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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/247

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A POWDER-MILL EXPLOSION.

remember, the detonation and concussion were felt and heard distinctly and severely in Philadelphia and in Chester County, Pennsylvania, some thirty miles away, while they were scarcely noticed in Wilmington.

The sound and shock of these explosions must be strikingly similar to those of an earthquake. A few years since—it was on the very day that Chicago was burning—a severe shock of an earthquake was felt in Wilmington, Del., and its vicinity. It is described to me, by those who experienced it, as peculiarly alarming. The concussion was terrific, shaking the houses, opening doors, disturbing furniture, and the boom of the report was exceedingly loud and startling. In an instant all instinctively sprang to their western windows, and almost at once on every accessible roof spectators were gazing toward the northwest, the direction in which the Dupont powder-works are situated. The universal impression was, that there had been an explosion of unusual violence at those works. It was only when, after a time, no column of smoke was seen to rise, that any other explanation was suggested. The noise and the concussion were precisely like what had often been heard before on such an occasion.

The pervasive character of the sound and the shock in both the earthquake and the explosion of a powder-magazine are probably due to the same cause. They are propagated along the line of rocky strata. A continuous stratum of rock extends from the Brandy wine to Philadelphia and its neighborhood, and this gives an obvious explanation to the fact, to which allusion has already been made, that the detonation and concussion are heard quite as distinctly as, and sometimes more so, at a distance, than, at a point nearer at hand.

I was curious to witness the effects of an explosion at the place where it occurred, so I set out at once for it. A great concourse was thronging the avenue leading toward the powder-mills, and dotting the fields which lay between them and the city. There was no time to be lost in hiring a vehicle; so, giving some specimens of tall pedestrianism, learned of yore in the streets of New York, I was soon in advance of the crowd, and, in company with a young and wiry Scotchman, whom I could not outwalk, was over the beautiful hills and through the woods which skirt the Brandywine, and at the place.

It was difficult, indeed, as I think of it now after some years, quite impossible, to realize what had taken place not an hour before. The day was at its noon, and the lovely valley was sleeping in quiet beauty. All was perfectly still, with nothing to suggest the terrible occurrence, except it might be those two or three rounded heaps yonder, over which a white canvas sheet was thrown. Under them lay the poor mutilated remains of what a little while ago were stalwart men. It was not good for loved one or stranger to look upon them now!

What struck me more than any thing else was the peculiar air of cleanliness and order that was over the place. Every thing, trees,