Point Clement, CA Giant Powder Works Explosion, Jan 1883


Berkeley, Cal., January 22. -- The mixing-house and six of the packing-houses of the Giant Powder works at Point Clement, near West Berkeley, containing eight tons of blasting compound, exploded at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon in quick succession. The shocks and the sounds of the explosions were felt and heard as far away as San Francisco, across the bay. Crowds rushed to the scene from here and on arriving found almost nothing left on the spot where the works had been. The few timbers remaining in place caught fire and burned. One white man named COOK, who was officiating as foreman of the mixing-house, and about fifty Chinamen are known to have been blown to atoms. The superintendent of the works was thrown a long distance, but fortunately was not seriously hurt. The fire from the timbers communicated to other buildings of the plant and they were rapidly burned. The total loss by reason of the explosion will not reach less than $100,000. The Giant Powder works sustain damages of $60,000; the acid works of Judson & Co., $40,000. It is impossible to ascertain the exact loss of life, but it is estimated to be between thirty and forty. The first explosion occurred about 4 o'clock in the packing-house, in which about two hundred pounds of powder were stored. It is not known whether any one was killed by the first explosion or not. As soon as the packing-house exploded, killing most of them in their tracks. In about a minute one of the smaller houses exploded, followed immediately by a fourth explosion, which doubtless killed the surviving employes. A workman named AUGUST FORGOFSKY was very seriously injured. All the other white men have been accounted for, and the deal are all Chinamen.
There are some thirty or forty houses on the point occupied by the employes at the powder and acid works, and most of the windows are shattered, doors and sides in many instances were dashed in by the concussion. After each explosion the wood work of the buildings caught fire and burned several hours. Efforts to prevent the flames reaching the main magazine, containing an immense quantity of powder, were happily successful. The consequences would have been most frightful had the large magazine exploded, as one of the superintendents says there is enough powder there to have destroyed every living thing on the peninsula. The cause of the fire explosion remains a mystery. Twelve bodies have been counted lying in the debris, and the coroner's investigation will probably disclose more than double that number.

Logansport Journal Indiana 1883-01-23