History of the Morgan Explosion from the newspapers of the time:
Most ads seem to be in jobber catalogs and I can not find any in Look, Life, Saturday Evening Post, or the Sears catalog from 1919 -1920.
I have yet to find an actual photo of the "Uncle Ed" also called the "75" lamp that was made in sections from any auctions or ebay sales.
The 75 lamp ad in color. The National Electrical Contractor, Volume 18 No. 12 Ocvt 1919. Source see: https://books.google.com/books?id=0qs0A ... mp&f=false
It appears most auction info is on the 1 piece Victory Lamp. Lots of pics of these. However , most have been modified with different sockets and cords over the years since 1919. These links have been repaired.
Here is just the shell that turned up at a canadian museum:
http://www.canadianflight.org/content/7 ... lery-shell
Sources of info in papers about the 4 oct. 1918 Morgan explosion: You can see the paper and do a search for the paper- the internal site link connects/ allows only if member
https://www.myheritage.com/research?act ... 1+lnmsrs.1
New York Times, Oct 6 1918 is one of the better articles: source
http://reference.insulators.info/public ... /?id=10212
The New York Times
New York, NY, United States, Sunday, October 6, 1918
DAY OF EXPLOSIONS AND FIRE FINISHES SHELL PLANT RUIN
Metropolitan Area in Fear for Hours as Blast Follows Blast and Buildings Tremble. SHOCK FELT FORTY MILES
River Tubes and Bridges Closed in Fear of Shock from 80,000 Pounts of TNT. DEAD NOW ESTIMATED AT 50
Will Be No Halt of Shells for Army—Government Moves to Speed Up Other Plants.
Explosions that rattled windows, set buildings a-tremble and broke glass many miles away continued at approximately half hourly intervals at the T.A. Gillespie shell-loading plant near South Amboy, N.J., until well into the afternoon yesterday. Fear that a giant explosion of 80,000 pounds of trinitrotoluol in a storage magazine at the plant might cause East River bridges to collapse and under-river subway structures to crumble prompted New York authorities to close for a time all traffic and throw the city back upon the ferries and surface lines as of forty years ago.
Estimates of the casualties at the plant put the number of dead at 50 and the wounded were at 150 or more. Tall buildings downtown were evacuated early, as explosion after explosion rocked them on their foundations, and persons afoot were kept well out from the building line on the sidewalks for fear of a shower of heavy glass from windows high up.
Literally the entire population of the metropolitan district was kept in a state of apprehension from the time of the initial explosion on Friday evening till late yesterday. When danger of widespread disaster was declared by the army authorities to be past.
No Halt of War Effort
While the $18,000,000 plant that was loading more than 30,000 shells a day is badly wrecked, the American Army in France will suffer no lack of ammunition for its drive toward Berlin.
Twenty Thousand persons were ordered from their homes in South Amboy and nearby towns, and railroad operation in the vicinity was stopped by army officials as precautions against the new and greater explosion which they feared.
Flames sweeping over the wreckage, covered hundreds of acres at the plant, were driven by a southwest wind in the direction of two central malting plants heavily stocked with TNT, whose explosion, it was feared, would cause a shock sufficient to set off the 80,000=pound magazine. The force of such an explosion can be judged by the fact that the earlier explosions which created so much havoc and were felt as much as forty miles away were made by comparatively small quantities of TNT in groups of small containers used in loading shells. The bulk of the TNT in the magazine was probably one hundred times as great as that consumed in any of the terrific single explosions of Friday night and yesterday.
The danger of such a great explosion was reported to be practically at an end late yesterday afternoon, after Major H.L. Armstrong, the designer of the plant, and Captain W.W. Watson had made a observation flight over the burning plant in an airplane. All land approaches to the threatened magazine were cut off by the fire, which surrounded it on all sides, but from the air it was reported to be over, as the buildings nearest the buried magazines did not appear to be in peril.
The machine circled again and again around the big tract, while the airmen leveled field glasses at the scene of desolation beneath. They kept at their task for fifteen minutes, and then alighted outside the danger zone. The observation showed that five of the thirteen units of the plant had been destroyed, but that the 200 plant guards who began fighting the fire had the situation well in hand, and that unless there was a furious windstorm the fire would not reach either the barges with their dangerous loads or the storehouse more than a mile away in another direction.
