New York, NY Fire Ladder Accident, Sept 1875



The trial of the Marie-Scott-Uda Fire Ladder resulted yesterday morning in the death of three brave and honored members of the Fire Department. The accident of yesterday is not the only one which has occurred through the use of this ladder. In its first trial in the City Hall Park the ladder then used broke in half and two men were injured. At various subsequent trials similar accidents happened. The invention, in itself, is regarded as sound in principle, and of great advantage in case of large fires. The ladder is composed of six sections, amounting in all to 100 feet. These sections are connected by means of sockets of iron, through which wooden keys or bolts are placed. The rungs of the ladders each have a cross-pin on both ends. The ladder is supported on a truck, and raised by means of a rope windlass on each side, the bolts being fastened by the men using the ladder. Some time ago it was determined by Chief Engineer Bates to furnish the Fourth Battalion of the department with a ladder, and one was ordered. It was manufactured by the Concord Wagon Company, of Concord, N. H., by contract, and arrived here a week ago, and yesterday was the day appointed for its test trial. A preliminary trial was had at 6 o'clock in the morning at the junction of Canal street and East Broadway. On this occasion the ladder was merely placed in position and a couple of sections run up, in order to insure that it should be in order for the final test, which was to take place at 10:30 o'clock. At that time a large crowd had assembled in the open space at the intersection of the streets, mainly composed of women and little children desirous of seeing the exhibition. Capt. McElwaine, Sergt. Snyder, and Detective Mullen, of the Seventh Precinct, were on the ground for the purpose of preserving order. Chief Engineer Bates, Mrs. Scott-Uda, and Mr. William B. White were also present. William H. Nash, the Chief of the Fourth Battalion, was in command. The ladder was place in position and the sections run up. Nash was the first to ascend. As he placed his foot on the first rung he shook hands with Mrs. Scott-Uda, who was standing by the truck and said, "I know this is going to be all right, as long as you are here." He then ascended, waving his hand to her as he went. After him went Philip J. Maus, of Hook and Ladder Company No. 6, and he was followed by William Hughes, of Engine Company No.9. They ascended to the upper section, and remained there for a moment. As they were ascending, Capt. McElwaine said to Detective Mullen: "What do you think of this?" Mullen answered: "I don't like it. I think its going to fall. Let us drive them back." Capt. McElwaine, Sergeant Snyder, Detective Mullen, and the remainder of the Police force at once drove the crowd of people back. By this time Thomas C. Lee, of Hook and Ladder Company No.9, Robert J. Gould, of Engine Company No.15; C. J. Kingsley, of Engine No. 11, and Michael Cusick, of Chemical Engine No.6, had mounted the ladder as far as the second section Nash, who was on the top, looked around for a moment, and waved his hand to the crowds below. As he did so, the ladder bent forward, and canted somewhat to one side. Nash, it would seem, at once divined that an accident was about to occur, and shouted out, "Tighten those ropes." But before the ropes could be reached, a crackling sound was heard, and the ladder snapped short in the middle of the second section, about thirty feet from the ground. Nash, Maus and Hughes fell with the remainder of the ladder a distance of fully one hundred feet, and struck the street with a sickening thud. Nash and Maus were killed instantly, and Hughes lay gasping on the ground.

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