Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Photographer Edward N. Jackson

One figure can help us tie together three notable episodes of American corporate terrorism, ranging from the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, to a precursor skyscraper building collapse, that of the Equitable Life Assurance Building on January 9, 1912, an event which in both its outline and in many of its details stands eerily as the template for the later New York City disaster.

In between these two structural failures, was the Wall Street bombing of September 16, 1920, which took place in the street out front of the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Company.

The history of Edward Jackson, as it is found online, is itself an example of an apparent system of information management organized around a government-military-media-university axis. His story is told primarily by his putative biographer, Joseph Caro, whose book, "Edward N. Jackson ~ Prince of News Photography," was supposed to have been released in 2009, but which remains unknown at as of mid-2011.

Caro is reported to be responsible for the major online resource for information about Jackson, a web page "which supports the author's forthcoming book on Eddie Jackson." That information comes from a second source, a web page posted by a Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College by the name of C.T. Evans. There we also find a link to a third web source, now defunk, but still available at, which appears to be a graduate thesis by a student at Southern Nazarene University, in Bethany, Oklahoma. An entry at Wikipedia for Jackson, seems for the most part, to be directly lifted from Caro's web site.

In the absence of a more public profile for Jackson, we must consider that each of these three sources carry privileged information, and while none verify the important facts found in the other by which I assemble my argument, they do not contradict each other, and we're left with no option but to take them at their word.

The home page link to Caro's web site on Jackson is broken, but we can go directly to his "Free Lance News" page on the Equitable Building Fire-1912. There Caro tells us that
One of Eddie's first free-lance photo opportunities before working for the American Press Association, was the New York Equitable Building eight-alarm fire in the financial district on Pine Street in January, 1912.
And as Caro editorializes:
Eddie Jackson had an instinctive eye for photo composition as these early pictures taken in the 1912 Equitable Building fire clearly show. With no formal training in photography or composition, Eddie shows us and his photographic peers of the era his ability to construct a photograph to a high dramatic level---even during the excitement of the scene as it unfolds. As Eddie Jackson stated later in life "a good photograph is worth 10 columns of copy."
Caro does us a service by posting four images taken at the fire and its aftermath. Since none of the dozen or so competing daily newspapers in that era published bylines or personal photo credits for the work appearing in their pages, it would be impossible to reconstruct Jackson's credits today without high-level editorial and archival help.

Each of the four images found on the Edward Jackson page displays evidence of doctoring and manipulation of a type found consistently throughout the image record of September 11th, but that is a technical analysis to be saved for later. The actionable image for my purposes here is the following, which to my knowledge is the product of the single photo opportunity allowed from inside the burned-out building at 120 Broadway. On page 5 of the January 11, 1912, edition, the New York Times published a reverse image of this statue credited to the Brown Bros. agency, a photo which is very difficult to reconcile with Jackson's image. (See: MENACE IN RUINS OF THE EQUITABLE; or, if you subscribe: )

In 1912 Jackson was a 27-year-old from a dirt-poor background in Philadelphia. Caro tells us that as a child he and his family were often forced to resort to eating in soup kitchens. Although Jackson had begun apprenticing with a studio photographer at age 15 in Philadelphia, moving with the firm to Atlantic City in 1903, and at some point later to New York City, his status at the time of the Equitable fire was clearly that of a "free lance" photographer. Caro contradicts himself here, telling us first that the Equitable fire was "[o]ne of Eddie's first free-lance photo opportunities before working for the American Press Association," but on his bio page, Caro says Jackson was "work[ing] for the American Press Association in the photo engraving department in 1912 where he also became a free lance news photographer."

In any event, what is clear is that Jackson would have lacked the professional credentials to have gotten through police cordons blocks away, let alone into the Equitable Building itself. It is difficult to find a modern analogy to what the Equitable Building represented in its time--although Fort Knox would be a close second. The Equitable Building was literally a treasure house, being the repository for the equivalent in hundreds of billions of dollars in securities, stocks, bonds and cash; holding the fortunes of the likes of the Harrimans, the Belmonts, the Goulds, Russell Sage, and Thomas Fortune Ryan; as well as the corporate holdings of the Mercantile branch of the Bankers' Trust, the Equitable Trust Company, Kuhn, Loeb & Co., William A Read & Co., and Kountze Bros. bankers. J.P. Morgan had purchased the controlling interest in the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1909.

