Chicago, IL Laundry Boiler Explosion, Mar 1901

BAD BOILER EXPLOSION.

EIGHT KILLED, FORTY-NINE INJURED AND SEVERAL MISSING IN CHICAGO.

QUARREL STOPS RESCUE WORK.

THOSE BURIED UNDER THE DEBRIS LEFT TO THEIR FATE FOR HOURS WHILE THE FIREMEN AND THE POLICEMEN QUARREL OVER WHO OUGHT TO DO THE DIGGING.

Chicago, Ill., March 11. -- By the explosion of a boiler in the Doremus Laundry at 458 West Madison this morning, eight people were instantly killed, forty-nine injured and several are missing. The list of fatalities follows:
FRANK MANNEMAN.
MARTHA JACOBI.
BESSIE KUSASA.
KATE VOSS.
CATHERINE KELLY.
GEORGE KELLY.
GEORGE PIEHL.
EMMA SABRUSKI.
MINNIE OLSEN.
The injured:
MICHAEL ROWELL, TILLIE OLSEN, ARTHUR BYER, HILDA KALB, SADIE KALB, WILLIAM DEAN, JOSEPH GALLSELLA, MARTIN WERNO, ABRAHAM COLSEN, MARY KALB, ANTHONY STEARN, JOHN DEAN, MRS. FANNY DEAN, LIZZIE CWIKE, ANTOINE STAMSKY, SADIE STYCK, SUSIE GINTER, LIZZIE DARROW, SUSANNA FRUINA, NELLIE ENRIGHT, PETER DEAN, ELLEN CONWAY, MARY HIALKO, MAMIE BURNS, MINNIE JNECKEL, FRANK DOTTENBY, THEODORE VAN HELDEN, GEORGE McNEILL, WILLIAM R. HUEPPEL, JOSEPH ORTZELLER, TERESA VANSIK, BESSIE KINCAID, BETTE JO PATALO, PATRICK O'NEILL, OTTO FREUND, MARY SESSER, JACOB BURCHARD, MARTIN ANDREWS, KATE ROBINSON, MINNIE HOFFMAN, GUSSIE HOFFMAN, EMMA KREUGER, MAMIE CREIGER, KATE COLLERTS, KATE WALASH, MRS. WACHOWIAH, MRS. MINNIE HAHN, GEORGE EDEN, GEORGE WILSON.

Cause Of Explosion.
The cause of the explosion has not been determined with accuracy as yet, and it will probably require an official investigation to settle the matter. It is known the boiler was an old, second-hand affair, and there is no record in the office of the boiler inspector of any inspection having been made within the last year. Pending the investigation of the coroner's jury, A. L. DOREMUS, the proprietor of the laundry, is held in the custody of the police, and it is the intention of the authorities to institute criminal proceedings against him should the facts brought out at the inquest warrant such proceedings.
The list of dead and wounded was difficult to secure. The reports of the number of dead in the ruins run all the way from six to twenty. It is known that thirty-six employes of the laundry had entered the place before the explosion occurred, because an automatic time keeper found in the ruins showed that number of registered arrivals. Two or three were entering at the moment of the explosion, making the approximate total of forty employes in and around the building. The list of injured includes, however, several persons residing in adjoining buildings, nearly all of which were badly damaged. The most conservative estimate by the police concedes at least three people dead or alive, still in the ruins; yet the search for bodies in the ruins came to a sudden end early in the afternoon and the work of rescue was entirely abandoned. The cause of the cessation of the search was a dispute between the firemen and the police as to who is responsible for the recovery of any bodies which might be concealed beneath the debris. The firemen said they had performed their whole duty, and gathering up their hose, retired from the scene. The police said it was not their work to dig for the bodies and nobody else volunteered to do the work. At this juncture of the proceedings the city building department stepped in. Building Inspector KIOLHASSA sent a deputy to the scene of the catastrophe and a notice was sent to JACKSON Bros., agents for the property, to immediately begin the work of pulling down the walls and clearing away the debris.
JACKSON Bros, were given two hours to comply with the order. The real estate firm soon had a number of workers at the ruins and the work of pulling down the walls was immediately begun. This operation made it impossible to continue the search for the bodies, but the work may be continued tomorrow.
White the police and the fire department were arguing another clash occurred at the county morgue. Captain JOHN REHM of the Desplaines street police station asked Deputy Coroner BUCKLEY to hold DEREMUS in bonds until after the inquest had been held. The deputy coroner, however, refused to comply with the request. He replied that it was "up to" the police to hold DOREMUS if they desired, but that the coroner's office would not interfere. The controversy resulted in the police declaring they would keep DOREMUS under surveillance until the inquest.
The explosion took place at a time when many of the employes had gone to work. The force of the explosion was so terrific that buildings for blocks around were shaken as if by an earthquake, and hundreds or windows were shattered.
The building in which the explosion occurred was known as the old Waverly theater, and was built in 1877. Subsequently it was remodeled and the rear used by the DEREMUS laundry. The part of the auditorium running toward Throop was used by the Volunteers of America, while the small stores built out from the wings of the auditorium and facing on Madison street were rented by shop keepers.
One of the stores was used as the office of the DOREMUS laundry, and through this access was to the laundry. Directly back of the office, and in the southwest corner of the building, the boiler room was located. The explosion lifted half of the roof of the immense building many feet in the air, which fell directly back into the ruins of the building, carrying with it the portion of the brick walls that had not been blown outward and burying under tons of debris the unfortunate employes.
The wreckage near the boiler and in the east portion of the building at once took fire, and through the blinding clouds of dust and smoke and escaping stream could be seen struggling men and women, some of them half buried in wreckage, others feebly endeavoring to climb to some place of safety, while from various parts of the ruins came cries for help. The fire department soon extinguished the flames and the work of rescue began at once.
One by one the wounded and bleeding girls were carried to nearby stores, where they were given hasty medical attention and then taken to hospitals in ambulances. The dead bodies were taken to the morgue. In two instances the bodies were so frightfully mangled that a clothes basket was used to carry them out. At the morgue the bodies were identified by relatives. Most of the dead were found in the east end of the building, where the fire raged fiercest.

Cedar Rapids Republican Iowa 1901-03-12