Allegheny Arsenal blast gets detailed look on 150th anniversary
By Kellie B. Gormly
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
Some events are planned this week to commemorate the 150th anniversary to one of Pittsburgh's most tragic events and unsolved mysteries: the Allegheny Arsenal explosion, which happened on the same day as the Civil War's Battle of Antietam in Maryland.
Several explosions happened the afternoon of Sept. 17, 1862, at the Allegheny Arsenal in Lawrenceville, where many women and girls worked to make gunpowder cartridges, munitions and supplies for the Union Army. Investigators could not determine the cause of the explosion, which killed 78 workers. Theories abound, including a Confederate sabotage, static electricity from young girls' hoop skirts, or a horseshoe scraping the gunpowder-covered cobblestone streets. The tragedy was the worst civilian disaster during the Civil War.
The Senator John Heinz History Center on Saturday will host “Cold Case: Explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal” with the forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. He and other historians and forensic experts will discuss the case from 1 to 3 p.m., and center visitors will serve as the “jury” and use the evidence to rule on what caused the arsenal explosion. The event is included with regular admission of $10; $9 for age 62 and older, and $5 for students and ages 6 to 17. Details: 412-454-6000 or www.heinzhistorycenter.org
On Sunday at the actual Arsenal Park on 40th street, the Lawrenceville Historical Society and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will offer a series of programs. At 11 a.m., authors Tom Powers and Jim Wudarczyk will present a Power Point lecture about the explosions.
Demonstrations will be performed from 12:30 to 1 p.m., and 2:30 to 3 p.m. Music will be performed from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and 3 and 4 p.m. Events are free, and food will be sold.
At noon, Mary Frailey Calland — a Pittsburgh lawyer and author of “Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North” — will present “The Arsenal Girls: A Tribute to the Victims of the Allegheny Arsenal Explosion.” Students from the CLO Academy of Musical Theater will portray three of the actual arsenal girls, two of whom survived. An actor will portray Alexander McBride, the superintendent of the arsenal laboratory who attempted to rescue some of the girls and lost his daughter — Kate, 15 — in the blast. Details: 412-235-1950
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7824.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt QB Savage turns down NYC invite to NFL Draft
- Mail for IRS delivered to Squirrel Hill home
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Suspicious device removed from Larimer house
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- York teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- ‘We Are FR’ fund going strong
- Bridgeville music center-sponsored brass camp trumpets value of practice
- Indiana County chase ends with car in pond
- Hempfield native, 22, publishes with local independent press