T.A. Gillespie, President of the company, said yesterday that the plant had been putting out shells at the rate of 32,000 a day. While this is by far the greatest production from a single plant, and its temporary loss may mean a present reduction of as much as 10 per cent, in certain types of shells sent to France, great reserves of heavy ammunition have been accumulated beyond the estimated needs of the American Army by way of preparation for such accidents, which have been the experience of every nation in the war and are looked upon as inevitable incidents in the supplying of armies on a gigantic scale.
This is by far the most destructive accident of its kind in this country. The loss of life is at least seven times that attending the Black Tom explosion, where seven persons were killed. The immediate property loss in the Black Tom explosion was nearly as great, but the principal loss there was in shells, while the great loss in this case is in munitions producing capacity. The output of the plant that was destroyed yesterday was more than 1,000,000 shells a month, and probably that capacity has been destroyed for two months or more.
The plan under which the great collection of buildings composing the Gillespie plant were built of wood and placed in such relation that the destruction of one building meant the destruction of all was devised by the Ordinance Department. Under this plan it was found possible to break all records in the almost magical creation of a vast plant, while the production achieved at the newly-made plant in three months was considered to be one of the greatest industrial feats of the war.
The purpose of the great concentration of explosives in one group of buildings was the superior efficiency expected from so vast an enterprise, and before yesterday the plan had justified the hopes placed in it.
Work on the plant was started in March. Production of loaded shells began in July, and speeded up through August and September to the daily output of 32,000 shells, which included three-inch, six-inch, eight-inch, twelve-inch, and sixteen-inch sizes. The plant was not completed, but it was expected late this Fall to achieve a minimum output of 50,000 shells a day, and a possible maximum of 74,000.
The destroyed works were really an assembling plant, hundreds of carloads of empty shells arriving daily from Pennsylvania mills, while carloads of
TNT came from New Jersey chemical works. At the plant in Morgan the TNT was loaded into shells and taken on barges and by rail to munition ships waiting at anchor.
Criticism began to be voiced yesterday of the scheme under which so large a percentage of America's munitions output was concentrated in a plant where, as it proved yesterday, the mistake of one workman, an unavoidable accident, a stroke of lightning, or the work of a German could start o chain of explosions wiping out the entire system of factories and severing an important artery of supply to the American armies.
Record Time and Production
The Gillespie plant was the greatest of four great plants, designed and built at the direction of the Ordnance Department, for loading shells. The plans called for the loading of 179,000 shells a day at the four plants, each of which is greater than any similar plant of the kind which previously existed in this country. Each was run up in record time, wood being used in the construction. All four of these plants are described as being of the same type of construction, so that the disaster to the Gillespie plant may lead to radical changes in the others in the interest of safety.
An investigation to ascertain the cause of the explosion was started yesterday under Colonel Douglas I. McKay, former Police Commissioner of New York City, now attached to the Ordnance Department.
All the inspectors of the Ordnance at the Gillespie plant were directed to report last night at the New York District Ordnance Office, 1,107 Broadway, Only eighteen of the seventy men employed in Unit 61, where the explosion started, are known to have survived, and it is feared that all who actually witnessed the cause of the first explosion are now dead, The conditions which made it possible for one explosion to set in motion a long series that leveled practically the entire plant will also be studied.
Casualties Hard to Estimate
Estimates of the number of dead continued to vary yesterday. All employes who could be rallied were kept at work saving barges and trains of shells near the plant and in attempting rescues in the wrecked buildings. Several hundred men on the night shift at the time of the explosion are missing. Many of these are supposed to be alive, but scattered. To add to the difficulties, it was reported yesterday that the office records had been destroyed, thus increasing the task of making up a roll. Efforts to find bodies could be prosecuted only in the ruins of a few of the buildings where the fires had died out, and this was a work of raking among the ashes and twisted steel supports. Very little could be done because of the frequent bursts of isolated high explosive shells scattered over the entire site, together with occasional terrific eruptions as the fire reached accumulations of shells and TNT containers in buildings, freight cars or motor trucks.
