It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The 1920’s was a great time in America. Business was booming, cars were everywhere, there were daring new fashions, and happy jazz music to listen and dance to. Despite all the good things happening, there were some very dark times. During the early 1920’s and there was much tension and fear of foreigners in America. Foreigners were often associated with communism and anarchism (Stark 1). These radicals were being deported daily for fear of riots and rebellion. Raids were led against communists and over 10,000 suspected of communism were arrested, many times without proper warrants. Also during this time, there was a string of bank robberies and the police were on the lookout for bandits that were on the loose. Then on April 15, 1920 two men were shot to death and $15,766 was stolen. The two murderers were said to be Italian immigrants (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). In panic, the police searched for two anarchist Italian immigrants to blame the murder on. Twenty days later, on May 5, 1920, the unlucky duo of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested while picking up a car connected with the murder (“Sacco-Vanzetti Case”). The two men were tried and found guilty under circumstantial evidence (Stark 1). There was obvious proof that witnesses were lying and that Sacco and Vanzetti could not have committed the murders, but because the trial was filled with such hatred toward the foreign radicals, they were sentenced to the electric chair. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were the victims of an unfair trial based upon their background and beliefs.
It is important to know just who Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were. Bartolomeo Vanzetti when arrested was“[…] 34 years old. He was a student and a prize scholar in a Catholic School in Italy, and came to this country at the age of 20. He is a philosophical anarchist and was described as a dreamer and idealist type. He is a frequent contributor to Italian radical papers, and once wrote that as a result of reading St. Augustine and “the Divine Comedy,” “humanity and equality of rights began to afflict my heart”” (Stark 2). Vanzetti’s occupations in America were fish peddler and a casual laborer (1). Vanzetti seems like a harmless citizen. He was described as “a dreamer,” basically saying he would never commit a crime. He believed strongly in what he believed in, but did not look like a person that would cause any problems.
Nicola Sacco when arrested was “[…] 28 years old. He came to this country at the age of 17 and learned the trade of edge trimmer in a shoe factory. His employers gave him a good character. He named his son Dante “because Dante is a great man in my country.” In his spare time he took part in strike agitations and in radical meetings.” Sacco also seems like a good person. He was a hard worker and took what he could from life. He had a strong remembrance for his home country, and that would make his seem suspicious to the authorities.
Both men had no criminal records before the incident (Downey). Vanzetti had been discriminated against and had a hard time in America (Sacco 3). Both men were active in the anarchist political movement (Sacco Trial), and they even led a few protests (Sacco 4). The fact that Sacco and Vanzetti went the Mexico to flee the draft made them even more unlikable (3). They were not bad people at all, but because they were radicals, immigrants, and they fled the draft, that caused suspicion and hatred toward them.
It is also important to get a little better sense of the times when the men were arrested. “Hatred of foreign radicals approached hysteria in April 1919 when anarchists plotted to send thirty dynamite bombs to U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, capitalists J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.” (Sacco, Nicola 1). This caused the Palmer and Red Raids, where about 10,000 suspected Reds and Anarchists were arrested. In 1920, Red raids were still being pursued (Stark 1). Communists and extreme radicals were constantly deported without warrants. Radicals were all “shamefully abused and maltreated.” It was a disgraceful time in America.
Sacco and Vanzetti were also arrested during a time when the authorities were alert for the bandits on a string of robberies. There was prejudice from the beginning because they were foreigners, radicals, and slackers (for evading the draft). Vanzetti said, “We were tried during a time that has now passed into history. I mean by that, a time when there was hysteria of resentment and hate against the people of our principles, against the foreigner, against slacker […]” (Vanzetti). In the opinion of radicals and immigrant union members, Sacco and Vanzetti were being persecuted because of their beliefs (“Sacco Trial“), but “members of the established power structure saw them as dangerous foreigners out to subvert the American way of life.” Sacco and Vanzetti really symbolized the growing class struggle in America after World War I.
