Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Sacco Vanzetti Case

with 6 comments

Sacco Vanzetti

Nearly 90 years on, people still seem to take this one personally. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants accused of murdering two people during an armed robbery in Massachusetts in 1920. The trial, which took place in the wake of the wave of national hysteria known as the “Red Scare,” was a joke; the public was paranoid about immigrants and the presiding judge made it clear that he knew what to expect from people who talked funny. To make matters worse, Sacco and Vanzetti were avowed anarchists who both owned guns. Although there was no hard evidence against them, they were convicted and sentenced to death.

The case became an international cause célèbre, and people like Felix Frankfurter, John Dos Passos, and Edna St. Vincent Mil- lay spent years pressing for a retrial. From their desks overseas, Albert Einstein, H. G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw condemned the trial. Violent demonstrations, many of them in front of U.S. embassies and consulates, took place in London, Paris, Tokyo, Warsaw, and Buenos Aires.

However, Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes turned down an appeal. When Sacco and Vanzetti were finally electrocuted in 1927, everyone was convinced that the whole liberal cause had collapsed. Their funeral took place on August 27 and was attended by a march of 50,000 people, who were stopped at the cemetery-gates and scattered into the streets by the police before trouble could begin.

Sacco and Vanzetti became martyrs, with poems and plays written about them. Unfortunately, modern ballistics tests conducted in 1961 seemed to prove conclusively that the fatal bullet used in the robbery did indeed come from Sacco’s gun. Never mind, it still looks like Vanzetti might have been innocent.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 16, 2009 at 7:30 am

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. My great-grandfather was their prison guard, and walked them to the execution. He always told my grandmother that one was innocent and one was guilty.


    October 21, 2009 at 12:19 am

    • hi
      just came across your response to the sacco vanzetti case. [2010]
      i would like to talk to you about your great-grandfather’s comment. i am writing about the case.
      do you still live in MA?

      robert d'attilio

      August 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

      • Hi Robert, sorry it’s been so long. I do live in MA, but I am not sure if I can help. He never discussed them with anyone but his daughter (my grandmother). She only talked about it with me, when I was little. She told me that when I was reading about them in 6th or 7th grade. I don’t remember much else, other than that my great-grandfather heard lots of conversations between S&V, but they were in Italian so he didn’t understand it.


        December 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      • petros
        just go to google images and take your pick of many images of sacco and vanzetti

        thanks for your reply.
        would you feel free to tell me your great grandfather’s name…
        any photos from that period?

        robert d'attilio

        December 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

  2. […] him. Years later, when a group of intellectuals asked him to sign a petition to save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti – two American victims of a political process – Dreyfus flew into a rage: he wanted nothing more […]

  3. Hello,
    Is there any way I could get a copy of the photo of Sacco and Vanzetti?

    Petros Anagnostakis

    December 13, 2011 at 5:28 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: