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Paterson, NJ Light Plant Explosion and Panic, Jan 1910

The Edison employes{sic} were at work in the boiler house and were knocked unconscious by the explosion. They lay under a heap of débris, amid clouds of escaping steam, when rescuers reached them. In the dyehouse adjoining the victims of the explosion also lay unconscious amid the steam, which shot from the broken pipes in the boiler house through the aperture in the wall and roof made by the flying bits of metal.

The explosion shook surrounding buildings with a force which caused many to believe for an instant that there had been an earthquake. The Edison plant is situated in the heart of the mill district, and operatives in various silk mills were almost put in a panic by the noise, especially as it was followed instantly by the putting out of all lights, which had been turned on in most places because of the darkness caused by the rain-filled air and the heavy clouds which obscured the sky. Confusion and panic followed the sudden darkness in many places, and operatives were pushed about and trampled upon before cooler heads could restore order.

In the business section of the city the cutting off of all power caused discomfort to many. Elevators which depended upon electricity for power stopped in the office buildings, in many instances coming to a halt between floors. Hundreds of men and women throughout the city were trapped thus, and many of them had to remain in their cramped quarters until the power was turned on again about 7:30 o'clock.

In the Lyceum Theatre the going out of the lights was followed by a series of sharp reports like explosions, caused by the sudden stoppage of the electric current. In an audience composed mostly of women, there was an instant panic.

Screaming women ran frantically for the exits and in the excitement and hurry many of them fainted. Other women trampled over them in their terror, thinking only of reaching the doors. Quick work by the ushers quelled the panic before it had become widespread, however, and the audience finally left the theatre in a fairly orderly manner. No one was hurt. In three other theatres the audiences were alarmed, but serious stampedes were prevented.

The shutting off of light in the big department stores and factories caused them to close an hour of more before their usual time. Street lights, too, could not be turned on, and the city was left in complete darkness for several hours.

The trolley service was brought to a standstill, cars coming to a halt wherever they happened to be and remaining there while the employes{sic} of the Edison Company were working to repair the damage and get auxiliary boilers working. The result was that thousands of commuters returned from Manhattan to find their city in darkness and themselves compelled to walk home through the rain.

The area affected by the explosion included not only this city and Passaic, but all of the suburbs which depended for light and power on the big plant here. Nowhere did the cars run or was there light.

At the scene of the explosion a field hospital was established in the grounds of the Edison works. Man after man was carried out of the Edison plant or the dyeworks next door by the rescuers and laid on the ground to be worked over by the surgeons from the General and the St. Joseph's Hospitals until the overworked ambulances could get then to these institutions. All of the victims were brought out unconscious, and many of the rescuers, who included other Edison employes{sic} and men from the dyehouse, were scorched and scalded by the live steam which played over everything and threatened some of the men who were trapped under piles of brick and iron.

At the General Hospital it was said that Van Houden could scarcely live through the night. All of the other injured were burned and scaled{sic}, and some were seriously injured, but it was said that these would recover in time.

The New York Times, New York, NY 22 Jan 1910

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