As we have seen in the previous post, four Italians were arrested and charged in the knife-affray of the evening of 14 April 1907 in the coal-camp of Carneyville, Wyoming. They were my great uncles, BrunoAntonio Carbone and Domenico Carbone; plus two other Italian paesani, Mike Bumbaca, and Tony Papillia.
The local Wyoming press covered the events of the knife-affray almost weekly from 14 April 1907 until 21 June when three men are convicted in Sheridan County District Court. Was the coverage “yellow journalism?” 1
The incident took on international significance when the Cheyenne Daily Leader reported that Italian Consul Giuseppe Corte arrived in Cheyenne from Denver, Colorado on 28 April, just two weeks after the affray. 2
Corte’s meeting with Governor Bryant Brooks was over a concern that a riot might break out against all of the Italian miners at Carneyville. As the Cheyenne Leader wrote only four days after victim James Hughey died:
“Feeling in Sheridan county as the result of the dastardly murder of James Hughey by the Italian miners and at Carneyville is so intense against foreigners that it is feared a riot will occur and all Italians be driven from the camp. Such an event would involve international complications and would be exceedingly unfortunate. If the Italians continue their course in concealing the identity of the murderers of Hughey, however, serious trouble may be recorded.”3
The primary reason for this mob like atmosphere was due to newspaper reporting of the events. In the very first articles that came out after the 14 April incident, the Semi-Weekly Enterprise (Sheridan, Wyo.) report was inflammatory:
“Carneyville was the scene of a serious cutting affray Sunday evening [April 14] about seven o’clock. The result is three men were badly cut with knives in the hands of Italian two of them being in a serious condition…. It was mean fight and the Italian used knives with deadly precision. Three Americans were hurt, two of them being dangerously wounded…Sheriff Benefiel went to Carney and arrested four Italians who were said to have been in the fight and have done the cutting.Their names are : Dominic Carbona [sic], Mike Brumbaca [sic], Joe Goarieffa, and Cony[sic] Paplia [sic]…”
“It is said there were others in the fight but the people out there tell so many different stories that it is almost impossible to tell what is the straight of the matter. Some say the men in custody are not the right ones and others declare there are many more implicated.”
“The fellow who knows the most about it is so badly scared he cannot give any intelligible account of the affair. It is likely the men in custody are the right ones though there may have been others in the encounter who have not been apprehended as yet. It is said there were seven Italians in the mix-up but that is mere heresy as those who saw the bloody contest were too badly scared to stop and count the number participating.”4
The press reports of how many were involved in the affray were all over the place. In this particular news report seven Italians are mentioned. In the article by the Laramie Boomerang just one day later under the title “Americans vs. Dagoes,” the reporter exclaimed over twenty Italians attacked the Americans.5
The newspaper coverage became a steady drum beat warning of an ethnic threat and criminal element. In the Friday, 3 May, Semi-Weekly Enterprise, the incident was referred to in racial terms:
“The preliminary trial of the Italians from Carneyville, who were implicated in the race fight at that place on the evening of April 14, resulted in the binding over to the district court of Mike Bumbacca [sic] Tony Papalli [sic] and Bruno Carboni [sic] for the assault on Dan Reynolds.” 6
The news accounts were not only about the local incident. Various Wyoming newspapers interspersed coverage with news briefs from around the nation, which seemed to always highlight crimes by Italians. 7
No wonder community members in Sheridan and Carneyville were willing to turn to mob violence. They were being inflamed by newspaper rhetoric. These reports were the toxic harbingers of the likes of anti-immigrant 21st Century personalities on the right like Alex Jones or Rush Limbaugh.
