Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

Synopsis

Reexamines the 1921 murder case that resulted in the execution of the two anarchists, argues that they were innocent, and suggests a possible solution to the crime.

Excerpt

This book has a curious history. The late William Young of Wellesley, Massachusetts, was a highly successful rare book and art dealer and the editor of the Dictionary of American Artists, Painters, and Sculptors. His success gave him ample time to pursue other interests. In 1977 I was introduced to him by Steve Flink, a mutual friend staying at his house for a weekend. Most of the conversation that day dealt with tennis, a passion we all shared. Then, as I was leaving, I noticed on his bookshelf the five thick volumes of the record of the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. Having read something about the case myself, I asked him if he was interested in it.

I had stumbled upon a man who had spent more than ten years researching every aspect of the case. His knowledge far outstripped mine, and his conclusions were, to say the least, surprising. A few weeks later he secured a copy of the Massachusetts State Police files released after the fiftieth anniversary of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, and began a new phase of his research. We rapidly became friends, and I became the sounding board for his new conclusions. He began preparing a manuscript embodying his findings, and we sometimes spoke about the possibility of working on it together. But having just begun a career as a university history teacher I was too busy with other projects, and nothing ever came of this idea. He eventually completed a manuscript but recognized that it was not in finished form.

In January 1980 William Young, then fifty-two years old, was stricken with terminal cancer. I found him in remarkably good spirits on my last visit to him. We agreed that I would take the manuscript and the documentation he had collected and try to put it into publishable form. He died in April 1980. My work on the manuscript received a tremendous boost when my new employer, the History and Philosophy Department of Carnegie-Mellon University, provided funding for more research. With the help of Michael Levitin and Catherine Hustead, I developed a great deal of new material and broadened the scope of the manuscript. I must thank Mrs. Erika Chadbourne of the Harvard Law School Library, the staff of the Boston Public Library, Donald Smith and Keith Halsey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Susan Falb of the National Archives for their help in leading me to many important documents on the case. I must also thank Catherine Casey of the Massachusetts Supreme . . .

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