Rochester, NY Naphtha Explosion, Dec 1887


Four Persons Killed, Three Missing and Twenty Injured.

An accidental discharge of 14,000 gallons of naphtha in one of the main sewers in Rochester, N. Y., on Wednesday, produced the most sensational and uncommon disaster that city or any other ever experienced. Soon after three o'clock the heavy stone covering of a manhole of the Platt street sewer was blown off by a terrific explosion, and the almost immediately another explosion occurred beneath the Clinton Flouring Mill on Mill street. The upheavals were followed by sheets of flame that burst out with great fury to a hight[sic] of sixty feet. The Chuton mill took fire first, and the flames spread quickly to the Washington mill and the Jefferson mill. These three mills and contents were destroyed, involving a loss of $200,000. the first explosion was followed quickly by others along Mill and Platt streets, and at several points on West avenue making over forty in all, and extending along four miles of sewers. In each case the manholes were all blown to pieces, and in many places flames shot up and continued to burn fiercely for several minutes. The explosions were so violent as to hurl rocks into buildings and against pedestrians, causing a panic throughout the whole region traversed by the sewers.
Four persons were killed, three reported missing and twenty badly injured. The cause of the peculiar disaster was an attempt to pump the naphtha from the Vacuum Oil Company's tanks through a two-mile conduit to the Municipal Gas Company's works near the center of the city. The naphtha became ignited and exploded.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1887-12-30