Allentown, PA Silk Mill Explosion, Jul 1888



ALLENTOWN, Penn., July 9.--A boiler of the Adelaide Silk Mill exploded at 7 o'clock this morning with terrific effect, killing three men and wrecking the boilerhouse. The disaster will probably cause a suspension of operations for at least six weeks. During the usual July stoppage at the mill last week the six boilers were thoroughly repaired and overhauled, and work was resumed this morning at 6:30 o'clock, when 925 operatives were in the several departments of the mill. Half an hour later a rumbling noise, which was heard all over the mill, startled those at work, and it was followed a moment later by three or four reports similar to the rolling of thunder. In an instant the air was filled with flying bricks, pieces of iron, and splinters of wood. All seemed to know intuitively that one of the boilers had exploded. Then followed a scene of great confusion. The shock of the explosion seemed to lift the massive buildings from their foundations. Unable to collect their thoughts, the terror-stricken employes{sic} hastily left their work and rushed wildly in all directions. The boilerhouse was wrecked, and in the ruins were three men, Hiram Sell, Frank P. Sterner, and Henry Bohrans.

Doctors were summoned and soon were at the scene. The work of rescuing began at once, and presently a moaning was heard in the engine room. By removing some débris the body of Sell was brought to view. He was found pinned to the floor by a heavy iron lever. His body was free, but his left leg was held down by the massive piece of iron. He cried pitifully to be released and he suffered excruciating agony. He was conscious and gave directions to the men how they should free him from his terrible position. The only way to release him was to amputate his leg. His other leg was broken. He died two hours later. He was the engineer, and leaves a widow and five young children. The others who were killed were Frank P. Sterner and Henry Bohrans, assistant firemen. Both were terribly disfigured. The former was 42 years old, and leaves a widow and one child. Bohrans was 27 years old and leaves two children, one a babe born last night. W. H. Hillard, the fireman, and a bricklayer named Sacks were slightly injured. There were a number of wonderful escapes.

The damage to the building will not exceed $5,000. There is an insurance of $50,000 in the American Steam Boiler Insurance Company of New York. There being no known cause for the explosion, the Coroner's jury rendered a verdict of accidental death.

The New York Times, New York, NY 10 Jul 1888