The basic case was that “[…] two men had been killed in Braintree, Massachusetts” (Sacco Trial). Frederick Parmendelli and his guard were killed, and there was $15,766 in missing money (Stark 1). Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested on May 5, 1920 for armed robbery. The murderers were supposedly Italian, and the two men matched that description. Sacco and Vanzetti had gone to claim a car supposedly connected with the murder, so they were arrested (“Sacco-Vanzetti Case”). They were originally charged of the two murders, theft of money, unsuccessful murder, and hold-up (Stark 1).
Before the trial, there were basically two stances; people were either “anti-radical” or thought that the trial was a “frame-up” (Stark 1). Most people were “anti-radicals.” The trial was called a Mooney case, which is a case “judged in advance by people who did not know the evidence […]” The Department of Justice spread propaganda “designed to excite public opinion against radicals.” Newspapers printed their biographies with their radical opinions and how they fled to Mexico to avoid the draft. They also printed that Sacco and Vanzetti had loaded revolvers when arrested. The judge, Judge Thayer, told the jurors to have “courage,” which was interpreted by the jurors as “courage to convict.” Before the incident even happened, the Department of Justice wanted to deport the two for being radicals, but that was not very easy to prove (Russell 2). They would do anything to get rid of Sacco and Vanzetti. If that meant tainting their appearance to the public to help find them guilty, the government would do that.
The trial lasted 35 days (Streissguth 2). Sacco and Vanzetti entered the court in manacles and they were patted down to search for weapons (Stark 1). They were tried in a steel cage, which was used in many courts in Massachusetts. These first impressions on the jurors obviously did not help the defendants at all. “The court referred from time to time to the duty of the jurors to serve as did the soldiers on the battlefields of France” (2). The jurors’ opinions of Sacco and Vanzetti were swayed greatly during the trial. The case questioned the fairness and objectivity of the American justice system and it became an international affair (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). A headline in a newspaper read “Promoters of Propaganda to Aid Condemned Italians get Little Response in America” (“Final Plead…”). Almost all Americans were being swayed into going against the foreigners and radicals. Sacco and Vanzetti did not have much of a chance to win the trial the moment it started.
There were almost 180 witnesses and there was a sharp disagreement on almost every key point (Stark 1). Judge Thayer said, “It is one of identity,” referring to the case, but “There was absolute disagreement between the witnesses on both sides on the question of identity.” Some witnesses said they saw Sacco selling fish far away from the crime (Stark 1) and an editor of an Italian newspaper claimed to see Sacco in a restaurant in Boston the day of the murder (“Sacco Trial…”), yet the prosecution said the defendants were present at every scene of the crime (Stark 1). They also said Sacco and Vanzetti tried to shoot the officers. One witness said Vanzetti was driving the getaway car, while the prosecution even admitted that it was not Vanzetti driving. People within 10 feet of the car could not identify either man in it. Yet somehow, a woman who from a second-story window claimed to see Sacco driving by at 20 mph. She described him in perfect detail while only seeing him for about one second. She gave this description of him: “[He] was slightly taller than I, weighed about 140-145 pounds, had dark hair, dark eyebrows, thin cheeks and clean shaven face of a peculiar greenish-white. His hair was brushed back, and it was, I should think, between two and two and a half inches long. His shoulders were straight cut, square. He wore no hat. He was clean cut. He wore a gray shirt. He was a muscular, active looking man and had a strong left hand, a powerful hand.” When the woman had seen Sacco 13 months earlier at a preliminary hearing, she could not positively identify him. Another women could not identify Sacco earlier, but did later at the trial. She said, “I felt sure in my own mind, but hated to say so and stand out.” Cleary, some people were inventing stories because of the fear and paranoia caused by the circumstances.
Each of the men were carrying guns when arrested. Sacco was found with a loaded 32-calibre colt with 2 extra cartridges (Stark 1). Vanzetti was found with a 38 Harrington and Richardson loaded. Vanzetti was also found with three shotgun shells in his pocket. The murderer also used a shotgun. Sacco had a gun because his employer advised it. He had it for protection working and traveling at night. Revolver experts for the prosecution said the bullets from the victim matched Sacco’s gun. On the other hand, the defense experts said the bullets did not match. Officers also didn’t agree on which pocket they took Vanzetti’s gun out of. There was a bit of confusion about the guns because each side’s experts disagreed about whether the bullets matched their guns. There was also a cap found by a victim that supposedly belonged to Sacco. His employer said it belonged to him, but Sacco denied owning it.