Fourteen bodies have been recovered so far and taken to the Perth Amboy Police Station. One of these is the body of a Coast Guardsman. The head and leg were blown off and the identification tag was missing, preventing the establishment of his identity.
T.A. Gillespie, President of the company, who was at a conference in Perth Amboy, said:
"Probably the disaster was caused by the explosion of a kettle in Unit 6-I. There were seventy men at work in this unit and eighteen of them have been accounted for."
The property damage was equally difficult to ascertain. Officials of the Gillespie company estimate the damage to their plant at about $12,000,000, which does not include the loss in shells and TNT. Several millions of dollars immediate damage was caused by the destruction of glass, doors, chimneys, and household furnishings, South Amboy was the heaviest sufferer, but the loss through breakage of glass extended as far as Lower Manhattan and Newark and to Asbury Park, down the coast.
The persons injured, aside from those suffering from minor hurts, were numbered at 150. There care has been taken over by the red cross, which, with other war agencies, sent scores of ambulances and automobiles, with doctors, nurses, and relief agents, to look after them, and to find food and shelter for those rendered homeless. Many of the injured, will die. Most of those in hospitals were burned or struck by fragments of bursting shells and other missiles, while a considerable number were suffering from shell shock following the terrific concussions.
Day of Terrific Bombardment
The individual explosions since Friday evening at 7:40 when the initial blast occurred, numbered hundreds. All last night and yesterday New Jersey and New York for miles about the plant were rocked at intervals. The greatest after the first big series of bursts on Friday night occurred at 4:10 A.M. and at 10:09 A.M. yesterday. The last explosion of great force was reported at 7 o'clock last night. During the afternoon end evening the fire slackened, and the explosions came less frequently and with less violence, furnishing grounds for hope that the danger was over. As long as the fire continued, however, the bursting of occasional superheated shells and containers is expected.
Hardly a house within five miles of Morgan was inhabited last night or yesterday, with a large part of the population within a radius of ten miles had left their homes to get surely out of range of the nerve-shaking crashes and showering missiles. Crowds of homeless people who were found wandering aimlessly were shepherded to places of comparative safety by the soldiers and bluejackets who were dispatched to the scene from all military and navel stations, and later were taken care of by the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., and other relief organizations.
By yesterday morning several thousand soldiers were on guard, holding the danger zone for miles on every side of the explosion in a state of siege, guarding all roads and aiding in the work of salvage and rescue at the plant.
Efforts to combat the fire would have been as hopeless as an attempt to put out a volcano. In addition to the fire and big explosions shells were bursting at times in quick succession as if a terrific artillery battle were in progress. Sometimes it seemed at a distance that the shelling had the rapidity of machine gun fire.
Most of the area of the plant was covered with a thick layer of splintered wood from the smashed frame buildings, which had been hurled into the air and distributed over hundreds of acres. Under the debris were railroad ties, while part of the open space bore dry grass and brushwood. The trees of two orchards were still standing on the site before the blaze began. Over all this the fire burned irresistibly, producing giant upheavals when it reached stores of trinitrotoluol which had survived earlier shocks.
A detachment of Coast Guards returned from South Amboy last night after having been relieved by soldiers from Governors Island. They said the soldiers had taken a 3-inch gun with them to blow down buildings in the path of the fire, which menaced the central magazine. Searchlights were thrown upon the buildings, it was said, and the battery put into operation from a safe distance.
German Tried to Blow Up Plant
It was pointed out yesterday that the explosion might have been caused in any one of a countless number of ways. Since the workers who were near at hand when the initial explosion took place are probably dead, it was thought that the real cause would never be established.
Last week an explosion, in which three women and one man were killed, was caused when a partly-loaded shell fell from a table at which a woman was employed, She and two others working nearby were blown to pieces. Luckily there were no shells or TNT containers close enough to be set off by the shock. The dropping of one partly-loaded shell in the vicinity of others, it was pointed out, might have started the chain of explosions.