From 14 April to 27 June, headlines in at least 15 of 31 newspaper articles in the Wyoming press also made a point to report on other crimes involving Italians, but these reports had nothing to do with the “knife-affray in Carneyville. A narrative was constructed by the local media to watch for murderous Italians. The Sheridan Post seemed to use these inflammatory headlines frequently. Bold face used for emphasis:
• “Bad Fight at Carneyville-Dogs have fight and men take it up with serious results-Two Americans Dangerously Wounded and Four Italians in Jail.”8
• “Bloody Fight-Americans and Italian Engage in Small Sized Riot at Carneyville-One American Stabbed in Back is Paralyzed and May Die–Another Literally Disemboweled by Stillettos of Italian Miners–Four Under Arrest.” 9
• “American vs Dagoes Knife Affray.” 10
• Murderer is Still a Mystery-Italian who killed Carneyville Miner Cannot be located. 11
• Preliminary Trial —Italians in the Carneyville affray have hearing this afternoon. 12
• Consul Corte Investigates: The Recent Dastardly Murder of American at Carneyville: Feeling Against Italian Assassins High in Sheridan Count and Serious Trouble May Occur. 13
• Bound Over to Court-Three Italians Bound Over to District Court–Hearing Not Completed. 14
• Must Stand Trial-Four Italians are Held to Answer to District Court-One Out on Bond. 15
• Italians Held for Trial. 16
• Italians to Stand Trial-Three Implicated in Carneyville Affair Bound to the District Court. 17
What were the fates of great-uncles BrunoAntonio Carbone and Domenico Carbone? What happened to the other Italians arrested and convicted? Were they able to raise bail? Who were the attorneys? More of this story in the next post.
- Yellow journalism and the yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. See Wikipedia, Yellow Journalism.
- “Consul Corte Investigates,” Cheyenne Daily Leader no. 199 April 28, 1907, page 4, Wyoming State Library, Wyoming Newspaper Project (https://newspapers.wyo.gov/ : accessed 5 April 2020)
- “Bad Fight at Carneyville,” Semi-Weekly Enterprise (Sheridan, Wyo.) no. 6 April 16, 1907.
- “Americans vs. Dagoes,” Laramie Boomerang (Laramie Wyo.),April 19, 1907, page 2.
- “Italians Held for Trial,” Basin Republican (Big Horn County, Wyo.) no. 51 May 03, 1907, page 1, Wyoming State Library, Wyoming Newspaper Project (https://newspapers.wyo.gov/ : accessed 5 April 2020)
- “Found Guilty-Eleven Italians Found Guilty of Black Outrages,” Sheridan Post no. 21 May 07, 1907, page 1; “Nine Indicted-Seven Men two Woman for “Black Hand” Murders,” Sheridan Post no. 37 July 02, 1907, page 1; “Mob threatens to Lynch–Black Hand Murderers Not Satisfied with Courts Sentence,” Sheridan Post no. 42 July 19, 1907, page 5; “Section Men Fight- One Italian Stabs Another Near the Heart,” Sheridan Post no. 42 July 19, 1907, page 5;” Fatal shooting: Italians attack Superintendent and Sister on Highway,” Sheridan Post no. 59 September 17, 1907, page 1; Wyoming State Library, Wyoming Newspaper Project (https://newspapers.wyo.gov/ : accessed 5 April 2020).
- Ibid, Semi-Weekly Enterprise (Sheridan, Wyo.) no. 6 April 16, 1907, page 1.
- Wyoming Tribune (Cheyenne) no. 94 April 18, 1907, page 11
- Laramie Boomerang April 19, 1907, page 2
- Cheyenne Daily Leader no. 199 April 23, 1907, page 7
- Semi-Weekly Enterprise no. 11 May 03, 1907, page 7
- Cheyenne Daily Leader no. 199 April 28, 1907, page 4
- Semi-Weekly Enterprise no. 9 April 30, 1907, page
- Semi-Weekly Enterprise no. 11 May 03, 1907, page 7
- Basin Republican (Big Horn County, Wyo.)no. 51 May 03, 1907, page 1
- Cheyenne Daily Leader no. 209 May 03, 1907, page 1