The prosecution said that Sacco and Vanzetti gave false answers when first questioned and that they lied freely. They said that they also reached for a revolver when questioned. They apparently kept speaking when they didn’t have to. The Commonwealth said they were full with guilt. One of their friends had been under police suspicion and fled. Sacco and Vanzetti fell into a police trap set for their friend, so they also fled feeling guilty, said the prosecution. A passport was found on Sacco, supposedly to be used for sailing to Italy, but deportation would have been a free trip home if they had been under enough suspicion of being anarchists, so it didn’t make sense to have a passport. The prosecution also said the court agreed not to talk about how Sacco and Vanzetti were radicals, as not to taint the jury, yet this were a prevalently known fact, emphasized from the beginning of the trial. “Word got around that a man’s house might be burned by the “Black Hand” if he found the defendants guilty.” This could have been spurred up by the prosecution.
Sacco and Vanzetti pleaded innocent (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). The defense said they lied because they were afraid of being arrested because of their beliefs and for skipping the draft (Stark 1). They said Sacco was in Boston to get a passport on April 15, 1920 when the murders happened. “There was, the defenders claimed, evidence secreted in the Bureau’s files that would have established their innocence, but both the Bureau and the prosecution were ready to go to any lengths of fraud and deceit to get rid of two troublesome radicals” (Russell 2). Bartolomeo Vanzetti pleaded:
“I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved than for myself […] I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth — I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of […] I have fought against crime and I have fought and have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes the law and the church legitimate and sanctify. I have never stole and I have never killed and I have never spilt blood […] not only have I struggled all my life to eliminate crimes, the crimes that the officials and the official moral condemns, but also the crime that the official moral and the official law sanctions and sanctifies — the exploitation and the oppression of the man by man […] I am not only innocent of all these things, not only have I never committed a real crime in my life — through some sins but not crimes […]” (Vanzetti).
Vanzetti was very genuine about the situation. He pleaded of his innocence and let all his emotions out. He expressed how he was a peaceful person and would not harm anybody.
People all over the world were outraged at the court‘s decision. “Protests and demonstrations were held in support of Sacco and Vanzetti, and appeals to spare their lives came from all over the world” (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). Specifically, there were radical demonstrations in Italy, France, Spain, and South America (Stark 1). Italians in Philadelphia met to protest, but the police showed up to disperse them (“Havana Terrorists…”). People all over the world cared about Sacco and Vanzetti. Unfortunately home in America, most people were being corrupted with propaganda making radicals and immigrants look like bad people.
The verdict came in only five hours (Stark 1). Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty of all charges except for the murders and were sentenced to 12-15 years in prison, but then they were later found guilty of the murders and were sentenced to the electric chair. People sympathized for them as their execution neared (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). “The two men faced their fate with calm and fortitude.” Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were finally executed in Charlestown, Massachusetts on August 23, 1927.
A newspaper reporting after the trial said, “The agitation on behalf of the two men is attaining greater proportions daily, and it promises to continue” (Stark 2). Many observers felt the trial was unfair, even those who thought that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). Nicola Sacco wrote letters to his son Dante during the trial. In the letters, Vanzetti wrote to his son, “One day, you will understand. That day you will be proud of your father; and if you come brave enough, you will take his place in the struggle between tyranny and liberty, and you will vindicate his names and our blood.” These letters were made public after the trial. Many Americans were glad that Sacco and Vanzetti were dead and that news of them would die down. On the other hand, others were saddened by their deaths. They marched around with signs saying, “American honor dies with Sacco and Vanzetti.” Judge Thayer would not have a new trial because the radicalism of Sacco and Vanzetti had been introduced to the trial (Stark 2). The knowledge of their radical ways had been known since the beginning of the trial, and Judge Thayer had even helped to point out this fact. A conservative reporter said the evidence was not sufficient enough (1). Sacco missed hardly any days working from 1910-1917. He was the fastest worker. Why would he kill someone and return the next day? There was also no increase in his bank account. A different conservative reporter said there was sufficient evidence to convict and that they received a fair trial. Another reporter said there was not enough evidence. The bullet theories did not match. The witnesses could not have positively identified Sacco and Vanzetti either. “The question of the two men’s guilt or innocence is still a matter of historical controversy” (“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial”). This statement certainly holds true today.
