There was a full-fledged panic in Harlem's "Little Italy" yesterday afternoon
when a report was started that the "Black Hand" had planned to blow up with
dynamite two of the largest public school buildings in the district. Hundreds of
women, many of them with infants in their arms, besieged the schools, and when
the doors were closed upon them became so threatening that it was necessary to
call out the reserves from the East One Hundred and Fourth Street Police
The greatest excitement centered around Public School No. 172 at One Hundredth
Street and Second Avenue, of which Margaret F. Brangan is principal. The daily
attendance is over 1,900 and 98 percent. of the children are Italians. School
No: 83, at 216 East One Hundred and Tenth Street, of which Joseph J. Casey is
principal, came in for its share of the trouble, but a rapid dismissal of the
scholars at 2:40 o'clock relieved all anxiety on the part of the mothers.
As near as could be learned by Capt. Herlihy of the East, One Hundred and Fourth
Street Station, a paragraph was published in an afternoon Italian paper to the
effect that the "Black Hand" had threatened to dynamite the two schools. The
paper is published about 1:30 o'clock, and inside of a remarkably short space of
time hundreds of women were hurrying to the schools to get their children. By 2
o'clock there were fully 1,000 of them in front of No. 172 demanding admission.
Policeman Duffy, who is detailed at the school, assured them that there was not
the slightest danger. Finally several of the more persistent forced their way in
by the One Hundred and Ninth Street entrance and started through the building
shouting for their children. Conditions were ripe for a panic among the children
when the women were evicted.
As a last resort the Principal, Miss Brangan, telephoned Police Headquarters for
assistance, and a few moments later Capt. Herlihy and a dozen men arrived in a
patrol wagon. In the meantime the gates had been closed and the doors locked
upon the women. They stood outside beating their breasts, tearing their hair,
and weeping. Forcing his way through crowd, Capt. Herlihy reached the office of
the Principal and told her not to dismiss the children until the regular hour.
He then went among the women and tried to quiet them, but to no avail. He gave
orders for the street to be cleared, and when this was done policemen were
posted at each entrance with orders to let nobody pass. In the school the
teachers were having a hard time quieting the children, especially those in the
kindergarten classes. The 3 o'clock dismissal bell came as a relief to
everybody, and the 1,900 children were marched out in good order by way of the
One Hundred and Ninth Street entrance. When the mothers saw them there was a
wild rush, and it was some time before the police could restore order and clear
the street again.
At Public School No. 83 a number of women got into the building, but they were
soon quieted. Capt. Herlihy has several detectives at work on the case trying to
learn the exact source of the rumor.
In reference to the trouble, City Superintendent Maxwell said:
"From time to time from sources outside the school system comes information that
rumors of a "Black Hand" scare have caused uneasiness among parents, especially
those in Italian neighborhoods. I wish to state that no threat of any sort or
description has been received from any secret body, or in the shape of any
anonymous communication, either at the offices of the Board of Education or at
the offices of the District Superintendents. No principal has reported any such
threats and there is absolutely nothing in any rumor that any threat whatever
has been aimed at a school."