Brooklyn, NY Hat Factory Explosion, Feb 1860



On the morning of the 3d inst., about half-past seven o'clock, the boiler in AMES & MOULTON'S Hat Factory, in Brooklyn, exploded with a tremendous noise, resulting in the demolition of a great portion of the building, and in the death of six persons engaged at work there. As near as could be ascertained, about fifteen persons were injured, some of them so badly that their recovery cannot be hoped for.
The precise cause of the explosion cannot be definitely ascertained, as the engineer is killed. It is supposed, however, that the water pipes were frozen, and, a large fire being built, steam generated so quickly as to cause the catastrophe.
The engine room and the centre of the main structure are a mass of ruins.
The noise of the explosion was heard a mile distant, and such the force that the houses in the neighborhood shook to their foundations. A portion of the boiler was impelled a distance of 250 feet.
One of the injured men stated that two men were near him when the explosion took place, whereupon the Deputy Superintendent of Police directed those present to ceal away the rubbish over the boiler. On reaching the floor some clothes were found, which it is supposed had been hanging in the engine room, but no bodies were discovered.
Two men are missing, however. The name of one is PICKINGS, the name of the other is not known.
The bodies of the five men who were killed were laid together in the planing room, where they were identified by their friends. The body of one was not claimed for some time, but it was subsequently ascertained to be that of PATRICK McNULLY, steam pipe and gas fitter, in the employ of MR. MORSE, Maiden lane, New York. The deceased and two others were engaged in fitting the pipe. One of his companions were injured, and the other has not since been seen.
About two hundred persons were employed in the building, of which from fifty to seventy-five were females. It being sometime before the hour to commence work, but few, comparatively, were there when the catastrophe occurred. Five girls only had entered, and perhaps thirty men and boys. Had the explosion taken place one hour later the loss of life would have been frightful. Dozens were approaching the building from different directions, and some were just entering.
The young man JOHN HIGBEE, (killed) had applied for work some days before, and was told to come this (Friday) morning. According to engagement he reported himself and sat down before the boiler to warm his feet. He was launched into eternity a moment afterward. The body was bruised into an indistinguishable mass, and his father was only able to recognize him by a defect in one of his feet.
A man named JAMES WILSON had been in the boiler room, where he saw HIGBEE, EASTMAN and McCRACKEN. Having occasion to leave the room for an instant, he walked towards the fence, about twenty-five feet distant, when he was startled by the explosion, and while he saw the buildings fall, and portions of the rubbish thrown several hundred feet in the air, he himself escaped uninjured. A portion of the boiler was impelled a distance of 250 feet, and alighted upon a shed, breaking in the roof by its force.
Shortly after noon the proprietors of the establishment employed men to clear out the rubbish preparatory to erecting the buildings. There was no fire, the flames having been completely smothered by the immense pile of rubbish.
The buildings, which were new, cost $12,000; the machinery and fixtures, exclusive of the engine, $10,000; stock, $15,000 -- all insured against fire.
A boy, named LYONS, son of policeman LYONS, of the Fourth precinct, was standing near the engine. The forec of the explosion impelled him under the picking machine, where his legs became fastened in a piece of iron which was bent around them. His arms being free he made use of them, and obtaining a piece of loose iron in his vicinity, succeeded in extricating himself. He then ran off to his home in Hudson avenue, near Myrtle, having sustained but slight injuries.
CHARLES SCHELL was in the dying room, above the boiler. He felt the floor heave up, and the first he knew he found himself under a pile of broken machinery, some yards distant. He was bruised and cut about the face and head, but escaped serious injury.
The Coroner procured a portion of the boiler, which he intends to have tested at Barden's Foundry. From a casual inspection of the edges, it appears to be rotten in some parts, or at least the color is of a dark dirty brown, while other portions are bright.
It appears that fire had been made in the boilers on Thursday evening, and the question is whether there was sufficient water in them next morning, or whether there was a defect.
The following is a correct lilst of the killed and injured:
WILLIAM EASTMAN, engineer, of Hartford, Conn.
JOSEPH McCRACKEN, superintendent, 33 years old; family resides at 26 Fort Greene place; moved there from New York three days since.
JOHN HIGBEE, son of THOMAS HIGBEE, aged 20 years; parents reside corner of Willoughby av. and Spencer street.
PATRICK McNALLY, gas and steam pipe fitter; resides in this city.
JOHN WERNER, foreman of the planing establishment, 30 years old, and leaves a wife and three children, who reside at 35 Kent avenue.
JOHN FARRELL, 23 years old, a native of Ireland; died at the City Hospital.
JOHN GALLAGHER, born in Ireland, scalded, with a compound fracture of the collar bone, through which there is a puncture leading to the lungs; is in doubtful condition; lies at the City Hospital.
JOHN MULHOLLAND, probably fatally scalded; at the Hospital.
AARON VORHIS, carpenter, in the employ of Thomas Baylis, at 4 Bond street. Right leg amputated, is in good condition as can be expected. Lies at the Hospital.
JAMES W. WORTHINGTON, native of England, carpenter, residing in Greene lane. Bruised, but not dangerously injured. At the Hospital.
ANN GARRITY, twenty years old. Fracture of the ankle. Lies in Lafayette avenue, opposite the jail.
The following were more or less injured, and were either conveyed or walked to their homes:
MR. KRENMORE, badly bruised. Lies in Canton street.
ANDREW ORF, corner of Court and Atlantic streets, slightly hurt.
CHARLES SCHELL, injured on head and face.
WM. McCLUSKEY, boy, slightly injured. Lies in Myrtle avenue, near Steuben street.
______ LOONS, boy, Hudson, near Myrtle avenue. Slightly injured.
E. B. STURGIS, slightly injured. Lies at 104 Cumberland street.
MARGARET and BRIDGET FOLEY, (sisters) slightly injured. Taken to their home in Eighth street, N.Y., in a carriage.
HARRIET COSTIGAN, injured in the back. Lives in the neighborhood of the Factory.
DANIEL COLEMAN, slightly injured. Lives in Kent avenue.
AUSTIN BURRITT, formerly of Roxbury, Mass.
There are a few others who have sustained slight hurts, but whose names were not ascertained.

The Banner Of Liberty Middletown New York 1860-02-08