Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Harry Orchard Blows Up The Independence Colorado Train Depot"

1986, 48”x48”
Acrylic on Linen
John Boak

This is a painting by John Boak depicting the blowing up of the Independence Depot near Florence, Colorado. John has kindly provided a scan of the painting and permission to publish it on this blog. It is copyrighted material so please contact him to request permission if you intend to use the image. Sadly, a picture is all we have as the original was lost or stolen in New York City in 1988. If you ever see this painting, contact John at the above number or through his website as it would sure be great to see it recovered and back to its proper owner.

Subsequent to September 11th, 2001, many look at the painting and see not the often forgotten terrorist act of Harry Orchard from over 100 years ago, but rather the more recent tragedy of the Twin Towers that remains etched forever in our consciousness. Although the two events are unrelated in size, scope and international impact, they nonetheless are connected through time and intent. The Independence Deport depicts one of the earliest examples of the indiscriminate use of a massive explosion to kill large numbers of people. The goal…kill and maim as many as possible for the purpose of creating fear and terror and striking a blow to the “enemy.” The same was true then as it is now but of course we live in a world today where the tools of destruction are many times more deadly. I am reminded of the connection between these two events as I read the book Terrorism in the 20th Century by Jay Robert Nash (1998). The first chapter begins with the assassination of President William McKinley, the terrorism of Harry Orchard and the open warfare in the Rocky Mountains and other mining areas of Idaho and Colorado. The books ends with a discussion of more recent terrorist attacks instigated by groups such at the PFLP and the those led by the "publicity-seeking" Osama Bin Landen. The final paragraph of the book:

“As the twentieth century closes, the shadows of faceless terrorist lengthen throughout all countries. Until governments and law enforcement agencies develop better warning systems, improved technologies, and make the conscious decision to wage total war upon terrorists and their powerful organizations and sponsors, victims will continue to fall in records numbers.”

September 11th, 2001 was just around the corner when this book was written. It provides a good overview of terrorism through the years beginning with the likes of Harry Orchard and his supporters to the present day Osama Bin Laden and his radical followers. However, some of the books factual content here and there could probably be debated.

Below is a link to an essay by Jennifer Karey that compares and contrasts the events of 1904 and 2001 as we see them in John Boak's painting. I have been trying to contact Jennifer so if anyone runs across her then please let me know.


Above are some additional pictures of the aftermath of the explosion. Courtesy of Mark Boardman.

The West magazine. October, 1969

I have quite a few of these old magazines. Let me know if you want to see the rest of this article as happy to oblige. This article was written by Robert Grimmett, the author of Cabal of Death, a book I recommend to anyone with an interest in Harry Orchard and the labor and mining issues of that period. Click on the above pics to enlarge.

Now go back up and take another look at John Boak's painting from the event that occurred on June 6th, 1904 and then take a look at this photo below from 9/11/2001. I think no more need be said. John

Above from
Good pics but as usual don't even waste your time looking at the comments section on the above site.

1 comment:

La Jean Greeson said...

Just viewed your blog on the Indendence Train Depot Explosion. Thanks for your effort. My maternal grandfather's father was nearing the area with his delivery of milk when the explosion occured. He was a very young man and said he had never seen anything so horrible in his life as he helped care for the dead and dying. He, himself, was blown up in a mining explosion near Bisbee in 1931.