One hundred years ago today, more than 130 people—mostly young women and girls—were killed in a series of explosions at the Eddystone Ammunition Corporation's loading and inspecting plant in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. I wrote about the disaster for Looking Back in the current issue of NFPA Journal.
Firefighters from six communities, including Philadelphia, responded to the blasts, and many were injured at the scene, including one whose leg was shot off by shrapnel.
In the wake of the tragedy, officials from the corporation told the press they were sure the blasts were "the act of some maliciously inclined person or persons." Since the explosions occurred less than a week after the United States entered World War I, many speculated German spies were responsible. A later and more likely theory, however, placed blame on faulty equipment in the factory.