Providence, RI India Rubber Works Boiler Explosion, Nov 1857

The Boiler Explosion at Providence.

The Providence papers contain full accounts of the boiler explosion in the India Rubber works of NATH. HAYWARD, on Thursday morning. The Journal says:
Such was the force of the explosion that the boiler, weighing some four tons, was thrown out, carrying with it the wall of the building, hitting and cutting off an elm tree nine inches in diameter, and breaking away the side of a house opposite, and not expending its full force against these obstacles, it continued some three hundred feet along the street, and there fell, a part of it red hot when it struck the ground.

The engine had been started about twenty minutes before the explosion. The ashes, and coal, and scalding steam, were blown into all parts of the building, and the whole was almost instantly enveloped in flames. The destruction of the works is complete, and a pile of ruins is all that remains. The counting room, which is separate, was little injured, except by water.

The works consisted of five buildings beside the counting room. They were all connected; the older portions were built of wood and three stories high, and the additions were of brick and stone four or five stories high, covering in all eighteen or twenty thousand feet of land.

There were over two hundred persons employed in the works, more than half of them females. At first it was supposed that the stairs had been separated from the portions of the buildings in which the greater part of the people were at work. A terrible panic ensued, and it was with difficulty that the girls could be restrained from throwing themselves out of the windows. Some of them jumped down upon a shed, and were removed from that by ladders; others went down by the chains used in hoisting goods. In this way some of them sustained trifling injuries, and a few of them were hurt more seriously, but none of them, it is hoped, dangerously.

MR. F. E. EWES, the superintendent of the shoe department, was badly scalded and wounded. At the time of the explosion he was in the room over the boiler room. His first knowledge of the disaster was his finding himself sinking. Presently his downward motion was partially arrested. He was blinded and covered with loose bricks and mortar. Here he supposed that he received his burns and wounds on his face and arms. On his first real consciousness, he found himself on the lower story among the ruins. His escape was almost miraculous.

ELIJAH ORMSBEE, the engineer, was blown out with the boiler. He was covered with brick and rubbish to the depth of eighteen inches. His leg was broken his wrist and face were cut, his back badly scalded; and it is not certain if he will survive all these injuries, but DR. MILLER hopes he will.
DR. HARTSHORN sold the establishment two years ago for $64,000. The land was valued at $17,000. The building and machinery were probably worth about $50,000. There was a large quantity of manufactured and unmanufactured stock on hand, of which it is not possible to get an estimate, as MR. HAYWARD is at his residence in Colchester. It was insured in New York, and perhaps partly in Connecticut. The insurance is stated at $80,000 (could be $60,000). But the exact amount could not be ascertained.

The Hope Iron Foundry, situated next to the works, on Eddy street, was at one time on fire, and only saved by the greatest efforts of the firemen.

The house which the boiler struck was occupied by MICHAEL DRURY and MICHAEL H. McGWINN in the upper story, and by JAMES FAULKNER and MRS. CATHARINE EcELROY in the basement. MRS. FAULKNER was sitting in a rocking chair near the window with her child in her arms when the explosion took place. The boiler passed through the side of the house, and took the rockers from the chair in which MRS. FAULKNER was sitting, who, beside being so roughly unseated, received a few bruises from the splinters and pieces of wood. MR. McGWINN'S mother and sister, who were in the room overhead, had just finished breakfast, and were preparing for washing, when the boiler carried away the whole front side of the room, demolishing the closet, its contents, sink, clock, looking-glass, wash-boiler, teakettle, and chairs, leaving the stove the only whole article in the room. Large cracks were made in the floor, and the building was slightly moved from its foundation. The plastering was shaken down with such force in the lower story as to create quite a bruise on ELLEN HAFFERIN'S face.
The street was covered with the bricks and splinters, all the way from the works to the place where the boiler fell. One little girl was knocked down in the street by falling bricks. Several persons saw the boiler as it flew up the street, and there were some narrow escapes of persons passing.
There seems to be no doubt among experts that the explosion was caused by the water getting out of the boiler, and admission of cold water upon the heated iron. The appearance of the boiler inside, and of the fracture, gives undoubted evidence of this. There were five boilers, three of them only in use, and it is possible that the water connection with the exploded boiler was impeded by sediment.

Philadelphia Press 1857-11-02