Naphtha Disaster of 1887


The Naptha Disaster of 1887 occurred on December 21, when a wave of explosions tore through our city streets on an otherwise calm winter afternoon. Panicked citizens assume widespread attack perpetrated by anarchists, an earthquake, the end times. Naphtha fuel 1 from the Vacuum Oil Works had seeped into the sewer causing three successive major explosions. Three lives were taken, and many people were injured. Three mills — the Washington, the Jefferson, and the Clinton — are destroyed. The alarm following the first major explosion brings residents to the streets to be caught by the succeeding blasts. Fuel continues to burn beneath the city throughout the day, a continuing series of explosions marked by showers of smouldering debris and manhole covers raining from the sky.

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