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Thanks to Donald Trump, xenophobia is all the rage right now. But distrusting all immigrants because of a few bad apples is hardly a new thing. The Irish came here before the Civil War and everyone hated them because they liked to drink beer, they’d steal your job if you were in a union, and they prayed to a guy with a pointy hat in Rome.
But after a while they became the establishment, and a new generation of immigrants was ushered in, primarily from the land of Italy. The Irish-Americans fell in line with what has become a long standing American tradition – shitting on the new guys and acting like your ancestors never immigrated here. But there was something different about Italian immigrants that made them more unlikeable. They didn’t speak the language, they didn’t assimilate as well, they didn’t wanna fight wars for J.P. Morgan, and a lot of them came to America to make money before eventually returning home.
Oh yea, and some of them were anarchists who liked to blow shit up. Anarchy was all the rage in Europe, and a lot of these people got on boats and brought their wacky ideology with them to Ellis Island. On one day in June of 1919, eight different bombs blew up simultaneously in eight different cities. Their targets were prominent political figures like Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. The perpetrators were southeastern European anarchists.
If you think people are scared of ISIS today, try living on the Eastern seaboard after that. ISIS could never dream of being that coordinated with an attack. The government started cracking down on any organization run by immigrants or people with wacky political beliefs, and deporting them like hot cakes. Not even Trump wall could’ve prevented this first Red Scare.
This was all very bad news for normal, law abiding Italian immigrants. Two Massachusetts Italian immigrants with ties to Worcester named Bartolomeo Vanzetti, and Nicola Sacco, learned this the hard way. They were both kind of assholes and they fit the profile. They believed in anarchy, they both dodged the draft during World War 1, and Sacco couldn’t speak a lick of English despite living here many years.
One day in 1920 two people were robbed and murdered in Braintree. The cops picked up Sacco and Vanzetti in Bridgewater and found that they had guns on them, connections to a car used in the robbery, as well as anarchist literature in their coat pockets. In 1920 this meant you were guilty. They got a bullshit trial, had a cokehead lawyer, and were found guilty by a jury despite a serious lack of evidence.
Did they do it? Maybe. Maybe not. But there certainly wasn’t enough evidence to convict. That didn’t matter for a Worcester resident named Webster Thayer, who happened to be the judge presiding over the case.
He basically made sure they were found guilty throughout all the appeals, and openly shit on Italians whenever he could in the media and at the Worcester Country Club. Anarchists kept bombing shit throughout the trial in retaliation, including a bomb that killed 38 people on Wall Street in 1920.
Finally in 1927 Sacco and Vanzetti got the death penalty. It’s not exactly one of those things we look back on with pride. Then on September 27, 1932, Sacco and Vanzetti’s people go their revenge when a dynamite-filled package bomb destroyed Thayer’s home in Worcester. He lived at the top of Institute Road, at the corner of Institute and Beechmont (180 Institute Rd), right up the street from present day WPI and Doherty High School. Here’s some pretty bad ass footage from the wreckage, that injured his wife and maid:
No one was ever arrested for this, but everyone with a brain knows it was revenge for Sacco and Vanzetti. Still kind of puts things in perspective about the terror threat today. Imagine if ISIS was going around blowing up homes in Worcester? Obama would be overthrown and King Trump would be given dictatorial powers.
Anyway, a Turtleboy photographer took a trip up to the spot where Webster Thayer’s house used to be today, for our latest episode of Wonders of the Woo. That whole neighborhood used to be as far west as people lived in Worcester. Tatnuck was basically Barre in 1932. And it was pretty exclusive. The homes today are still big Victorians, and the freshly manicured lawns still scream, “No Italians.”
This white house at the corner of Beechmont, Institute, and Haviland, is across the street from the old Webster Thayer house:
It’s just really cool to drive through this neighborhood because the homes are all so old looking, except for the two that sit on the plot of land where Webster Thayer used to take huge American dumps:
So the next time you’re driving through this part of the city look around at the homes, take a look at how out of place these two homes are. Then you can say to yourself, “Oh yea, I remember when Turtleboy taught me about that crotchety old bastard Webster Thayer. That guy totally deserved to have his house blown up. I’m still voting for Trump though.”
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Want to have your business advert seen by over 1.2 million people per month? Email us at Turtleboysports@gmail.com for more information, and check out our website about types of advertising we offer.