Chicago, IL Factory Explosion and Fire, Apr 1953

CHICAGO EXPLOSION CAUSES 14 DEATHS.

Chicago (UP) -- An explosion rocked a four-story factory today and police said an unofficial count indicated 14 persons were killed.
Four bodies had been recovered, but estimates of the total dead varied. Policemen at the scene estimated the number of dead anywhere from 10 to 26. But the Red Cross and an unofficial police count agreed on 14.
In addition, two babies perished in an apartment house fire aggrevated by the fact that a fire engine stationed across the street had gone to the factory to fight flames that followed the explosion.
High winds fanned the flames and dense smoke hung over the confused scene.
Police said about 100 employes were at work in the plant, owned by the HABER Corp., when the blast occurred.
Some leaped from windows of upper stories and were injured. At least 24 persons were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries.
Police said 25 workers were believed to have been working on the top floor when the explosion shook the building and the surrounding neighborhood.
MRS. LORRAINE SPAHN, 35, told of panic that gripped employees. She and several others leaped from the third floor.
"We ran toward the fire escape, but the crowd was too big and some of the women were knocked down," she said.
She was taken to Augustana Hospital, where she was treated for back and leg injuries.
MISS OLGA SCHLACUB, 36, said she was with a group that tried to go down a fire escape. But she said flames began shooting from a second story window and several of the group jumped.

The Edwardsville Intelligencer Illinois 1953-04-16

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FIND 23 DEAD IN CHICAGO FACTORY FIRE.

DEATH TOLL MAY REACH 30 WHEN SEARCH COMPLETE.

Chicago (AP) -- The toll of known dead in a terrifying explosion and fire which turned factory workers into flaming human torches mounted today as the search for victims continued.
Firemen have found 23 bodies in the collapsed shell of a four-story brick industrial plant destroyed in Thursday's blaze. Eleven other plant employes are listed as missing.
As wrecking crews worked around the clock to knock down tottering walls in the North Side factory, firemen dug through tangled debris in their search, now in its second day.
The search parties were spurred on by the belief that more bodies be hidden under a collapsed stairway in the basement of the building.
Police Capt. ROBERT RYAN said the death toll might reach "at least 30" but a factory spokesman said some of the missing may have escaped. Those on the list of missing were employes known to have been in the building when it exploded in flames.
At hospitals, some of the workers burned in the wind-whipped inferno were in critical condition. Many employes leaped in screaming panic their clothing in flames within minutes after the fire broke out.

Dixon Evening Telegraph Illinois 1953-04-17

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EXPLOSION DEATH TOLL MAY HIT 38

Chicago (UP) -- More bodies were recovered from an explosion shattered factory today and fears arose that the final death count might run as high as 38.
FIremen had recovered 20 bodies from the flame swept four story plant of the HABER Corporation and spotted three more bodies in the debris. Police said there were 15 other company employes "unaccounted for."
The missing had not been heard from since the explosion spread fire and panic through the factory Thursday. At first it was assumed they had scattered to their homes in the confusion but as the hours wore on and a partial check was made fears rose that most of the missing may be dead.
Nearly 24 hours after the blast a fire captain who refused to be quoted merged from the debris-filled building and said, "There's lots more in there."
Firemen said it might be two days before the watersoaked rubble can be cleared and a final death count made.
Firemen who had worked all night in the wreckage sometimes from platforms made of bricks pushed together by a bulldozer, believe that other dead remained in the piles of rubble which lay around what had been a stairwell.
An inquest was called for 9:30 a. m. today to determine the cause of the blast and fire which investigators believe may have resulted from a dust explosion in a broken exhaust duct.
Thirty-five persons were known to be in hospitals, 18 women and 17 men.
The dead included HARRY BRADY, 42, vice president of the HABER firm.
The explosion killed several persons at their work benches. Others fled with clothing aflame and some were injured when they leaped from the third floor to a set-back below.

The Edwardsville Intelligencer Illinois 1953-04-17

Comments

Shimon Haber

Decades after the fire, Shimon Haber firm is doing good. It is re-branded and if you follow this link to CrunchBase you'll se it has much more to offer. - Shimon Haber

Haber Fire in 1953

My mother was working at Haber when the fire began. She escaped unharmed, as did my stepfather. I remember watching the fire on television at the neighbors house and crying and wondering if my mother had been killed. I was five years ols at the time, and I still remember this incident in vivid detail. My relief was overwhelming when my mother finally walked in the neighbor's front door. She was very shaken up and so sad about the loss of so many of her co-workers. My mother said that as soon as she heard there was a fire in the building, she went running out and had to leave behind her brand-new coat. I remember that the firemen gave her an army blanket to keep her warm. We had that blanket for years and years.

living next door

My Uncle, Edward J. Luedtke, lived next door to Haber Brothers and heard the glass windows popping as the fire raged on. I believe he worked nights at another factory, and so he was awakened. It was horrible loss. It was also bad because from what he told me, they did not rebuild it right away. If the building became a blight, then in some ways it is a haunting reminder of the disaster.