The T.A. Gillespie Loading Company had one experience with a German who sought to destroy the plant. This man, who had no accent, easily obtained employment. He managed to smuggle matches into the works, and one day was caught trying to commit suicide and blow up the plant by touching a match to a loaded shell. The screams of the girl who saw him brought men, who overpowered him. He had a speedy trial, and was sent to jail for twenty years.
All employes are carefully searched. And not allowed to bring in matches of any bit of metal which might be used to cause a spark. In spite of this the chances of accident are countless. The danger does not end when the shell is loaded and plugged with wood. After that it receives a coat of shellac to prevent the steel from rusting. The shellac contains a high percentage of alcohol, so that it is extremely combustible, and great precautions are taken in handling it. Before the shellac is applied the shell is cleaned to remove any traces of TNT which adhere to the surface while being loaded. This, too, is dangerous, because friction or a blow on a splash of TNT on the outside of the shell might produce an explosion powerful enough to set off the charge inside. Any explosion, under the conditions prevailing at the plant might have been the first of an endless chain such as that of Friday night and yesterday.
A Long Chain of Dangers
Another source of danger is in the transportation of the melted TNT from the main magazines and the melting plant to the factory units, where it is placed in the shells. The melted TNT is poured into large metal containers and carried in motor trucks from the melting plant to the loading buildings, danger besetting every stage of the operations. The melting of the TNT is, of course, one of the most dangerous processes of all.
When the TNT is introduced into the shell it is carefully molded at the top of the chamber inside of the shell in order to leave a perfectly shaped space for the insertion of the metal cap and fuse, which is not screwed into place until the shell arrives in France. No operation in handling the shell is safe, and the workers were under no delusion as to the danger. A timekeeper who went through the explosion, said yesterday:
"It is impressed on all men and women employed at the plant from the first that they are doing work as important as if they were in the trenches, and that their danger is as great as that of soldiers. When a man takes a place there he is required to sign a statement to the effect that he works at his own risk.
"The government undertakes, in case a man is killed, to ship the body to any part of the United States and pay the funeral expenses. If a man is maimed, he is pensioned. But no allowance is made to his family, if he is killed, and of course, it is impossible for any man employed to be insured. "The employe is reminded at every turn of his danger. Every building is placarded with warnings. The buildings are nearly all made of wood, run up at the greatest speed. When the plant was built there was nothing in mind except speed production of shells needed by the army, and everything was sacrificed to speed. The building of the plant was begun in March. Deliveries started in July. We had no way of knowing the rate of production, but understood that it was more than 30,000 a day during September.
"The hospital facilities were inadequate. A hospital was being built, but was not completed, and small first-aid stations in the different plants were the only immediate provisions for accident.
Dangerous As Field of Battle
If a man did not realize the danger himself, it was impressed on him every day in talks to the workmen. Officers of American and different allied armies visited the plant nearly every day, telling the workers that the fate of the war depended on them as much as upon soldiers and that no man could do more patriotic service then keep his production at the height of his capacity. These officers said there was little choice, from the point of view of safety, between working in the plant and serving on the battlefield.
"The pay was liberal. Illiterate Polacks, Russians, Italians, and others, many of whom could not speak a word of English, were making $8 or $10 a day. They received 47 1⁄2 cents an hour, but when a man had loaded 250 shells, he was credited for a day's work and was paid a cent a shell for each additional one. The girls got 37 1⁄2 cents an hour, with the same privilege of earning extra money. Besides this they received time and a half for overtime.
"I ran out of plant 92 when the lights went off after the first explosion, which was not as terrific as the later ones. I am alive because the unit which I worked was near the outer edge of the group of buildings, so that I did not pass near any of the exploding units. Most of those killed were blown to pieces while running from the center of the maze, buildings, freight cars, and motor trucks blowing up and wiping them out, scores at a time.
"I believe that the dead will number between 250 and 300. The exact number will probably never be known. Many of the workmen who survived have gone to other places. The payrolls and other records were destroyed when the office buildings were wrecked and burnt. Some of the bodies are blown to bits and others burned to ashes. Barracks in which some of the workingmen were asleep were shattered and burned, probably with some loss of life.
