Friday, December 4, 2020

Boiler Explosion at mill

W.H. Bunting A Day's Work, Part 2, Tilbury House Publishing, 2000

March 21. 1884.
 One of the most terrible boiler explosions which has for a long time occurred in this state, took place at John F. Dearborn's spool mill, at Bryant Pond, on Friday, 7th instant, resulting in the death of four men and the injury of another. A gang of men had been at work upon the boiler repairing it, putting in a dome head, etc., and on Friday morning, just as they had nearly concluded testing it, it exploded with terrific force, demolishing the enginehouse.... Mr. Dearborn is peculiarly unfortunate, having been burned out some three or four years ago at Locke's Mill, when he suffered a heavy loss. Forty men are thrown out of employment by the accident. The cause of the explosion is unknown, but it is supposed by Mr. Ross, the machinist, that it was some weak place in the boiler overlooked in repairing it. 
{The [Bangor] Industrial Journal}

Maine was a big supplier of wood spools for thread in the 1800s, When import tariffs were increased, the Scottish-owned thread companies opened winding mills in Rhode Island and New Jersey. With large stands of mature birch trees, Maine became the supplier of the required spools. By 1900, there were 18 spool mills turning out millions of spools on specialized lathes and other machines. These mills were, like most industry of the time, powered by steam engines, boiler inspections were not as rigorous are they later were and explosions were too common. In the picture above, the wrecked engine's stack and flywheel lie at right, with the base between them. Stacked spool wood is revealed in the dry shed at left. The mill, at right, was blown off its foundations. The boiler has vanished.

Taken from the book, A Day's Work by W.H. Bunting.  In these books, the author has presented a series of Maine photographs from 1860-1920, thoroughly researched them and added the story behind each of them. A very interesting read. 

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