Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pelhamville Fire on February 4, 1878

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Pelhamville was the site of a rather hazardous factory that caught fire and burned to the ground on February 4, 1878.  The cause of the fire was attributed to "spontaneous combustion".  The building was uninsured.  The following article appeared the next day in The New York Times.
A frame building belonging to the Miners' Powder Company, at Pelhamville, Westchester County, took fire shortly after 8 o'clock yesterday morning, and in a short time was totally destroyed; no insurance.  The loss is roughly estimated at $3,000.  The cause of the fire is a mystery, and can only be accounted for on the hypothesis of spontaneous combustion.  The company manufacture an explosive for blasting purposes.  It is composed of nitro-glycerine, with charcoal, sawdust, &c., as absorbents, is put up in the form of compact cartridges, and is asserted to be non-explosive, except in the use of a certain fulminate arranged to act by percussion, and which is added at the warehouse in New-York, so that the cartridges at the factory will burn freely, but only as fuse or roman-candles do.  It is claimed also, that a secret ingredient is used in the admixture which renders the cartridges non-explosive."
Source:  Losses by Fire, N.Y. Times, Feb. 5, 1878, p. 5, col. 5.

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