Much to Aid a Conflagration
"There was a moat or canal around each building, but there with the idea of making it difficult for a fire to spread, but there was nothing to stop a conflagration and many things to help it. The explosions covered the whole area with splintered boards and timbers of which the plant was built. There were fields of dry grass and shrubbery between some of the buildings and two old orchards still stood on the factory site. There were great quantities of loose lumber being used for erecting additional units. There were thousands of ties under the network of railroad tracks which runs through the plant, and hardly a square foot without inflammable material on it.
"The great explosions last night and today were not single masses of trinitrotoluol, but the simultaneous explosions of quantities of shells and containers in the buildings, in freight cars, and on motor trucks. The explosion would be hundreds of times as terrific if the great storage and melting plans went off in Units Nos. 92 and 71. All the TNT which is used comes to those two buildings. It would go off there in one explosion, or two, so close to each other as to be practically one, and I believe that little would be left of any town within miles.
"most of the girls were working on the day shift, but some were employed at night, and I believe some have been killed."
Attempts to save the hundreds of freight cars loaded and partly loaded with explosives and shells were rendered impossible from the first, by smashed locomotives and torn tracks, as well as by the hurricane of steel and flying splinters. One attempt was made by John H. Manderville of 220 Second Street, Union Hill, Superintendent of Transportation at the plant, but it was fruitless.
He was in his room in the officials' building at the plant, changing his clothes, when the explosion tore out the side of his room. He made his way through the broken timbers and plaster down the stairs and called for men to aid in getting what they could out of the yards. Some started to help him, but most of them thought better of it, when blinding flashes and explosions, which knocked them off their feet, came one after another.
One crew followed until they got to the yards, but here his engineer refused to go with Manderville aboard a locomotive. The firemen, however, volunteered to go with him, and they started the engine. They had got only a few feet when another blast sent a large fragment of shell that tore off the top of the locomotive. They left the half demolished engine and joined other officials and employes in rescue work.
Jersey Central Train Under Fire
Train service over the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Central lines running near the Gillespie plant was discontinued Friday night, after the tracks had been deluged with debris and were being swept at intervals with fragments of steel.
The Owl train on the New Jersey Central and the Pennsylvania fast mail, which is known as the "Bull Beef," were the last to get through. The New Jersey Central newspaper train, which arrived at about 3 A.M. had taken on several baggage cars, with bedding, and it loaded up with refugees and took them back to South Amboy. Nearly all of those picked up were women and children, and some hysterical because of the fear that their men folk had been killed.
When it started on its trip again the newspaper train was held on the trestle over Raritan Creek because of the danger of approaching nearer. When it came to a stop a dazzling flash of light revealed soldiers and employes of the plant at work moving valuable property as far as possible from the danger zone. One crash came after another, each temporarily putting out the lights on the train, deafening those inside, and causing splashes from the showering debris as if fell into the Raritan.
The train remained on the trestle from 4:30 to 8:30, when General Supt. L.W. Berry arrived on a wildcat engine, examined and cleared the track, and ordered the train to proceed with windows open. When the train reached Morgan, those on board cheered for two companies of American soldiers, drawn up as if on parade, on the very edge of the inferno.
All along the tracks were families resting under trees, others plodding on foot with a few blankets, and some with household belongings in automobiles and vehicles. Explosions, first breaking windows, then shaking down the plaster, smashing chimneys, and turning over furniture, had driven every family in the vicinity from home. Their faces reflected their terrifying experiences.
A short distance out of Morgan a party of bluejackets landed from a scout patrol boat and waved at the train before starting for their dangerous work at the Gillespie plant.
Towns along the railroad track were deserted. The inhabitants shunned buildings and were asleep or talking in groups under trees. Every town and cross-road bristled with bayonets. Carrying out the suggestion of a terrific battle, which was the scenes of devastation along the road.
The first series of explosions, which destroyed much of the plant and caused nearly all of the loss of life on Friday night, was followed by a comparative lull. At 2 o'clock yesterday morning the fire reached new supplies of the high explosive and there were further tremendous blasts. Many at South Amboy and other places, who had gone back into their homes late on Friday night thinking the worst was over, were thrown from their beds and covered with plaster and broken glass. In one house in Perth Amboy a kerosene lamp was overturned, setting the building on fire. Hastily dressed
women carrying children began to run into the streets. As the explosions increased vehicles jammed the streets—automobiles crowded with women and children, and delivery wagons filled with refugees, while others cling on the sides.
