Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31, 1922 -- Massive Explosion on the South Side

July 31, 1922:  The city is thrown into turmoil as a storage tank of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company collapses and explodes at West Twenty-Fifth and Throop Streets, injuring a hundred people, severely burning the majority of them.  Since the location sits on the bank of the Chicago River with a neighborhood close by, most of the injured are teamsters, pedestrians, or children playing in the area.  The tank, which was 180 feet high and 180 feet in diameter, contained 4,000,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas.  The tank collapses at about 12:30 in the afternoon with the Chicago Daily Tribune describing the scene in this way, “Wild scenes followed immediately.  Men, women, and children attacked by the weird flames ran screaming.  Some threw themselves flat on the ground.  Others flung their clothing over their faces and hands in frantic efforts to escape the fire.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1922]  The chief engineer for the company, J. H. Eustace, says that there was no explosion, adding, “In fifty years of experience in gas manufacturing I have never heard of anything like this . . . In some way the crown of the tank was ruptured, and gas, escaping in great quantities, ignited.  What caused the rupture is a mystery; and what would ignite escaping gas from the top of a holder high in the air is equally a mystery.”

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