Allentown, PA Rolling Mill Boiler Explosion, Jan 1881

Death In A Rolling Mill.

Twelve Persons Killed And Six Fatally Wounded By A Boiler Explosion At Allentown.

Allentown, Penn., Jan. 7.-A terrible boiler explosion occurred here last night in the Big Puddle Mill of the Allentown Rolling Mill Company, by which 12 persons have already lost their lives, and the probability is that several more will die from injuries received. The particulars of the explosion are as follows:

About 9 o’clock the boiler of No. 15 furnace was found by boiler-tender John Saul to be leaking. He at once ordered the bars to be pulled out and the fires drawn. Saul then placed a ladder against the boiler and ascended it to see what the leak was. While in this position the explosion occurred. At once the mill was full of flying missiles, consisting of bricks, steam-pipes, &c. The escaping steam carried death and desolation in its track. Saul was blown violently against the roof, but, falling on a pile of rubbish, strange to say, escaped with a few bruises and light scalding. The news of the terrible disaster spread rapidly, and in a short time the miss was surrounded by anxious wives and mothers, inquiring for those who were known to be employed in the mills. Their anguish as the loved ones were brought out from the ruins in a dead and dying condition was painful to behold. Medical aid was at once summoned, and the physicians did all in their power to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded.

At the time of the accident there were about 200 persons at work in the mill, and the fact that so many escaped is surprising. Pieces of iron were thrown in all directions, and this flying debris caused the greatest loss of life. The greatest suffering however, was caused by the escaping steam, many being scalded in a frightful manner. The boiler was bout 30 feet long, made of 5-16 inch iron, and had been in use only five years. About one month ago it received a thorough overhauling by the firm of Cole & Helman, who considered it thoroughly trustworthy. Work in the mills has been suspended for the present on account of the accident. The pecuniary loss is estimated at about $17,000, but the company considers this as nothing compared to the loss of life. This is the first boiler that ever has exploded for this company, which has about 60 in service at its numerous furnaces and iron-ore mines. This boiler exploded nearly in the centre. The smaller portion was blown through the roof and carried a distance of 500 feet, where it landed in the yard of Nicholas Miller, tearing down telegraph poles and wires in its flight. The other portion, after passing through the roof, was carried a distance of 400 feet, narrowly missing several persons who were passing near the scene. To-day the mill was visited by thousands of people anxious to view the work of destruction.