By Tim O’Rourke Nov. 27, 2016 Updated: Nov. 26, 2018 5:12 p.m. Comments (SFChronicle.com)
The Chronicle’s front page from Nov. 27, 1933, covers the lynching of two kidnap suspects in San Jose.Photo: The Chronicle 1933
Mob rule and blood thirst took control in the Valley of Heart’s Delight that night.
The Chronicle’s front page from Nov. 27, 1933, covers the lynching of two kidnapping and murder suspects in San Jose.
“Lynch law wrote the last grim chapter in the Brooke Hart kidnapping here tonight,” the story read. “Twelve hours after the mutilated body of the son of Alex J. Hart, wealthy San Jose merchant, was recovered from San Francisco Bay a mob of 10,000 infuriated men and women stormed the Santa Clara County Jail, dragged John M. Holmes and Thomas H. Thurmond from their cells and hanged them in historic St. James Park.”
It was a shocking scene, even 83 years ago. The Chronicle’s Royce Brier was there, and he would win the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting that night. The headline read “Kidnapers lynched!” using the accepted spelling of the time, and the size of the headline reflected the hangings’ impact in the Bay Area and beyond.
“Swift, and terrible to behold, was the retribution meted out to the confessed kidnappers and slayers,” Brier wrote. “As the pair were drawn up, thrashing in the throes of death, a mob of thousands of men and women and children screamed anathemas at them.
“The siege of the County Jail, a three-hour whirling, howling drama of lynch law, was accomplished without serious injury either to the seizers of the 35 officers who vainly sought to defend the citadel.
“The defense of the jail failed because Sheriff Emig and his forces ran out of tear gas bombs,” Brier continued. “Bombs kept the determined mob off for several hours.
“Help from San Francisco and Oakland officers arrived too late to save the Hart slayers.”
See more front pages: Go to SFChronicle.com/covers to search a database of hundreds of Chronicle Covers articles that showcase the newspaper’s history.
Chronicle Covers highlights one classic Chronicle newspaper page from our archive every day for 366 days. Library director Bill Van Niekerken and producers Kimberly Chua, Michelle Devera and Jillian Sullivan contributed to the project. Tim O’Rourke is the executive producer and editor of SFChronicle.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TimothyORourke
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