There is no way Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti could have been proven guilty. The juror’s opinions of them were swayed from the beginning of the trial. They were brought into court with manacles and handcuffs and tried in a steel cage, and this made them look barbaric and nonhuman. Before the trial began, their beliefs had become a big issue. During these times, this was a very big issue. People who were radicals or immigrants were considered bad people and they were not trusted. Sacco and Vanzetti epitomized the class struggle of the 1920’s. Jobs were in need, and people did not want foreigners taking their jobs. People did not want foreigners who could not speak English living in their neighborhoods. A hatred grew as time went on. The juror’s opinions of Sacco and Vanzetti had been swayed since the beginning of the trial. They probably did not trust them because they were foreigners and radicals. To them, this meant that they were not good people and were probably guilty. There was a lot propaganda that had brainwashed the jurors into believing this. Newspapers printed their biographies and their radical views. They also pointed out that Sacco and Vanzetti fled to Mexico to skip the draft. The witnesses were also tainted by the propaganda. They disagreed on everything and made up false recollections. Some witnesses could not identify either man when they were standing ten feet away, but a woman from a two-story building could describe Sacco in full detail. Some witnesses were obviously lying and their accounts should have been discredited. The matching of the bullets with the gun went both ways. The prosecution said the bullets matched the gun, but the defense said the bullets did not match the gun that belonged to Sacco. Lastly, the two men were very genuine when they spoke. They spoke about how there was a lot of unfair racism towards them, which led to their prosecution. Vanzetti specifically spoke about how he would not hurt anyone, not even an animal. He spoke his heart and seemed confused and afraid, as if he was saying, “How could this happen to me?”
There is not conclusive evidence to prove Sacco and Vanzetti guilty. It seems like they were guilty until proven innocent rather than innocent until proven guilty. When asked for a new trial, judge Thayer said they could not because the knowledge of their beliefs had been brought into the trial. Their beliefs were common knowledge throughout the trial. Judge Thayer knew this, and he even stressed those points. The government was determined to dispose of Sacco and Vanzetti any way possible. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were the victims of a biased trial filled with hatred for their background and beliefs.
Downey, Matthew T. The Roaring Twenties and Unsettled Peace. Vol. II. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.
“Final Plead Friday for Sacco-Vanzetti.” New York Times 21 Nov. 1921: 1. Proquest Newspapers. Proquest. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb>.
“Havana Terrorists Threaten Crowder.” New York Times 31 Oct. 1921: 2. Proquest Newspapers. Proquest. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb>.
Russell, Francis. “The End of the Myth.” National Review 19 Aug. 1977: 4. MasterFile Premier. EBSCOhost. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://search.epnet.com/>.
“Sacco and Vanzetti.” DISCovering Biography. Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/SRC>.
“Sacco and Vanzetti Trial.” American History. ABC-CLIO Schools Subscriptions Web sites. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/home>.
Sacco, Nicola. “Letter From Nicola Sacco to His Son, Dante.” American Decades Primary Sources. Ed. Cynthia Rose. New York: Gale, 2004.
“Sacco Trial Resumed.” New York Times 10 Jul. 1921: 1. Proquest Newspapers. Proquest. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb>.
“Sacco-Vanzetti case.” Columbia Encyclopedia: 1. MasterFile Premier. EBSCOhost. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://search.epnet.com/>.
Stark, Louis. “Are Sacco and Vanzetti Guilty?” New York Times 5 Mar. 1922: 2. Proquest Newspapers. Proquest. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb>.
Streissguth, Tom. The Roaring Twenties. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2001.
Vanzetti, Bartolomeo. “Bartolomeo Vanzetti: Court Statement (1927).” 23 Aug. 1927. American History. ABC-CLIO Schools Subscriptions Web sites. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/home>.
