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July 25: The Anarchist Menage a Trois

Lawrence Bush
July 24, 2016

eginfranceModska Aronstam (Modest Stein), an anarchist artist who lived in a ménage a trois with Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, his first cousin, arrived in Pittsburgh on this date in 1892 to assassinate steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, whom Berkman had wounded in an attack three days earlier in solidarity with the Homestead Steel strikers. Betrayed by an informant, Aronstam was warned off by a newspaper article predicting danger for Frick; Aronstam dumped the dynamite he was carrying, and returned to New York before fleeing to Detroit to avoid arrest. Changing his name to "Stein," he went on to become a successful illustrator for the New York World, New York Sun, and various pulp magazines, and was a lifelong financial supporter for Goldman and Berkman (who served fourteen years in prison for his shooting Frick). Known as "Hercules" for his strength and toughness, Stein married photographer Marcia Mishkin and thrived as an artist for numerous magazines. He died at 83 in 1958.

"When Sasha [Berkman], Emma, and Modest lived together, Stein would buy flowers for their flat -– a practice that Emma loved and Sasha scorned as being unnecessary and bourgeois." --Alan Wieder, Counterpunch

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.