Wilmington, DE Du Pont Powder Works Explosion, Apr 1847


Correspondence of the Pennsylvanian.
Gazette Office, April 14, 1847.
We regret to inform you of the terrible and heart-rending scene which occurred on the Brandywine, about 6 o'clock this morning.
About 5,000 pounds of powder, in the packing house and press room, at one of the Messrs. Du Pont's Powder Works, exploded in two successive shocks, killing eighteen persons and wounding one other.
The bodies were so torn to pieces that it was impossible to recognize them, and no other means existed of ascertaining who were lost and who saved, than by calling the roll (after ringing the bell) of those attached to that portion of the works. The silence which followed the calling of the unanswered names was the only evidence of the loss of the lives of those who has do often replied when they were called.
One man, who had his leg broken at a long distance from the scene of the occurrance, by being struck with a piece of timber, is the only one wounded who survived, as far as could be ascertained.
The amount of powder exploded, it is believed by the owners, did not exceed 5,000 pounds. The pecuniary loss is comparatively small; although the glass is shattered from the windows, and the plastering stripped, in a great degree, from the ceilings and walls of the houses for a mile around.
We saw many windows blown in entire. In some of the large residences of the Messrs. Du Ponts, not a window is left perfect, and, on some sides, they are all blown entirely out.
Much glass was broken at the distance of a mile and a half.
The screams and lamentations of the woman and children, were truly heart-rending. They were heard bewailing their dreadful loss at the distance of more than a mile.
Of course, it is altogether impossible to form any conjecture as to the cause of the explosion. It is even unknown which of the two buildings exploded first.
The place where the buildings, in which the explosion occurred, stood, is left as bare and desolate as though the work of human labor and skill had never been expended upon it. A few loose stone, fragments of morter, blackened and charred splinters, constitute every thing that remains to indicate the exact position which they so recently occupied.
The Coroner held an inquest on the mangled and blackened remains of the killed. Verdict according to the facts as already detailed.
It is said of one of the Messrs. Du Ponts, that he maintained h is position upon the top of a building in which three hundred kegs of powder were stored, while the roof was on fire, and by this act of undaunted heroism, succeeded in quenching the flames with water, which was supplied him in buckets from below, before the fire communicated to the powder within, and thus doubtless preserved many valuable lives.
Those killed have almost universally left wives and chldren. They were among the most valuable and successful hands attached to these great works, many of them were men of independent means.

Republican Compiler Gettysburg Pennsylvania 1847-04-19