Tri-Nitro-Glycerine as Applied in the Hoosac Tunnel Submarine Blasting
George M. Mowbray
Library of Alexandria
The city of New York was startled one fine Sunday morning (1865) by an explosion in Greenwich Street, opposite the Wyoming Hotel, the windows of every house within one hundred yards of the entrance to the Wyoming Hotel were shattered, pedestrians were thrown down, and the pavement broken up. A few minutes previous to the explosion, one of the guests in the hotel had been engaged polishing his boots; for this purpose he had drawn from under the counter of the hotel office a small box, on which he had rested his foot; noticing a reddish vapor emanating from there, he drew the attention of the hotel clerk to it, who taking the box in his hands made his way to the front door and threw it into the gutter, whereupon explosion instantly followed. An investigation of the circumstances connected with the storage of this box, developed the following facts: Some time previously a passenger from Germany who had occupied a room at the hotel, being unsuccessful in obtaining employment had left it as security for his board, stating that it was Glonoin Oil, a new material that had been used in Germany for blasting purposes with great success, that he, the passenger, had been entrusted with an agency for introducing the same to miners and others, but had failed to get it introduced into use; undoubtedly the box contained Nitro-Glycerin, manufactured by the Nobel Brothers, who had a manufactory where this explosive was compounded, at Hamburgh. In the early part of the year 1866 this substance was again a prominent subject of discussion, owing to an explosion which was attended with the burning and ultimate destruction of the steamer “European,” one of the West India mail packets, while she was lying at the railway wharf of Colon or Aspinwall, on the Atlantic side of the isthmus of Panama. Knowing that Nitro-Glycerin was on board under the name of “glonvene” or “glonoin oil,” on its way to the gold mining districts of the North American Pacific States, as an explosive or blasting agent, it was concluded that the explosion was due to this substance. Unfortunately, forty-seven persons were either killed at the time of the explosion or died shortly afterward from the injuries they sustained. Immediately succeeding this accident another explosion occurred in the office of Wells, Fargo & Co., in San Francisco, by which eight persons lost their lives. The damages by the explosion on board the “European” were estimated at one million dollars, for the vessel, built of iron and of unusual strength, was destroyed, and the pier with an upper railroad track for unloading cargo, and warehouses for storing freight, were completely wrecked. The San Francisco explosion involved a further loss of a quarter million dollars.