Obscura Day 2017! Join our global celebration of exploration and discovery.
May 6

Vallejo, California

The Alibi Clock

The timepiece that exonerated a labor radical accused of a parade bombing that killed ten people 

After two political rabble rousers were wrongly accused of setting off a bomb during a parade it took a picture with the small clock tower now known as the Alibi Clock to get one of them off the hook.

During 1916’s San Francisco Preparedness Day Parade, the largest parade the city had ever seen at the time, a pipe bomb was set off that killed ten people and injured 40 more. The parade had been the subject of threatened protests, and after the attack a number of radical activists were looked as suspect, but the hammer ended up coming down on labor leaders Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings. During their trial, one of the key pieces of evidence pointing towards Mooney’s innocence was a photograph of him with a large public clock in the background proving he was nowhere near the attack. However, despite the evidence and spurious testimony the two men were convicted of the bombings and Billings was sentenced to life imprisonment while Mooney was sentenced to hang.

Luckily, cooler heads eventually prevailed and Mooney was pardoned in 1929, thanks in good part to the a reassessment of the evidence including the picture of the clock. With its newfound notoriety, the newly christened Alibi Clock was moved from San Francisco to Vallejo where it was kept up by a succession of local jewelers.

The clock still stands today, although it has fallen into a bit of disrepair along with much of its surrounding neighborhood. Luckily some interested locals are trying to have the clock restored so that its life will be saved much like the life it once saved.

Edit Place