Fear-crazed Women Besiege Harlem School

"Little italy" mothers read report of Dynamite Plot.
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 Station.

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."

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Fear-crazed women besiege Harlem School
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The New York Times October 8, 1904
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