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Finding Aid to the Thomas J. Mooney Papers, 1887-1949, bulk 1930-1942
BANC MSS C-B 410  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Thomas J. Mooney papers
    Date (inclusive): 1887-1949,
    Date (bulk): bulk 1930-1942
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 410
    Creators : Mooney, Thomas J.
    Extent: Number of containers: 70 cartons, 5 boxes, 25 oversize boxes, 16 oversize folders, 37 scrapbooks and 91 volumes Linear feet: circa 120
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Thomas J. Mooney Papers document the attempts to free and vindicate Thomas J. Mooney who was wrongfully convicted of bombing the San Francisco Preparedness Day Parade of 1916. Although the collection does include personal papers of Mooney and his wife Rena Mooney, the bulk of the collection consists of the records of the Tom Mooney Molder's Defense Committee (TMMDC), an organization run by Mooney from his jail cell for the duration of his incarceration.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Thomas J. Mooney Papers, BANC MSS C-B 410, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Related Collections

    Fremont Older Papers (BANC MSS C-B 376)
    McDevitt papers (BANC MSS 89/86)
    Austin Lewis papers (BANC MSS C-B 467)
    George T. Davis collection of legal documents related to Thomas J. Mooney and Warren K. Billings (BANC MSS 2003/327)
    An interview with Mary Gallagher on the I.W.W., Tom Mooney (BANC MSS C-D 4011)
    Carl Hoffman papers (BANC MSS C-B 377)
    Photographs from the Thomas J. Mooney papers (BANC PIC 1945.003-PIC)
    Austin Lewis papers (BANC MSS C-B 467)
    George T. Davis papers (BANC MSS 2003/320)
    Collection of material relating to the I.W.W. and various labor and Socialist leaders (BANC MSS C-R 90)
    BANC PIC 1905.02830
    Tom Mooney Molders Defense Committee presents the Mooney case [videorecording]: as told to the camera by Tom Mooney (Motion Picture 1188 E)
    The strange case of Tom Mooney. Reel 2 [videorecording] (Motion Picture 1189 E)

    Separated Material

    Most photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library. Film has been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library. Many printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Mooney, Thomas J., 1882-1942--Archives
    Mooney, Thomas J., 1882-1942--Trials, litigation, etc
    Bombings--California--San Francisco
    Trials (Murder)--California--San Francisco
    Trials (Terrorism)--California--San Francisco
    Mooney, Rena
    Mooney Molders Defense Committee
    Billings, Warren K., 1893-1972
    Labor movement--San Francisco (Calif.)--History

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Thomas J. Mooney Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by the estate of Thomas J. Mooney on May 31, 1943. Additions were made by Sara H. Eliaser, former Chair of the Tom Moony Molders' Defense Committee, in 1958.


    No additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Teresa Mora in 2008-2011.