This academia was first published 10 Feb 2005 and last revised 13 Feb 2016.Adam Cap is a sometimes raconteur, rare dingus collector, and webmaster probably best known for SixPrizes (serving as “El Capitan”) and PkmnCards (read: fine art purveyor). He scrapbooks yonder every minute or three.
Sacco and Vanzetti Put to Death Early This Morning
Walk to Death Calmly
Sacco Cries 'Long Live Anarchy'; Vanzetti Insists on His Innocence
Warden Can Only Whisper
Much Affected as the Long-Delayed Execution Is Carried Out
Madeiros First to Die
Machine Guns Bristle, Search Lights Glare During Execution -- Crowds Kept Far From Prison
From a Staff Correspondent of THE NEW YORK TIMES
Charlestown State Prison, Mass., Tuesday, Aug. 23 -- Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti died in the electric chair early this morning, carrying out the sentence imposed on them for the South Braintree murders of April 15, 1920.
Sacco marched to the death chair at 12:11 and was pronounced lifeless at 12:19.
Vanzetti entered the execution room at 12:20 and was declared dead at 12:26.
To the last they protested their innocence, and the efforts of many who believed them guiltless proved futile, although they fought a legal and extra legal battle unprecedented in the history of American jurisprudence.
With them died Celestino f. Madeiros, the young Portuguese, who won seven respites when he "confessed" that he was present at the time of the South Braintree murder and that Sacco and Vanzetti were not with him. He died for the murder of a bank cashier.
Defense Works as They Die
The six years of legal battle on behalf of the condemned men was still on as they were walking to the chair and after the current had been applied, for a lawyer was on the way by airplane to ask Federal Judge George W. Anderson in Williamstown for a writ of habeas corpus.
The men walked to the chair without company of clergy, father Michael Murphy, prison chaplain, waited until a minute before twelve and then left the prison.
Sacco cried, "Long live anarchy," as the prison guards strapped him into the chair and applied the electrodes. He added a plea that his family be cared for.
Vanzetti at the last made a short address, declaring his innocence.
Madeiros walked to the chair in a semi-stupor caused by overeating. He shrugged his shoulders and made no farewell statement.
Warden William Hendry was almost overcome by the execution of the men, especially that of Vanzetti, who shook his hand warmly and thanked him for all his kindness.
The Warden was barely able to pronounce above a whisper the solemn formula required by law:
"Under the law I now pronounce you dead, the sentence of the court having been legally carried out."
The words were not heard by the official witnesses.
After Governor Fuller had informed counsel for the two condemned radicals that he could take no action, their attorney, Michael A. Musmanno, made a dash to the prison in an automobile and tried to make another call on Sacco and Vanzetti, but Warden Hendry refused, as the legal witnesses were just about to pass into the execution chamber.
The Witnesses Gather
The witnesses gathered in the Warden's office an hour before midnight. They were instructed as to the part they would take.
W. E. Playfair of the Associated Press was the only reporter permitted to attend the execution, as the State law designated one representative of the press as a witness. The assignment was handed to him six years ago after Sacco and Vanzetti had been convicted in Dedham for the murder of William Parmenter and Alexander Berardelli.
At 11:38 all but the official witnesses were asked to leave the Warden's office. Led by Warden Hendry the official witnesses walked toward the rotunda of the prison. He rapped three times on the inner door. A key grated in the lock. Just then Mr. Musmanno dashed in breathlessly.
"Please, Warden," he said, touching Mr. Hendry on the arm. "A last request."
His voice was faint and broken.
"No, no," the Warden said, sternly, slightly unnerved at the last-minute interruption. Mr. Musmanno turned away, weeping. He had refused to accept as a farewell gift a book from Vanzetti because he felt that the men would be saved.
"I only tried to see them the last time and he refused me," said Musmanno through tears.
The witnesses walked through the prison and entered the death house with the Warden. They took their places and then Madeiros was escorted into the chamber. He walked without support, attended by two guards, one at each side. He was strapped in the chair at 12:03 and at 12:09 he was pronounced dead.