The Equitable Building was the most secure building in America. The idea that Jackson could launch an enormously successful career off of his privileged access at this "scene as it unfolds" indicts the system of action photojournalism as participating in a foreknowledged manipulation of events.

His career took off after the Equitable fire. Caro tells us:
Eddie's first foreign assignment as a fledgling photojournalist for the APA was to travel to Panama to photograph the Panama Canal before its official opening in 1914

Three months before the United States entered World War I (April, 1917), she continued, reluctantly, to have a trade status with Germany and allowed their ships to enter U.S. ports. When the German Submarine Deutschland arrived in New London, Conn. on a cold, dark January night in 1917, Eddie 'borrowed' a canoe and paddled around to take his photograph.

In 1915 Jackson was invited by his friend Thomas Alva Edison, newly appointed as President of the Naval Review Board, to document the inspection of a highly secret United States submarine “E-2” in the Brooklyn Navy yard. The United States had not entered WWI and did not want the warring nations to know about the development of submarine capability. Two weeks later the submarine mysteriously exploded killing several personnel. Eddie Jackson's clandestine photograph of the U.S. E-2 Submarine Explosion in dry-dock after the explosion that killed several sailors, happened in the battery room that Thomas Edison inspected two weeks earlier. Jackson’s forbidden photograph of the damaged submarine appeared in all of the New York papers.

Many years past the draft age, Jackson joined the Army Signal Corps (reserves) at the age of 32 and reported for training at Camp Alfred Vail in Little Silver New Jersey on October 22nd 1917. Due to his extensive photographic experience he was promoted to 1st. Lieutenant and was assigned the title as "Official War Photographer." Several months later he was selected to be President Woodrow Wilson’s official photographer:

Maybe the most famous picture of the Paris Peace Conference, the "The Big Four" (27 May 1919) was taken by Edward N. Jackson, a photographer with the Army Signal Corps and Wilson's official photographer in Europe.

Eddie Jackson in his army uniform
Returning from France a seasoned, recognized professional news photographer, Jackson was offered many employment offers. He decided to work with Joseph Mendill Patterson and his cousin Robert R. McCormick, who were co-publishers of the Chicago Tribune and wanted to start a New York tabloid newspaper The New York Daily News. Launched on June 26, 1919 with Edward N. Jackson as their lead photographer, the publishers wanted large and prominent photographs of city news, entertainment and sports events and local city coverage, all of which was assigned to Jackson. The New York Daily News is today the sixth largest newspaper in the country and has won ten Pulitzer prizes.

"A photographer's photographer" quote by First Lady Mrs. Warren G. Harding who stated the Edward Jackson's photograph of her was "the best photo ever taken." The photo ran on the entire front page of the February 5, 1921 New York Daily News.

The unnamed writer from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, whose work, tentatively titled, "20s & 30s" Tabloid Journalism - Mankind's Obsession for Sensationalism, appears four times at, from Nov. 17, 2007 to Oct. 5, 2008, takes over from here:
One of the first exclusive picture opportunities for the tabloid occurred on September 16, 1920. Captain Edward N. Jackson of the Daily News was on a routine assignment in Wall Street when a dynamite bomb in a horse-drawn wagon went off, killing thirty people and injuring a hundred. Jackson went to work, capturing the best pictures of the disaster. Other photographers soon arrived on the scene, but by then the police had already drawn lines about the explosion area. Jackson consequently was the only journalist to escape with on-the-scene pictures of the victims and first aid work. In cases such as this, history influenced the paper to cover the story, and the paper’s pictorial coverage augmented history by supplying pictures that would have otherwise never existed.

That Jackson could have been at this locale by luck, or chance, or happenstance is an absurdity. The 1920 Wall Street bombing has all the earmarks of a politically motivated catalyzing event---and not one likely to benefit the BOLSHEVIST OR GUILDSMAN, let alone the anarchists, communists, or militant socialists.

