10/4/1917 The Eddystone explosion: an unsolved mystery

Outside Chester in Pennsylvania the Eddystone Ammunition Corporation has a factory making artillery shells for export to the Russian army. Today tragedy strikes as an explosion rips through a building where young women workers are loading shells with black powder. A chain reaction of detonations occurs, creating a blast that is felt miles away from the plant.

Somewhere between 100 and 150 people, mostly women and girls, are killed in the explosion with many more injured, some horrifically so. Of the dead, several dozen are unidentifiable; they will be buried in a mass grave.

The USA is now at war with Germany. As with previous explosions in munitions plants, suspicions fall on German saboteurs. If German agents were responsible then the Eddystone explosion victims are the first US casualties of the war. But investigators can find no definitive evidence pointing to the explosion having been started deliberately. There were also reports of faulty electrical wiring in the plant in the weeks before the blast, so it is possible that the explosion was a tragic accident.

image source (World War One in Delco)

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