On 9 August 1910, New York Mayor William J. Gaynor boarded Norddeutscher Lloyd’s Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in Hoboken, New Jersey, to begin a month-long holiday in Europe. But his voyage—and life—almost ended when he was shot by a disgruntled man named John J. Gallagher. Gallagher was seeking vengeance after being fired a few weeks earlier by the city’s docks department from his job as a 25-cents-an-hour night watchman on the city’s East River piers.
The Irish-born mayor was standing on deck chatting with the president of Chile and press photographers when Gallagher attacked. The 58-year-old would-be assassin shouted, “You took the bread and meat out of my mouth,” as he fired several shots from a .38 revolver. The assailant was tackled and disarmed by Street Cleaning Commissioner William Edwards (no relation to the author), a former American football star of the 1890s. Edwards’ arm was grazed by a bullet.
“Tell the people goodbye for me,” gasped Gaynor, who believed he had been mortally wounded. But after a several-week hospital stay, the mayor recovered. He was back on the job in early October.
Somewhat ironically, Gaynor died three years later of a heart attack suffered onboard another liner—White Star Line’s Baltic. A memorial to the former mayor still stands in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza, just blocks away from the terminal that hosts Queen Mary 2 at the end of her westbound transatlantic voyages.
Footnote: The bearded gentleman wearing the white hat in the photo above is Robert Todd Lincoln, son of assassinated US President Abraham Lincoln.
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