He was officially pronounced dead by Dr. George Burgess MacGrath, Medical Examiner of Norfolk County, and Dr. Howard A. Lothrop, Surgeon-in-Chief of the Boston City Hospital. Stethoscopes were also applied to Madeiros's chest by Dr. Joseph J. MacLaughlin, the prison physician, and Colonel Frank P. Williams, Surgeon-General of the Massachusetts National Guard. The same procedure was followed in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Sacco, whose cell was next to that of Madeiros, was the next. A guard opened his door. Sacco was ready. His face was pale from his long confinement. Without a word he took his place between the guards. Walking slowly but steadily, he traversed the seventeen steps into the death chamber. He required no support and sat down in the chair. As the guards were finishing their work Sacco cried out in Italian:
"Long live anarchy."
In English he shouted: "Farewell, my wife and child, and all my friends!"
He has two children, Dante, 14, and Inez, 6, but his difficulty in speaking English and the excitement of the occasion were responsible for the slip.
"Good evening, gentlemen," he said, jerkily. Then came his last words: "Farewell, mother."
Warden Hendry waited until Sacco apparently was satisfied that there was no more to say. Then he gave the signal. Sacco was pronounced dead at 12:19:02.
Vanzetti's cell door was opened. He, too, was calm. He shook hands with the two guards and kept step with them. He had four more steps to the death chair than Sacco. On entering the chamber he spoke to the Warden, shaking his hand and saying:
"I want to thank you for everything you have done for me, Warden."
Vanzetti spoke in English. His voice was calm throughout. There was not the slightest tremor or quaver.
Then, addressing the witnesses, he said:
"I wish to tell you that I am innocent, and that I never committed any crime but sometimes some sin."
They were almost the same words he addressed to Judge Webster Thayer in the Dedham courtroom last April when he was sentenced to die during the week of April 10, the sentence having been deferred because the Governor's advisory committee was working in the case.
"I thank you for everything you have done for me," he went on calmly and slowly. "I am innocent of all crime, not only of this, but all. I am an innocent man."
Then he spoke his last words:
"I wish to forgive some people for what they are now doing to me."
Vanzetti stepped into the chamber at 12:20:30. At 12:26:55 he was declared dead.
Warden Broke News to Them
Before midnight Warden Hendry told reporters how he broke the news to Sacco and Vanzetti.
"I simply told them that it was my painful duty to convey to them the information that they were to die shortly after midnight," he said. "I told them that their lawyers had informed me that they had done all they could and failed."
Father Michael J. Murphy, Prison Chaplain, again offered the men his services, but they refused his offer of the last rites. Earlier in the day, the Chaplain visited the men, and on coming from the death house said:
"I offered them consolation of religion, but all three preferred to die as they had lived, outside the pale. They can call on me at any time before the execution, and I will hear their confessions and give them communion."
Warden Hendry received two telegrams, one addressed to himself, which he did not make public, and another addressed to Sacco. After reading the Sacco telegram, the Warden refused to make known its contents to the prisoner, explaining that he did not know the writer.
The telegram read:
"Take heart, men. It is justice that dies. Sacco and Vanzetti will live in history." It was signed Epstein and sent from New York.
The police, despite their elaborate precautions, had a surprise about an hour before midnight, when it was discovered that some one had penetrated the lines thrown around the prison for blocks and made his way to the very entrance of the Warden's office, where he had passed an envelope to one of the regular guards and strolled off.
The envelope contained a two-page letter, the contents of which the Warden withheld. An investigation was begun at once to learn how the mysterious messenger had gained entrance to the guarded area.
The first of the legal witnesses to arrive at the prison were Dr. Joseph I. McLaughlin, the prison physician, and Dr. Edward A. Lathrop, a surgeon of the Boston City Hospital. They reached the prison at 9:40 P.M.
Electricians Test Chair
Warden Hendry at 9 P. M. made his second visit to the death house. He informed newspaper men on his return to his office that he had found the trio resigned to their fate. Sacco requested him to have his body sent to his home in Italy. The Warden declared that they showed no change regarding their religious viewpoint and entertained the belief that they would go to the chair without spiritual aid.
