Wilmington, DE Dupont Powder Company Explosion, Aug 1915


Great Explosion in the Dupont Works Near Wilmington.


Both Buildings Completely Demolished and One Victim Blown to Atoms. Houses Four Miles Away Shaken.

Wilmington, Del., Aug. 30. – With terrific reports heard for miles, two black powder mills of the Dupont Powder company at the upper Hagley yards, near this city, on Brandywine creek, exploded.

LAWRENCE CUNNINGHAM, aged forty-six years, married, of Henry Clay, a suburb, and JOHN GILLESPIE, aged thirty-five years, of Hazelton, Pa., were instantly killed.

The cause of the explosion has not been determined. Several hundred pounds of powder of a powerful grade were stored in each mill. The first to explode was a fuse plant, which caused the explosion of the second mill nearby. The two victims were employed in the fuse mill.

Only one body was found. Whether it is Cunningham or Gillespie it is impossible to tell. It is burned and mangled beyond recognition.

The second man was blown to atoms, the only remains recovered being bits of charred flesh hanging in the branches of trees on the opposite side of Brandywine creek.

Both mills were destroyed, being swept clean off their foundations. The force of the explosion hurled pieces of machinery shafting and large stones for a great distance in every direction. Trees were uprooted or twisted as though a tornado had hit them. Houses shook in all parts of Wilmington, four miles away, while the property damage near the mills was considerable. Some late Sunday morning sleepers were thrown from their beds.

The country place near the plant of Frank L. Connable, vice president and director of the Dupont Powder company, was considerably damaged. The occupants were more or less injured. The windows of the home of Judge Edward G. Bradford, of the United States district court, also nearby, was damaged. The judge was absent.

Shortly before the accident the mills had been charged by workmen. After starting the machinery the employes [sic] left, as is custom. Cunningham and Gillespie didn’t get a sufficient distance away after starting the machinery. While the cause is not known, it may have been due to a spark form the machinery of from grit finding its way into the place.

The News, Frederick, MD 30 Aug 1915