Louisville, KY Soap Factory Boiler Explosion, Feb 1881

Killed By A Boiler Explosion.

Disaster In A Louisville Soap Factory-One Man Fatally Hurt And One Seriously.

Louisville, Ky., Feb. 22.-A terrific boiler explosion-the third fatal one here this year-occurred to-day. Henry Myer, an old German, has been conducting a soap factory in the eastern part of Louisville for many years. Mr. Myer’s only assistants were his four sons. This morning about 7 o’clock Mr. Myer and his sons went to work as usual, intending to boil up some soap. William, the second son, who has been acting as engineer for the past two months, built a fire in the furnace about 8 o’clock, the neighborhood was startled by a tremendous report. The shed was suddenly demolished, and the boiler flew through the air with fearful force and landed against the house in front. At the time of the explosion old Mr. Myer was busy in the yard. Henry, the eldest son, was engaged at the soap-vat in the factory back of the boiler. Charles was down stairs. Edward was splitting wood in the yard, and William, the engineer, was busy about his engine. No other persons were about the place. Charles Myer told a reporter that he was down stairs drawing off some lye and preparing to boil some soap. His brother William had been busy getting up steam so that the work might be done, and after he had the engine running satisfactorily he shouted down stairs, “Hello Charley, I’ve got plenty of steam up now.” “How much have you got?” asked Charley. “About 60 pounds.” “have you for plenty of water?” “Yes; the water is up the third cock; she’s running bully.” “All right,” said Charley; “I’ll be ready to use the engine pretty soon.” “If I had known you wouldn’t have wanted steam right away I wouldn’t have fired up so early,” said William. Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the boiler exploded.

There was a deep rumble, a loud report, and a terrific shock which caused buildings in the vicinity of the place to tremble. The few people who saw the explosion from a safe distance say the boiler shed was suddenly demolished, the air was filled with sticks, bricks, dust, and debris, and the very ground shook as from a small earthquake. Neighbors and workmen from the Millwood distillery pump-house, across the way, tan to the scene to render assistance. Meantime Henry Myer and Charles Myer, who had been stunned by the shock, but were not hurt, rushed out of the building through the opening made by the explosion. They were horrified to find their father and brother William lying upon the ground. Confusion and excitement reigned for some time, the people scarcely comprehending what happened. Old Mr. Myer was found stretched out on the ground on the side of the yard, fatally hurt, unconscious and with his head and face terribly hurt, unconscious and with his head and face horribly mutilated by the flying bricks and missiles which had struck him. His injured sons carried him to Henry Myer’s house just in front, while the engineer at the pump-house helped attend to William. The boy was found on his hands and knees, attempting to rise to his feet. He was horribly scalded about the face and arms.

The most curious part of the affair was the course taken by the boiler. The force of the explosion drove the heavy boiler through the weak plank wall, carried it clear across the lot lengthwise, a distance of 200 feet, through a board fence, and it finally landed up against the side of the house, under the porch, and alongside the basement. In its course the end of the boiler struck the ground and turned completely around, being in exactly the opposite position when it rested from what it was in the factory. Almost one-third of the rear part of the boiler was completely off all the way round, and the heavy piece of metal, weighing 300 pounds, was blown high in the air, carried over the roof of the two-story brick house No. 427, four lots below, struck the cornice, and fell into the street. The huge piece of iron was bent and twisted all out of shape. It was in the rear part of the boiler that the break occurred. Another large hole was blown in the front part of the shell. The position in which the boiler was found was a curious one. It was lying alongside the kitchen and under the stairs which lead up to the porch, as if it wished to hide itself after the destruction it had done.

The New York Times, New York, NY 23 Feb 1881