The Mad Bomber: George Metesky's Bombs Terrorized New York City

By | March 28, 2020

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George Metesky behind bars, 1951. (Washington Post)

As millions of people file for unemployment and still more lack health insurance, it's easy to understand, here in 2020, why someone might get salty with an employer for leaving them in the lurch. In the 1940s, George Metesky got so upset that he began threatening the company, and he wasn't satisfied with angry letters. He chose instead to hide a series of signed pipe bombs around New York City over the course of 16 years. While no one was killed and only a few were injured, the scale of the bombings was so broad that George Metesky was christened "The Mad Bomber."

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The aftermath of one of Metesky's bombs at Pennsylvania Station. (New York City Municipal Archives)

Poor George Metesky

George Metesky had always been an upstanding him. He was a veteran who'd served as a specialist electrician in Shanghai for the Marine Corps after World War I, and after returning to the United States in 1931, he worked as a mechanic for Consolidated Edison. He soon switched to generator wiping at the company's plant in Hell's Gate, where one day, a boiler backfired, knocking him over and filling his lungs with toxic gas. He was given sick pay for 26 days, but following his recovery, the company unceremoniously let him go.

Things only got worse for Metesky from there. His injuries developed into pneumonia, then tuberculosis. He tried repeatedly to get Consolidated Edison to change their minds and offer him further compensation in light of the ongoing and debilitating nature of his workplace accident, but they refused three separate times, claiming that he'd taken too long to file for compensation. Defeated, Metesky dropped it—for the time being.