Late in the evening of June 2, 1919 a bomb exploded outside Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s home in Washington, D.C. The blast blew out windows within a one hundred yard radius and ejected homeowners from their beds. One of Palmer’s neighbors, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had recently returned from a dinner party with his wife and ran across R Street to check on the Palmers. Carlo Valdinoci, an Italian anarchist and wannabe assassin, accidentally detonated the bomb early, and his remains were now scattered around the neighborhood—his torso ending up on a cornice on S Street, his scalp finding its way to a rooftop, and another part of his body flying through the window of the Norwegian ambassador’s residence. Copies of the anarchist pamphlet Plain Words were strewn across the area.
That wasn’t the only bombing that evening. Bombs were sent to officials in eight cities, but the only person killed, aside from Valdinoci, was a night watchman outside the home of New York judge Charles Cooper Nott.
The June attacks came only a few months after a string of other attempted mail bombings, all of which failed to kill their targets. Nonetheless, one of these bombs did blow off the hands off a maid working for ex‐senator Thomas Hardwick. Newspaper reports and much of the public, already in the midst of the “Red Scare,” were quick to blame anarchists, Bolsheviks, and other “radicals.”