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Free Mooney and Billings

Free Mooney and Billings Cause Busy Beaver Button Museum
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Free Mooney and Billings back Cause Busy Beaver Button Museum
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Blue and white photograph of two men wearing suits in the center with white background. Thick blue circular border around edge with curling large white text over dark blue border.

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Tom Mooney and Warren Billings were two men framed as being the perpetrators in a deadly bombing in San Francisco in 1916. At the time, tension was high between labor unions and businesses. The United States was preparing for the possibility of joining World War I, and so they had a large “Preparedness Day” event with a parade through San Francisco’s streets. A suitcase bomb went off during the parade, killing ten and gravely injuring forty others. Detectives and the district attorney’s office were on the side of the chamber of commerce, and used a list of leftists “trouble-makers” who were in town to determine who to arrest for the bombing. Tom Mooney and Warren Billings were labor activists in town that day, and they were arrested. Tom Mooney was sentenced to death which was later commuted to life in prison, while Warren Billings was also sentenced to life in prison. 

In 1920, the confession of Detective Draper Hand, involved in the Mooney case, changed everything. He confessed the entire case framed Tom Mooney. He either bribed or intimidated all the witnesses so that they would lie on the stand, and he coached them on exactly what to say. Detective Hand even took the key witness, Mr. Oxman, to the police station and showed him a car so that he could testify to seeing the car driven on the day. Mooney and Billings asked for a retrial after this new evidence came to light. The evidence sparked protests and outrage, and probes into the trial lasted for over twenty years while Mooney and Billings were kept in prison. In 1939, both men were released with Mooney being pardoned and Billings being paroled. Billings was eventually pardoned in the 1960s. It was determined that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict either man, and it is still unknown who was responsible for the suitcase bomb in 1916.


Appeal to Reason. (1920). Mooney Exposure Shakes Frameup Gang Into Panic-Stricken Collapse, p. 1. Retrieved from

Hearst, P. A., Rodiester, C., Rolph, J. & Afi/Post. (1916) San Francisco's future. [United States: s.n., ?] [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, 

Waxman, O. (2016). The Bomb That Rocked San Francisco 100 Years Ago. Retrieved 1 May 2021, from

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