Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Of The Most Sensational Photographs Of Its Time

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

Photographs You Like to See in the Newspapers

Adventures men have in getting these pictures, and the kinds of pictures
which have the greatest appeal to the public
By Bert E. Underwood
Mr. Underwood is president of Underwood & Underwood, Inc.

Mayor Gaynor Seconds
After Being Shot

SOMETIMES a photographer is aided by a remarkable bit of luck. This was strikingly illustrated in the attempted assassination several years ago of the late Mayor Gaynor of New York, just as he was about to sail for Europe.

One camera man was late in reaching the pier. By the time he arrived there the boat was about to sail, and most of the other photographers had exhausted their plates. Just as he was leveling the camera the late comer noticed an odd fellow in the crowd take out a revolver and cock it. Supposing that it was a plain-clothes man about to fire a salute, he waited for the report. Suddenly he was horrified to see that the man was aiming at the mayor instead of into the air. Before he could even utter a warning shout the shot had sped on its way. But he had enough presence of mind to release the shutter of his camera. The print showed the mayor staggering back into a friend's arms, with the blood already beginning to run down his face.

More To The Story

The photographer was William Warnecke of the Evening World. The photographs were exclusive, but there was no mention of the name of the photographer.

Aug. 9, 1910, William Warnecke had been given the assignment to cover New York Mayor William J. Gaynor leaving for a European vacation on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.

At eight, Warnecke packed his camera and plates for the 9:00 a.m. assignment. It was only a few miles away in Hoboken, New Jersey. As he was leaving he met another staffer, Hughie O’Neill, who was having trouble with a feature assignment. Warnecke said he would make the shot on the way to the Gaynor assignment.

O’Neill’s assignment had been to take a photograph of a Fire Department horse laughing. New York City was replacing the animals with newly purchased, motor driven fire engines. Warnecke found a fire horse and tried everything he could think of to get a picture of the horse laughing. Time was running out. Finally he gave the horse caramels and in attempting to get rid of the gummy mess the horse wriggled his lips making it look as if he was laughing.

Warnecke was very late and all the photographers were gone or leaving. He took a test shot. He focused for the second shot when a squat, stout man approached Gaynor from behind. He fired, but it was a misfire. He fired again shooting Gaynor in the neck. Warnecke got a photograph of Gaynor being struck by the bullet. The gunman, a disgruntled unemployed sanitation worker was wrestled to the ground, hands bound, and dragged off the ship to a waiting car. Warnecke ran ahead and got this photograph. He then ran back and got the final photo – Gaynor being carried off the ship. (The Mayor did not die this day, but three years later from complications stemming from the shooting.)

As you can see in the photograph, blood gushed down the Mayor’s beard dripping onto the collar and front of his suit. It is said that the World’s city editor Charles E. Chapin exulted: “What a wonderful thing! Look! Blood all over him – and exclusive, too!


Underwood, Bert E. "Photographs We'd Like To See In The Newspapers. The American Magazine. November 1921.

Ellis, Robert. The Epic of New York City. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2005.

Faber, John. Great News Photos and the Stories Behind Them. New York : Dover Publications, 1978.


Faber, John. Great News Photos and the Stories Behind Them. New York : Dover Publications, 1978.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story and picture to go with it. I love this blog! ;)

December 18, 2008 at 1:10 PM  

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