Chose your boogeyman via the New York Times:
REV. D.D. IRVINE'S THEORY.; Says "Vatican Created Atmosphere" That Caused Bomb to be Thrown.

THINKS GERMANS SET BLAST; HEARD THREAT; Teuton in Wall Street Uttered Warning Just After the Tragedy, ...

DENY UNION MEN SET WALL ST. BOMB; Federal Agents and Police Discredit Theory That LaborFight Cau



PLANS SEDITION LAW TEST.; Seymour Stedman Speech to Fores Issue In Kentucky.

LEE SAYS EXPLOSION WAS AN ACCIDENT; Socialist Asserts His Belief That Bomb Story Is a Capitalistic Inven
Of course, on the 17th, the Times reported that EXPLOSIVE STORES ALL ACCOUNTED FOR,

but on September 20th the lead story becomes EXPLOSIVES FOUND TO BE MISSING IN HUNT FOR BOMB PLOT CLUE;

Did they forget what they published on September 15?

FEEL DU PONT BLAST.; 3,000 Pounds of Powder Shake Wide Region in Pennsylvania.

Or that on June 13, 1915, General T. Coleman DU PONT BUYS EQUITABLE LIFE; Gets 502 of Society's Total of ...

New-York Tribune. September 17, 1920

Explosives Expert Declares Blast Was No Accident
[page 5, Columns 1 & 2]
Investigation Eliminates Licensed Wagons of Two Concerns, Only Ones With Right to Haul Dynamite

An investigation into all deliveries of dynamite made here recently was begun immediately after the explosion yesterday by the Bureau of Fire Prevention of the Fire Department.

Twenty inspectors were detailed to the work of checking up deliveries and the movements of dynamite wagons under Dr. William F. Doyle, chief of the bureau, and John F. Dixon, chief inspector of combustibles.

The inquiry resulted in eliminating the E. I. de Nemours Cornpay's truck from any possible responsibility for the explosion. At the same time the only other legitimate dealer licensed to deliver the explosive was eliminated.

It resulted also in the statement being made that it was unlikely that surreptitious shipment or delivery was the cause, as this practice does not obtain, owing to the stringency of the regulations governing the handling of explosives.

Explosives Trucks Bonded

The Dupont Company is licensed and bonded to deliver dynamite with an electric truck. This was in its garage at the time of the explosion and had not made a delivery below Sixteenth Street yesterday, according to both officials of the company and the word of inspectors. The vehicle which may have contained the explosive and was destroyed was horse drawn.

The only one other dealer in dynamite who also is licensed to sell and deliver the explosive in New York City is Carl H. Dittmar, of 102 West 130th Street. He operates two horse-drawn vehicles. Neither of these had been below Forty-eighth Street during the day, inspectors were told.

The Du Pont Company has two trucks, but only one is operated at a time, as only one is bonded. The other is kept for emergency reasons and is out of commission at present, it was said at the company's office in the Equitable Building.

C. C. Moore, an official of the company, said the truck had made no deliveries below Sixteenth Street during the day and was in its garage at the time of the blast. Chief Inspector Dixon said it was unlikely that the explosion could have been caused by a surreptitious shipment of dynamite, as contractors must make a sworn statement daily of the amount on hand. Each stick of dynamite is numbered and the magazines are inspected daily.

Check Kept on Explosive?

All blasting is done by licensed men and a check in kept upon the explosives. There is no such thing as an attempt to evade the laws governing their sale and delivery, according to Dixon.

Dixon, who is the Fire Department expert on explosives, said that if all of the experts in the country were brought here, in his opinion, not even three of them would be able to agree as to the form of explosive used and the quantity.

"I do not think it was an accident," he said, after his inspection of the scene.

The bureau turned over window sash weights and other pieces of metal found to the Police Department.

Supposedly the bomb sent metal projectiles through windows 32 stories up, but it couldn't even blow up a goddamn horse.

The Wall Street bombing slipped down the memory hole for one reason--it was no good as manufactured reality.

Do I need to make the painfully obvious associations with 9/11?

My 16,963-word transcript of reporting on the bombing in the
New-York Tribune. September 17, 1920,