At 10 P.M. Granville Greenough, chief electrician, and John Mullaney, assistant electrician made a final test of the electric chair and found it to be in good working order.
Police Break Up Crowds
Superintendent Crowley's men broke up a meeting of nearly 500 Italians in Salem Street, in the North End, as midnight approached. They threatened to hold a demonstration in front of the Bunker Hill Monument, and also threatened to hold a protest meeting before the State House and on the Common.
Mounted policemen charged a crowd of several thousand that gathered just outside the roped-off area surrounding the jail at the hour of execution. Two hundred Sacco and Vanzetti sympathizers had congregated in Thompson Square to join a parade out to Bunker Hill. Police men afoot were unable to control the excited crowd. The charge of the mounted police drove men, women and children back in a wave. Several persons were crushed. Two women were arrested, charge with sauntering and loitering.
More than 1,000 cars were blocked in a traffic jam along Main Street, obstructing the passage of pedestrians and police. The street became a tangled mass of automobiles and other vehicles. There was a terrific din as policemen shouted orders, the iron-shod hoofs of their mounts clattered over pavements and hundreds of automobilists sounded their sirens continuously.
Charlestown prison was armed and garrisoned as if to withstand a siege. Machine guns, gas and tear bombs, not to mention pistols and riot guns, constituted the armament and to man it were 500 patrolmen, detectives and State constables besides the usual prison guard.
They took their posts at 7 o'clock, cutting off Rutheford Avenue and other streets approaching the long, gloomy brick walls of the prison. No one was allowed to pass either on foot or in vehicles unless on official business.
A truck filled with State police jangled and clanged along the cobblestones and into the glare of light, about the entrance to the prison. Forty mounted policemen clamped over the Prison Point Bridge. All reported to Captain Goff, then deployed down streets and alleys.
Barricade Prison Entrance
The south and west walls of the death house and cell blocks facing on the Boston & Maine Railroad yards were lined with machine guns and searchlights in clusters of three at twenty-yard intervals. The powerful lights flooded the railroad yards in a brilliant glare that accentuated the pitchy blackness of shadows. Across the tracks marine patrol boats could be seen moving slowly up and down the river in the region of the prison. Each of the police vessels was equipped with flares and searchlights that played along the gloomy prison walls.
From the comparative gloom of the cement walk along the siding came the click, click of horses hoofs as mounted patrolmen rode up and down. A prison entrance facing on the railroad yards was heavily barricaded with ladders, doors and other lumber. At 11 P. M. searchlights installed by the police on the roof of the State House were turned on. Their brilliant rays were kept sweeping up and down the adjacent streets. Twenty policemen armed with riot guns were stationed at intervals between the searchlights. It was the first time in Massachusetts's history that such a scene had been enacted.
Chapman Street, Austin Street, Miller Street, as well as Rutherford Avenue were completely cut off as far as automobile or pedestrian traffic was concerned, but those living in houses in the district, warned by the police not to leave them, leaned out of windows. On other houses occasional sweeps of searchlights revealed entire families, including babies in arms, perched on roof tops.
In Main Street, the street nearest the prison on which traffic was permitted, a throng circulated. At a late hour adherents of Sacco and Vanzetti were not in evidence. Most of the men and women chattered excitedly, but without attempting to make any sort of demonstration. Rather, they were merely curious and interested in the display of martial power. Passengers of elevated trains crowded to windows on the side near the prison. Some who tried to alight were urged not to by the police.
All Streets Are Cut Off
All streets leading toward the sprawling collection of steel barred brick and cement buildings were closed off at 8 P. M. and no one could get within blocks of the entrance. Police stood in little knots. Inside the area of restriction was an entire platoon of mounted policemen, their horses stamping restlessly in the yellow glare of street, lights. For the first time in the records of the police department, roll call was taken on post instead of in station houses.
Persons living within the restricted area were kept as closely to their houses as during an air raid. When they ventured to their doors they were told to stay inside unless their business was extremely urgent and were warned that they might have difficulty getting back. Gasoline filling stations and small shops were ordered to close and stay closed until tomorrow.