With each shock more windows fell, and families ran from their homes into the middle of the streets for safety. Stores were lighted while the owners removed the wares from windows. After 4 o'clock the explosions became so rapid and so violent that Perth Amboy seemed to be under bombardment. There was a constant thunder as of great guns. To prevent live wires from falling upon persons in the streets, the lights were cut off and the town was lighted only by the red flares from the explosions. The sidewalks were literally paved with shattered glass. The side streets were filled with silent people, who stared at the fire and put their hands to their ears when a bright flash gave warning of the roar to follow.
A headquarters for refugees was the Packer House. Every room was filled, and mattresses were spread on the floors of the public rooms. The city underwent all the nervous tension of a bombarded town except for the actual destruction wrought by shells. The boom of shells, the blaze of destruction, the silent weeping refugees, all were there.
It was estimated last night that the damage on Staten Island would amount to $150,000. In the towns of Tottenville. Richmond Valley, Pleasant Plains, Huguenot, Great Kills, and Princes Bay windows in practically all the houses were blown out and many smaller buildings were wrecked. Chimneys were thrown down and the earth was rocked as if by an earthquake as far as Stapleton and Tompkinsville, twenty miles from the shell plant. The shock from the explosions was so great in Richmond Valley, Huguenot, Pleasant Plains, Great Kills, and Princes Bay that the inhabitants were advised to leave their homes by the police at noon yesterday. Many of them went by automobiles to Stapleton and Tompkinsville and others to Manhattan.
Red Cross at Work
The Atlantic Division of the Red Cross established headquarters at Perth Amboy yesterday afternoon. Fifty ambulances from New York and Newark, with a corps of doctors and nurses, arrived with them. Eight central depots were opened in churches, schools, and other public buildings for taking card of the homeless and injured. Commandeered automobiles and cars driven by members of the Women's Motor Corps, under Captain Helen Bastedo, went along the roads leasing away from Morgan picking up refugees and taking them to Perth Amboy. The Red Cross sent from New York five motor trucks loaded with six tons of supplies.
Governor Walter Edge and detachments of the New Jersey State Guard arrived and acted in co-operation with the army authorities and the Red Cross reported last night that there were fewer than 500 of a population of 10,000 left in South Amboy.
One of the saddest phases was the distress of women and children whose husbands and fathers were missing, and who went from hospital to hospital seeking information.
Fear of explosion is not shared by the women who were employed in the loading plants, numbering in all 1,000. These women held a meeting in Perth Amboy in the afternoon and unanimously voted to return to work in the plant as soon as the call comes for them.
"Most of us have boys over there," said one of the women, "and we are all very anxious to do our part to aid in bringing the war to a speedy close. All of us know the danger to which we are constantly exposed, but it is nothing in comparison with that of our boys in the front. We want them to know there will be no delay as far as we are concerned."
OCT 5 1918
Great Munition Plant Blown Up
The New York Times
New York, NY, United States, Saturday, October 5, 1918
GREAT MUNITION PLANT BLOWN UP; 100 MAY BE DEAD
Series of Explosions Wrecks the Gillespie Shell-Loading Works at South Amboy. LARGEST IN THE WORLD
Survivors Say That of 2,000 Men on Night Shift Hundreds are Dead or Wounded MANY TONS OF TNT SET OFF
Plant Cost $18,000,000—Hoped That Wrecked Buildings May Soon Be Replaced.
The shell-loading plant of T.A. Gillespie & Co. at Morgan, N.J., near South Amboy, said to be the largest shell-loading plant in the world, was partially destroyed with, it is feared, a large loss of life by a series of explosions beginning at 7:40 o'clock last night.
More than 2,000 men, composing the night shift of the plant were at work when a comparatively light explosion occurred, which put out all of the lights in the buildings. The men dropped work and ran in every direction from the maze of long one-story building units. While they were seeking to get away buildings blew up on all sides, one after another, and those who escaped reported last night that many of the force had been killed or wounded.
