few people know that the first suicide bombing in U.S. history — and perhaps only the second such attack in world history — took place in New York City 110 years before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I recently wrote about that first U.S. bombing in an article titled “The Bomb in the Bag” for Longreads, a wonderful organization and publisher that promotes longform journalism.

Image by Kjell Reigstad

I first learned about the 1891 attack on Russell Sage by bomber Henry L. Norcross several years ago while writing about the wave of anarchist bombings that made Americans anxious in the years after World War I. This earlier bombing did not have obvious political motivation, but the target was a prominent financier and one of the baddest of the robber barons of the Gilded Age.

What’s unusual about this story is the good that came out of the tragic event: the redistribution of Sage’s wealth to benefit countless Americans. And the hero of the tale is Olivia Slocum Sage, the wife of the financier.

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