On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 1917
HORROR IN DELAWARE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
An enormous explosion ripped through the Eddystone Ammunition Plant yesterday morning at about 10:00am. Building F of the complex was literally torn apart by the blast. At this time there are 138 known dead while hundreds of others are injured. Almost 380 women worked at the plant and it is women that make up the majority of the known dead and injured. It is estimated that 625 persons worked in Building F. As of today between 75 and 100 employees are still missing.
The plant is owned by Baldwin Locomotive and had been producing ammunition for the Entente powers. Federal agents are investigating the possibility that the explosion was the result of a bomb placed in the plant by German agents. It is thought that the first of 3 explosions occurred in an area where about 18 tons of black powder was located. The powder was used for the loading of shells. The initial explosion resulted in igniting approximately 40,000 shrapnel shells. The shrapnel did horrific injury to the workers in that area.
The sound of the blast was heard 10 miles away. The force of the explosion was so destructive that some of the dead may never be identified. Rescuers have found body parts throughout the plant’s grounds and as far away as Crum Creek. Local fire departments, police and cadets from the Pennsylvania Military Academy rushed to the scene to help (shown below). The hospitals in the area were overwhelmed so many of the injured have been taken to the 6th Regiment Armory in Chester.
By yesterday afternoon Philadelphia’s Firemen joined the rescue efforts. And doctors and nurses from this city have hurried to the hospitals in the area to assist in whatever way they can. The Red Cross, National Guard and Boy Scouts are also assisting at the site of the blast and at hospitals. Medicine, blankets, and bandages are being provided from Philadelphia hospitals. Volunteers spent yesterday and today making bandages for the terrible burns and wounds suffered by the victims. Rescuers are still searching the rubble for the dead and injured.
Even in the face of tragedy other areas of life go on. The baseball season opened today with the Phillies visiting Ebbets Field to take on the Dodgers. Grover Alexander got the win with help from the bats of Luderus and Cravath who swatted back to back home runs in the 5th. The final score was 6 to 5. The A’s opened the season at Shibe Park against the Senators. Unfortunately they came up against Walter Johnson who, even though suffering with a bad cold, held the Mackmen to just 3 hits. Washington took the opener 3 to 0.
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