The Story of the Least Successful Assassination in History

In belated honour of the release of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I would like to take a moment to commemorate possibly the least successful assassination known to history.

The protagonists are Emma Goldman and her boyfriend, Alexander Berkman. Both of them would go on to be fairly well known political activists in America and Europe. For the present moment, they were two dirt poor youths who co-owned an ice cream shop and hung about radical speakers.

America was undergoing one of her periodic labour disputes. The Carnegie Steel Company and the factory manager, Henry Clay Fick, was involved in a protracted argument with striking workers. The typical stakes were somewhat exacerbated by Pinkertons and a plethora of guns, and the situation devolved into a mild shootout, which somewhat tarnished the reputation of Mr. Fick and Mr. Carnegie.

Emma and Alexander formulated a plan of exquisite stupidity: Alexander would shoot Mr. Fick, whereupon the workers of America would be struck by awed inspiration and spontaneously revolt.

The pair went off to New York, where they attempted to build a bomb, failed, and rapidly ran out of money.

Alexander needed twenty dollars for a gun and a new suit of clothes; Emma, in a fit of heroism, resolved to prostitute herself.

She wandered about the street corner till she caught a man’s eye and followed him into a bar, whereupon he told her that she had not the knack for it, gave her ten dollars and a beer, and bade her go home. The rest of the money was procured, somewhat less heroically, by Emma going cap in hand to her sister.

Having bought a gun and a suit, Alexander made his way to Mr. Fick’s office, whereupon he contrived to shoot Mr. Fick three times without killing him. The striking workers, attracted to the noise, ventured onto the scene and were neither roused nor inspired by what they saw; the whole drama was capped off by Alexander being beaten up, restrained, and handed over to the police.

The crowning garnish of the affair was – when the plot was denounced at an anarchist rally – Emma strode onto the stage, hit the speaker with a horse whip and was ejected from the rally.

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