On this day, July 3, in 1915, a day after setting a bomb at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., former Ivy League college professor Eric Muenter shot banker J.P. Morgan, Jr., in the groin in a failed attempt to stop American support in World War I.
Several years earlier, Muenter had been a German instructor at Harvard University in Boston, where he had slowly killed his wife with arsenic. When police began to investigate, Muenter skipped town, and later showed up in Texas under the alias Frank Holt.
Muenter eventually worked his way back to the East Coast where he taught German language at Cornell University.
On July 2, 1915, Muenter set an explosive package under a window of the Senate switchboard operator with a timing mechanism set for 20 minutes before midnight. He bought a ticket at Union Station for a train to New York City.
The blast rocked the Capitol building, knocking a night watchman off his chair. Muenter heard the explosion from Union Station then boarded the midnight train.
The professor’s plan was to hold J.P. Morgan Jr. and his wife hostage. Morgan’s company had financed the Russian, British and French efforts against the Germans. Muenter believed he could force Morgan to stop sending munitions to the Allies, and halt America’s entry in to the war.
Muenter broke into the financier’s Long Island home. Morgan rushed the intruder, and Muenter shot him in the groin. Muenter was taken down by servants and arrested by police. Morgan survived.
In jail, Muenter tried to kill himself with a strip of metal from an eraser. When that failed he climbed the prison bars then threw himself headfirst into the concrete floor where he shattered his skull and died.