Captain N. J. Goff of the Charlsestown Station was in charge of police arrangements at the prison. All Boston police, State Constabulary and special detectives assigned to duty there reported to him for instructions. Despite the elaborate police precautions, windows of the officers room of the prison, which was given over to newspaper men, were nailed down and blinds drawn as a precaution in case some one should "try to throw something in," according to Captain Goss.
A weird and martial picture was presented when motion picture photographers held aloft flaming calcium torches, lighting up a passing detail of mounted State police with a ghastly flicker and silhouetting their silent figures against the grim gray of the prison walls.
Last Visit to the Men
Mrs. Rose Sacco and Miss Luigia Vanzetti called three times at the death house during the day. Their last visit was at 7 o'clock in the evening, when they remained five minutes and departed weeping. Gardiner Jackson and Aldini Felicani of the Defense Committee, who accompanied the women, arranged with Warden Hendry for the transfer of the bodies to the relatives.
Mrs. Consuelo Aruda of New Bedford, sister of Madeiros, was the first of the relations of the condemned men to go to the prison. Madeiros was worried because his mother did not visit him Sunday. His sister told him that his mother had had a breakdown and could not come to Boston. Madeiros was much affected by the news of his mother's condition. The two spoke for an hour in Portuguese and the young woman left in tears with a last message for her mother.
Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti arrived at the prison for the first time in the day at 11 A. M. Dr. Joseph I. McLaughlin, the prison physician was in the death house at the time and Vanzetti introduced his sister to him. The two women were downcast. They pressed their faces close to the heavily barred cell doors under the eyes of the guards.
An hour passed and the interview ended with tearful farewells. Farewell embraces were not permitted. There were handclasps and faces were pressed to the cell doors. The bars are an inch thick and an inch apart and heavily meshed.
Madeiros at noon seemed quite and smoked many cigarettes. Vanzetti worked on a letter to his father. Sacco paced up and down his cell. But when Michael A. Musmanno of defense counsel called on Sacco and Vanzetti at 2:30 P. M. he found them depressed and ready for death. They depressed and ready for death. They told him they were convinced that no power on earth would save them. Sacco begged to see his wife again. Vanzetti regretted that his sister had come from Italy to be with him in his last moments of agony. He was sorry that her last memories of him would be clouded with knowledge of the gray prison, the death cell and the electric chair.
At 3:10 P. M. the two women returned to the death house in an automobile driven by Miss Edith Jackson of New Haven. Mrs. Sacco, who has always presented a tearless and composed face to the public, wept for the first time as she approached the gate. Miss Vanzetti's arm supported her as the two passed into the death house for the second time in the day. They greeted the men again through the wire mesh and remained an hour. Sacco spoke of his children and Vanzetti of his old home in Italy. The women remained an hour and they were weeping when they stepped into the automobile.
Joseph F. Linharen, a lawyer, of Somerville, called at the prison on behalf of Madeiros and asked permission to see him. The warden refused, after calling up the State House on the telephone.
Thompson Calls on Men
William G. Thompson, former counsel for Sacco and Vanzetti, called on them late in the day. Mr. Thompson had returned from the Summer home at South Tamworth, N. H., at the request of Vanzetti and visited both men at the death house. He spent nearly an hour there. Then he left he said that Sacco and Vanzetti had reasserted that they were absolutely innocent of the South Braintree murders. He declared also that there was no truth in the report that he had been offered an opportunity to inspect the files of the Department of Justice and had refused.
The conversation with Vanzetti, said Mr. Thompson, was partly on the man's political and philosophical beliefs. He declined to discuss the report of Governor Fuller or that of the Advisory Committee other than to say that, having read both documents with care, he found nothing in them which altered his opinion "that these two men are innocent and that their trial was in a very real sense unfair."
Mr. Thompson left, and half and hour later Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti arrived for their third and final visit to the condemned men. They were in an automobile with Gardner Jackson and Felicani asked Warden Hendry for permission to have the women to see their unfortunate relatives for the last time. The request was granted. During the final visit, which lasted five minutes, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Felicani arranged for the bodies of the two men to be turned over to Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti.
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