Danbury, CT Berkerlee Hat Factory Fire, Jun 1885



Narrow Escape of Many of the Operative---A Carpenter Dies of His Injuries---[ineligible] Member of the Firm Badly Burned---500 Hands Thrown Out of Work.

DANBURY, Conn., June 6.---At explosion of gas at the hat factory of Beckerlee & Co. at 4 o'clock this afternoon caused the total destructive of the factory, seven dwellings and the Beckerlee hose house. Eight men were seriously burned. There were many narrow escapes from death. Over 400 operatives were in the building at the time. Eighteen families are now homeless. The fire department from Bethel arrived at 2:30, and a steamer and hose company from Norwalk, by a special train, at 6:30. This is the most disastrous fire Danbury ever had. Mr. Beckerlee, the senior member of the firm, is dangerously injured. His condition is critical. So far only one life is positively known to be lost. The total loss, peculiarly[sic], is $150,000; the insurance $90,000.

The firm employs about 500 hands. Of those in the factory at the time of the explosion all are accquired[sic] for save a lady trim[ineligible], quite deaf, who has not been heard from, and one other. A finisher reports dragging the body of a man who had fainted to the head of the stairs, where he had to let go to save himself. The flames spread with great rapidity and the buildings which covered nearly an acre of ground were in a mass of flames in less than a quarter of an hour. The large hat factory of L. H. Johnson & Co., near by, caught fire three times, but was saved by the employes[sic]. The tenants of the seven dwellings saved their furniture. The dwellings were worth $2,500 each; were owned by the firm and occupied by the employes[sic]. Mr. Beckerlee was at work at the gas machine when the explosion occurred and was badly burned about the face and body. RUFUS CLARK, a carpenter, was badly burned and died this evening. Johnson Peck was probably fatally burned on the face, arms and body. John S. Packer was also severely burned but will recover. This firemen were seriously impeded by lack of water, the other hat factories using so much as to materially reduce the pressure. The work of the firemen was very dangerous and many were severely burned while standing at their posts. The 500 employes[sic] will be thrown out of employment for three or four months and cause a loss to the town of $7,000 a month.

The New Haven Evening Register, New Haven, CT 7 Jun 1885



DANBURY, Conn., June 8.----Johnson C. Peck, aged 41 years; Rufus Clark, aged 52 years, and John Stott, aged 16 years, who were burned Saturday at the fire at Beckerle's hat factory, have since died from the effect of their injuries William Beckerle and several firemen are not expected to live.

The New York Times, New York, NY 9 Jun 1885