New York City, NY Factory Explosion, July 1866

Brooklyn NY Lawrence Cordage Factory Expl 7-18-1866.jpg



The thunderstorm which passed over our city yesterday, destroying property and human life, resulted most disastrously in the Eastern District, as will be seen by the circumstances detailed below. While the storm was at its height, with the unusually brilliant flashes of lightning and reverberating thunder, a chimney, some eighty feet high, belonging to MESSRS. LAWRENCE & Sons' rope-walk, on Bushwick avenue near McKibben street, was struck, and the electric fluid passing down into the engine room, striking the supply pipes in its course, exploded four boilers, with a frightful concussion. The chimney was partially demolished, and the bricks, falling in large numbers upon the roof of the establishment, added much to increase the impressiveness of the scene of destruction, and the fear of the hands in the buildings at the time. Simultaneous with the explosion there was a loud peal of thunder, which shook the houses in the vicinity, and in several of them upsetting the furniture and causing considerable destruction among the crockery; besides inspiring the inmates with feelings of terror.
Two of the boilers were driven with fearful velocity through a brick wall, to a distance of 600 feet, nearly reaching Johnson street, snapping in their course large and stalwart trees like so many twigs.
The other two boilers took an opposite direction, being hurled along Bushwick avenue, through a brick stable, which they completely destroyed, and finally burying themselves in the ropewalk of MESSRS. WALL & Sons.
At this point LAWRENCE'S buildings caught fire, whereupon Hose Co. No. 2, which is stationed in the vicinity, rapidly repaired to the scene, and succeeded in subduing the flames before they had made much headway. Information of the disaster having been lodged at the 46th precinct station house, Capt. Mullin, with a squad of men arrived on the ground. WILLIAM BOYLE, the engineer of the establishment was found lying dead, face downward, upon the sidewalk some distance from the buildings, with a heavy iron plate on his back; one of his legs had been cut off just below the knee, while both arms were horribly shattered, and hung to his body by shreds of skin only. Deceased was working in the engine room when the electric fluid entered it, and it is miraculous that, although there were 300 hands in the factory at the time, all save the unfortunate BOYLE escaped uninjured.
The damage done to MESSRS. LAWRENCE & Son's manufactory, will amount to nearly $20,000, while WALL'S establishment, which is but a short distance from it, was also considerably damaged in the manner already described.
Last evening Coroner Smith held an inquest upon the body of the engineer, BOYLE, when it appeared that he met death by the lightning, and a verdict to that effect was rendered. Deceased was about 40 years of age, and leaves a wife and four children.
The calamity created the most intense excitement in the vicinity, and for hours after the storm had subsided, hundreds of persons visited the locality, commenting upon the terrible character of the explosion, and its melancholy results.

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1866-07-19