    Biographical Information

    Mooney, Thomas Joseph (8 Dec. 1882-6 Mar. 1942), labor leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Bryan Mooney (also called Bernard), a coal miner, and Mary Hefferon (or Heffernan). Mooney lived in Washington, Indiana, until he was ten, when his father died. The family then moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, where his mother found work in a paper mill as a ragsorter. Mooney left school at fourteen for a job in a local factory and in 1898 entered the iron molding trade. He joined the molders' union, a membership he maintained the rest of his life. With opportunities for employment scarce, he began traveling around the country, doing whatever work he could find. In 1907 his journeys took him to Europe, and there he discovered socialism. Returning home, he began drifting again, this time traveling as far west as Stockton, California. There he joined the Socialist party, worked for the presidential campaign of Eugene V. Debs, and spent a winter in Chicago learning more about the party.
    In 1909 Mooney set off again, this time seeking to win a round-the-world trip in a subscription-selling contest sponsored by a socialist magazine. He lost, but so narrowly that the magazine paid his way to attend the International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen in 1910. He then returned to California, this time settling in San Francisco. He belonged briefly to the Industrial Workers of the World, but, finding them too sectarian, he aligned himself with the radical minority of the local Socialist party and served as circulation manager for their short-lived newspaper, Revolt. He ran on the Socialist party ticket for superior court judge in 1910 and for sheriff in 1911. He also helped organize molders for the tiny left-wing Syndicalist League of North America. He was married in 1911 to Rena Ellen Brink Hermann; they had no children.
    In 1913 Mooney and Warren Knox Billings, another young radical, became involved in a bitter electrical workers' strike against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Billings was caught with a suitcase full of dynamite, and although Mooney does not appear to have been involved, he heard that he too was about to be arrested. He went underground for several months, then tried to slip away by boat, but was caught and charged with illegal possession of explosives. Three trials followed, the first two ending in hung juries and the third (1914) in his acquittal. Once released, Mooney resumed his labor activism.
    By 1916, with World War I in Europe nearly two years old, many Americans were calling for a military build-up. Others, including many labor leaders and radicals, opposed the idea, arguing that it would only hasten the country's entry into what they saw as a corrupt and imperialist war. On 22 July 1916, during the period when Preparedness Day parades were being held throughout the country, a bomb exploded in the midst of San Francisco's parade, killing ten people and wounding forty more. Although there was almost no physical evidence, the press immediately blamed political radicals, while District Attorney Charles M. Fickert concluded that the bomb had been brought to the scene in a suitcase. With encouragement from the private detective at Pacific Gas and Electric who had tracked down Mooney and Billings in 1913, Fickert quickly arrested both men, along with Mooney's wife and several other people.
    Billings, who was tried first, was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mooney's trial for first-degree murder followed in January 1917. A rancher named Frank Oxman, who had not appeared in the Billings trial, testified that he had seen both men carrying a suitcase near the bomb scene, and although his statement contradicted other prosecution testimony, Mooney was convicted and sentenced to the gallows. Subsequent investigations discredited Oxman's testimony, but under pressure from local business interests and the Hearst press, Fickert refused to reopen the case. In the meantime, Mooney's wife was tried (without Oxman's testimony) and acquitted.
    Until Mooney's conviction, most of his support came from fellow radicals, in addition to a few public-minded lawyers, led by Bourke Cockran. Once the trial was over, however, Mooney's circle of supporters expanded to include a wide array of mainstream labor leaders, civil libertarians, reformers, public officials, and members of the general public. The case attracted worldwide attention, and when mobs in Petrograd stormed the American embassy to protest Mooney's conviction, President Woodrow Wilson urged the governor of California to consider giving Mooney a new trial. Some months later, at the suggestion of Colonel Edward House (Wilson's closest adviser), the case was reviewed by the Wickersham National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, which was studying labor strikes. On the basis of questions raised by the commission, Mooney's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in November 1918.
    Mooney was saved from execution, but he was still in San Quentin Prison, with no new trial on the horizon. For the next twenty years his supporters struggled to maintain public interest in the case and to win his freedom. They encountered innumerable political and legal obstacles, however, and Mooney's irascibility and distrust made their task more difficult. Nevertheless, they persevered; Frank Walsh, Mooney's attorney from 1923 to 1939, is said to have spent $50,000 of his own money in pursuing various appeals. In 1934 Upton Sinclair, running for governor, promised to set Mooney free if elected; this ray of hope disappeared when Sinclair was defeated. A U.S. Supreme Court decision on one of Mooney's appeals (Mooney v. Holohan, 1935) set important new precedents in federal habeas corpus proceedings, but Mooney remained a prisoner.
    Mooney failed in a personal appeal to the California state legislature in 1938 and shortly thereafter was rejected for the last time by the U.S. Supreme Court. Finally, in January 1939, Governor Culbert L. Olson granted Mooney a pardon. (Billings was released from prison when his sentence was commuted ten months later, and he was officially pardoned in 1961.) Mooney had a brief tour as a labor hero and then sank into obscurity, burdened with debts, estranged from his wife, and suffering from bleeding ulcers. He died in San Francisco.
    Mooney did not become a dissident hero by choice; there is no evidence that he had anything to do with the bombing that sent him to prison. Nor was he a hero by nature; his complaints and resentment strained the loyalty of his supporters almost to the breaking point. Nevertheless, his experience forced him into a hero's role, providing the beleaguered labor movement with a martyr and leading many ordinary citizens to conclude that the American system could be very unjust.
    Sandra Opdycke. "Mooney, Thomas Joseph";
    American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
    Access Date: Tue Mar 29 2011 13:50:12 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
    Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy.


    1882 December 8 Birth of Thomas J. Mooney, Chicago, Illinois
    1911 Marriage to Rena Hermann
    1916 July 22 Preparedness Day Bombing, San Francisco
    1916 July 27 Tom and Rena Mooney arrested
    1916 August 2 Tom and Rena Mooney, Billings, Nolan, and Weinberg each indicted on eight counts of murder
    1916 September 11 Billings trial begins
    1916 September 23 Billings convicted of murder, sentenced to life in prison
    1917 January 3 Start of Tom Mooney trial
    1917 February 9 Tom Mooney convicted of murder
    1917 February 24 Tom Mooney sentenced to death
    1917 April 6 Oxman letters published in San Francisco Bulletin
    1917 May 11 Mooney death sentence stayed by Governor Stephens
    1917 July 27 Rena Mooney acquitted, remains jailed
    1917 September 21 Oxman tried and acquitted of subornation of perjury
    1917 November Weinberg tried and acquitted, remains jailed
    1917 December 17 Election to recall Fickert fails
    1918 March 30 Weinberg and Rena Mooney freed
    1918 November 28 Governor Stephens commutes Mooney's sentence to life in prison
    1919 National Mooney Congress convenes in Chicago
    1932 September 28 Paul Callicotte confesses to Preparedness Day bombing
    1939 January 7 Official pardon granted by Governor Culbert L. Olson
    1942 Tom Mooney dies in San Francisco

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Thomas J. Mooney Papers document the attempts to free and vindicate Thomas J. Mooney who was wrongfully convicted of bombing the San Francisco Preparedness Day Parade of 1916. Although the collection does include personal papers of Mooney and his wife Rena Mooney, the bulk of the collection consists of the records of the Tom Mooney Molder's Defense Committee (TMMDC), an organization run by Mooney from his jail cell for the duration of his incarceration.
    The collection has been divided into five series: Tom Mooney Molders Defense Committee; Personal Papers; Legal Materials; Other Organizations; and Correspondence to Governor Olson. The most comprehensive of which is the records of the Defense Committee. More detailed descriptions of each series precede the listing.