After talking with survivors, who were hurried in ambulances to South Amboy, the police there estimated the dead at 100. Some employes who escaped said that in their opinion a large percentage of the night shift were killed or hurt.
Only vague estimates of the damage could be obtained, because the search in the wreckage, where explosions continued long after the great detonations, had not progressed far last night and no roll could be made of the survivors, who had fled from various exits, some men climbing the barbed wire barricade and scattering in all directions.
Hundreds of tons of trinitrotoluol is handled in the plant, which loads thousands of shells of various sizes each day, including nine-inch and three-inch. Its daily output of loaded shells is said to exceed that of any other plant in the world.
With terrific noise and with a violence that rocked the ground in the vicinity of the plant and broke windows for miles around another unit of the plant blew up early this morning. The explosion was accomplished by a burst of flame. This explosion was followed by a series of smaller ones at intervals. The guard before the last came had moved the crowds back for a great distance, and so far as could be learned no one was hurt.
Last night and this morning half the population of South Amboy fled from that place, and they are now quartered in Perth Amboy, where the hotels and boarding houses are so crowded that mattresses have been placed in the halls, and the police station has had to take in refugees. It is estimated that 2,000 persons have left South Amboy.
The plant consists of scores of buildings, many of them hundreds of yards in length, but narrow. In these are trinitrotoluol melting vats, where the molten explosive is run into pipes and poured by workmen from nozzles in the liquid state into shells.
Although each plant is set at a distance of 200 feet from its nearest neighbor, the explosions were so powerful that when one building went up the shells and fragments of concrete which it threw in all directions or the terrific heat which it generated caused the explosion of the TNT in other buildings. There were about twenty distinct explosions, and a large number of smaller ones.
The extend of the property loss, and of the consequent loss to the American and allied armies, was difficult to ascertain last night as reliable estimates on the loss of life. The value of the entire plant, however, was put at $18,000,000.
All Employes who could be rounded up, besides doctors, nurses, policemen, soldiers, and volunteer helpers from Perth Amboy, Sough Amboy, and other nearby cities and towns were soon busy searching the wreckage and the open spaces for the dead and wounded. Survivors who arrived in this city last night paid a tribute to the intrepidity with which doctors and nurses and others entered the danger area in spite of overpowering fumes and the chance that unexploded shells of containers of TNT might burst while they worked.
A young woman who was at the switchboard at the office of the plant stuck to her post through the entire series of explosions, which smashed every window in her building and kept debris hammering the roof. Some of the explosions shook her from her chair. She put through calls for help to Sough Amboy, Perth Amboy, and other places in the vicinity.
Four units were reported at South Amboy last night as bring completely obliterated while others were wrecked. While the value of the plant, based on
the cost of erection, was placed at $18,000,000, it value, based on its military usefulness, was incalculable. The greater part of the plant is uninjured, according to reports at Perth Amboy last night and it was asserted that the demolished buildings could be rebuilt within two months.
An Employe who was at work in unit No. 92 gave this account of his experience last night:
"The explosion started in Unit No. 61, which adjoins the building where I was working. One explanation was that the heating apparatus used in melting the TNT exploded. Another was that a chisel used in cleaning a shell caused a spark which set off some TNT. These are theories, and it is probable that all those who know the true cause are dead.
" The first explosion was light, just a thud, but as it occurred the lights went out. Every one thought that that meant danger and we all ran. I was hardly outside with about twenty other men when there was a terrific blast, which threw us all flat on the ground. We picked ourselves up and started to run, when another explosion bowled us over. The second one was in part of the plant in which I had been working.
Blast Follows Blast.
"We kept on running for the open space between the collection of buildings and the high barbed wire fence which inclosed the whole plant. There was one great blast after another as we ran, accompanied by flashes of yellow light brighter than the day, and as the big flashes disappeared the sky would be full of smaller explosions, as loaded and half loaded shells, which were thrown into the air, exploded. Glass came down light rain, and pieces of steel from the shells and chunks of concrete would come down in a shower after each explosion.
"We were too busy getting away to stop to see what might happen to others, but it was plain that many of them, who were forced to run from the center of the zone of buildings to the outside, must have been killed as buildings blew up across their path of escape.
