George Biddle, Tom Mooney—The Prosecution Has No Evidence to Support a Verdict
In 1916, labor leader Tom Mooney was tried and convicted for the Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco. During the parade, which was held in support of the United States’ entry into World War I, a bomb concealed in a suitcase detonated. Ten people were killed and forty were injured. Because Mooney was known for his socialism and activism, he was arrested. During the trial proceedings, however, the evidence pointed to his innocence. Nationwide outrage sparked protests to bring attention to his false incarceration. George Biddle and other artists, such as Ben Shahn, made work to show their support. Finally, after twenty-three years in prison, Mooney was set free.
Biddle made this portrait of Mooney during the labor leader’s incarceration. Rather than depict him as a prisoner or activist, the artist represents him with a kind and sympathetic expression. Along the edge of the lithograph, Biddle emphatically promotes his innocence: “‘The Prosecution has no evidence to support a verdict of guilty.”