Joliet, IL Blast Furnace Collapses, Dec 1890

WORKMEN SLAIN.

COLLAPSE OF A BIG BLAST FURNACE AT JOLIET, ILL.

NINE MEN KILLED AND MANY HURT.

THE VICTIMS CRUSHED TO DEATH BY PONDEROUS MASSES OR IRON.

Joliet, Ill., Dec. 5. -- One of the most distressing calamities that have ever befallen Joliet occurred at the works of the Joliet Steel Company in this city at noon Thursday, resulting in the death of nine men and the wounding of nine others. The cause was the giving way of the columns which support the huge blast furnace known as No. 2, and the consequent collapsing of the great 200-ton retort. The blast had been blown out, and the men were at work on the inside taking out the brick lining preparatory to relining it when the accident occurred.
The killed are:
GUS BOONE.
NELS LARSON.
JOHN PETERSON.
HANS FASMEEK.
THOMAS SWANSON.
FRANK MILLER.
JOHN UMIDSTADIS.
Two men unidentified.
The dangerously injured are:
PATRICK KILRULLEN, leg taken off above the knee, is not expected to live.
OSCAR WENBERG, dangerous injuries to the head.
OLAV JOHNSON, leg broken and other injuries.
U. LIND, badly crushed.
AUGUST DIRIENOR, seriously injured.
R. SISMER, leg badly injured.
A number severely but not fatally injured were taken to their homes.
The news of the accident spread rapidly and thousands of men, women and children rushed to the scene of the disaster. They had to be kept away by the police, while all the available force that could be put to work was engaged in removing the ponderous masses of iron and debris to rescue the unfortunate men underneath the wreck. When the furnace collapsed there were eleven men engaged on the inside at the bottom and five or six on top. When the furnace fell with its iron coating it carried with it the blow-pipes and roof of the casting-shed and buried itself in the earth in so mysterious a shape that no engineer could even on short notice, under calm rreflection, unravel the problem of how to rescue the dead and living. Never, however, was quicker or more prompt action witnessed. The crowd of women and children around the gates in doubtful despair as to the fate of relatives or friends presented a sight which was painful to witness.
Drs. Nash, Kelly and Dougail were on the ground, but, on learning from Superintendent Pettigrew that there was little likelihood of any under the wreck being alive, all left for the hospital. On reaching that institution there were crowds outside and inside, as the sisters made no effort to check the friends and relatives from accompanying their injured.
As to the cause there are different opinions. The superintendent can not account for it. Some of the men claim that the iron was rotten. It is also stated that the insurance companies some time ago cancelled all their policies and refused to carry any risks on lives of men working about this furnace on account of the great hazard.
Cashier Wilson said: "This is the most unaccountable as well as the most terrible accident that we have ever had in the mills. I can not conceive how it occurred. The furnace has stood where it does for years and carried a load of from 1,000 to 1,500 tons without a particle of trouble. It surely ought to be strong enough to stand by itself, and as far as any living man could tell it was so. The accident can not be accounted for, so far as we know now, and it will probably remain a mystery."

Logansport Reporter Indiana 1890-12-05