July 12, 1909


Italians of Holy Rosary Congrega-
tion Were Celebrating St. John's
Day -- Two Negroes Are
Instantly Killed.

The upright figure is sketched from a duplicate of the iron pipe which was also to have been fired. The upper figure is a sketch of the piece which killed the woman and the lower figure is a sketch of the piece which was hurled through the house at 511 Campbell street.

Amidst a throng of 700 persons who gathered at Fifth and Campbell streets last night to watch the celebration of St. John's day, a bomb exploded, instantly killing Clarance Harrington, a negro of 511 Lydia avenue, and Anna Fields, a negro woman of 568 Harrison street; and so seriously wounding Tony Grassiffe, an Italian living at 311 East Third street, that he died at 10:45 o'clock.

The bomb was one used in the pyrotechnical display being held under the direction of the Holy Order of St. John, an organization of the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic church, Fifth and Campbell streets. Tony Grassiffe, one of the victims, was the master of ceremonies and for almost an hour he had been lighting bombs, rockets and Roman candles, while the crowd gathered denser in the street.

Grassiffe finally planted the huge cast iron pipe, loaded with dynamite and a bomb, in the center of a low corner lot. He had been warned to completely cover the bomb with dirt, and to plant it deep. Ignorance or carelessness caused him to leave the bomb in its two feet of iron pipe standing uncovered in the lot. He lighted the fuse and before he could gain his feet the explosion occurred.


Grassiffe's left leg at the knee was completely severed by the bursting projectile. A huge piece of the iron was hurled westward and struck the negro woman full on the right side of her face, tearing it away, and leaving only a small portion of the skull. Another, and smaller piece, struck Harrington in the center of his forehead, crushing his skull and tearing part of it away. The two negroes dropped in their tracks, dead. The woman lay across the sidewalk grasping a palm leaf fan in her hand. The man fell close by her side.

Sergeant D. J. Whalen was standing within three feet of the woman when she fell. He was struck in the chest by a piece of mortar, but was uninjured. Officer Lee Clarry was standing still closer to the negro, and escaped without a scratch.


One piece of the iron pipe was hurled northward with a force which caused it to penetrate the wall of a house, seventy-five feet distant, and continue its course within, plunging through a two-inch door and spending its force against the other wall of the building.

Seated at a window, not three feet from the point where the projectile entered the wall, was Tony Gafucci. He was thrown from his chair, and lay on the floor of his room, momentarily stunned. The house number is 511 Campbell street.

Instantly after the sound of the explosion, the great crowd surged forward to where the dead bodies were lying. The police officers held them back, and themselves ascertained the condition of the negroes. Seeing that both were dead, the officers hastened to aid Grassiffe, whom they heard groaning and crying for help. They picked the injured man up from the hollow and carried him into a nearby drug store.

The police ambulance was hastily called, and Dr. E. D. Twyman accompanied it to the scene of the explosion. As he alighted at the spot where the negroes were lying on the sidewalk, and stooped down to make examinations, the uncontrollable crowd of negroes and Italians surged forward closer still, knocking over the surgeon.


When Dr. Twyman reached Grassiffe he found the injured man to be in a dangerous condition. Nothing could be done to stop the terrible flow of blood from the severed limb. The surgeon ordered a record drive to the emergency hospital, where every effort was made to save the life of the injured man. He was kept alive until 10:45 o'clock, by means of artificial respiration and then died.

By some means Grassiffe's wife gained entrance to the hospital and, gazing upon the form of her husband, became hysterical. It was necessary for Dr. H. T. Morton to administer an opiate to quiet the woman, who was shrieking strange Italian chants at the top of her voice, pausing now and then to cross herself and mutter a hurried prayer.

The coroner was notified of the deaths and ordered the negroes bodies taken to Moore's undertaking establishment, 1033 Independence avenue.

The celebration last night was held in spite of the constant warnings given out by Father Charles Delbecchi, in charge of the Holy Rosary church. He had just left his church, where he had warned once more of the dangers of fireworks.