"When we got to the barbed wire fence we hunted for exits and could not find any. This fence is more than six feet high, built to keep out spies or curious people, but with one explosion coming after another, and danger that we would be hit at any minute, we all managed to climb over it.
"When we dropped on the other side we found ourselves in a swamp, which is another barrier to prevent outsiders from approaching the plant. The explosions were still going on, and we were about to plunge into the water when someone found some planks, and we got across on them to dry land. When I reached Morgan there ware only 100 employes of the plant there. Some escaped in other directions, but we all figured that the loss of life must have been heavy.
"The place is wonderfully guarded, and there is nothing in the theory that the explosion might have been caused by spies. Everyone is searched before he goes to work. No one is allowed to take in matches, and everyone is compelled to put on special clothes before he goes in, to make sure that he is wearing no metal buttons, which might strike something and cause a spark.
"Each plant had a moat filled with water around it, to prevent fire from making its way along the ground to another, and it was supposed that the buildings were far enough apart to keep an explosion in one place from blowing up another. As fast as the shells are loaded they are carried out to cars running alongside of each unit and taken away, so that there is never a large accumulation of shells. The TNT is in melting machines, in half loaded shells, in shells loaded and plugged with wood, and magazines. These going off at different times caused the series of small and large explosions.
Plant in Furious Blaze.
At midnight the plant was still burning, the flames shooting high and lighting up the whole region. About the plant the soldiers, who had been summoned from nearby posts, and this armed guard kept the crowd back half a mile from the scene of the accident. About the entrance to the barbed wire enclosure was an excited crowd, some almost resisting the guard in eagerness to get news of relatives who had worked at the plant, and had not returned to their homes. At intervals the crowd fell back as an ambulance came clanging through the gates and disappeared into the darkness. There came to the sounds of minor explosions and above it all the shouts of the men who were assisting in the effort to stay the progress of the flames.
The explosion first destroyed Unit 61, one of the group of frame and corrugated iron buildings, 200 X 75 feet, in which was kept 25,000 pounds of anatol, a material equal in force to trinitrotoluol. At intervals of about ten minutes up to 10 o'clock there were mighty explosions.
It was reported late last night that Units 63, 64 and 71 had been destroyed. These buildings were within a radius of 200 feet from the original explosion. Each unit was a building similar to 61, and their magazines were said to contain about the same amount of explosives as 61.
There were about 150 men on the night shift in each unit. Women work in the plant but there are none on the night shift, and so none was on duty when the first explosion occurred at 7:50 o'clock. Besides the workmen there were Government Inspectors in each of the units.
Soldiers and marines soon arrived and reinforced the 450 regular guards at the plant. The town of South Amboy, two miles distant, was put under martial law and the saloons ordered closed. The call for help brought ambulances, doctors, nurses and fire-fighting apparatus from towns within a distance of twenty-five miles.
The shock and flash of light with each of the great explosions were distinct for many miles. From Tottenville, S.I., six miles from the explosion, the brightness equaled that of daylight. The ground shook so that it was felt in all parts of Staten Island, in Manhattan, and in Brooklyn, and as far down the New Jersey coast as Asbury Park. From Camp Vail, near Long Branch, and other military encampments in different parts of New Jersey squads of soldiers and military doctors were hurried to Morgan.
In South Amboy, where many of the workers at the plant lived, crying women and children filled the streets begging to be told who had been killed and who had escaped. Great throngs surrounded the hospitals.
The population of Morgan, the nearest town to the munitions works, was thrown into panic as explosion followed explosion and debris rained upon the town. Hundreds of men, women, and children ran away from the place and crossed the bridge over the Raritan Creek to get further away from the volcanic bursts.
Shortly before midnight eight bodies taken from the wreckage were removed to the Morgue at South Amboy, and others were reported to be on the way. Among those reported killed was Arthur H. Stanton of Perth Amboy, Superintendent of the unit in which the first explosion occurred. This report was not confirmed.
One of the night officials of the Gillespie Company said late last night that the explosion had been caused by a fire in the 155-millimeter shell-loading plant. He said the cause of the fire had not been ascertained.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.