; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, June 30, 2016

July 4th...Not For the Meek of Heart

The July 4th holiday has been filled with mayhem and horror, as described in these vintage newspaper accounts:

The Bryan [TX] Morning Eagle on July 7, 1907:

Pittsburg, July 5.--All records for fatalities following the celebration of Independence day were broken this year. Up to 10 o'clock Friday fifteen violent deaths were reported to coroner's office, while the number of injured is three-score. This list of dead, which were compiled from cases reported at the coroner's office and morgues from Wednesday night until Friday morning, includes two alleged murders and one suicide, besides numerous accidental deaths. It is said many of the injured will die.

New York, July 5.--Distressed by the noises of the Fourth of July celebration Mrs. Johanna Everett, a widow, hanged herself from a bedpost in her home at Jersey City. Mrs. Everett suffered from ill health and she complained she could not stand the noise of exploding fireworks.

St. Joseph, Mo., July 5.--Theresa Goodman, aged seven, died in convulsions caused by Fourth of July explosions. She was in a weakened condition as the result of diphtheria, from which she was recovering. The discharge of blank cartridges near a window threw her into convulsions.

The Bendigo Advertiser on August 15, 1908:

New York, 3rd July. A terrible explosion of fireworks, which brought instant death to six young men and one boy, and fearful injuries to a score of others, ushered in America's great national celebration of the Fourth of July. To-morrow is the one day of the year when all Americans go patriotically insane. They spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on pyrotechnic displays, and each year the Fourth of July list of fatalities exceeds the carnage of a first-class battle.

A large firework store in Cleveland (Ohio) was crowded at noon to-day by youthful purchasers, when a number of rockets exploded, setting fire to the entire contents of the shop. A scene of indescribable horror ensued, customers and shop assistants making one wild rush amid a thousand whizzing squibs, roman candles, and catherine wheels in the effort to escape. Many reached the lift in safety: others fled downstairs and reached the street, to find the building a roaring furnace.

But scores were left behind, and so intense was the panic that before the firemen spread their nets people began to jump to the pavements from the second story windows. Outside an immense concourse of frantic parents quickly gathered, impeding the efforts of the brigade, who only after considerable delay succeeded in placing their ladders. Five firemen were seriously injured by the bursting of fireworks. When the conflagration was extinguished seven bodies were discovered in the ruins.

The London Evening Telegraph on July 7, 1909:

New York, Tuesday. Details of further Fourth of July accidents have been received. In Camden, New Jersey, the saddest of the tragedies occurred. A woman and a baby in her arms were killed, the top of a boy's head was blown off, and a man was probably mortally wounded by the explosion of a cannon at a fireworks display attended by 5000 people. Mrs. Anna Hebel, of Camden, and her six weeks-old child were the two killed; Chas. Mullion (17) is the boy fatally injured; and George Hauser, who fired the cannon, was badly hurt. The cannon shooting had been planned as a surprise. It was a three-pounder, with a barrel three feet long and a bore of three inches, and it had been loaded with three pounds of gunpowder. It stood in a roped-off space in front of the crowd, and Mrs. Hebel sat, with hundreds of others, just behind the rope. Mullion sat behind her, and Hauser was standing front of it. Everybody was watching the ascent of the fire balloon when the cannon burst. It threw pieces of iron weighing a pound for half-a-mile. The fete was arranged under the auspices of the Camden Association of Patriots and Loyal Friends of Enterprise.

The Royal Cornwall Gazette on August 23, 1878:

A very sad tragedy occurred at Avondale, Ohio, on the 4th of July. The Cincinnati Gazette says : — The sad death of Miss Lida Hutton has cast a gloom over the entire village, where she was beloved and respected. She lived with her widowed sister, Mrs. Wells, on Glenwood Avenue, in a handsome cottage at the end of the road. The fourth had been spent pleasantly at home, in a quiet way. About 7 o'clock in the evening Mrs. Wells started with Miss Hutton to go over to Mr. Kellogg's to see the fireworks. As they got to their front door Miss Hutton suggested that it was yet early and they had better sit down until it got darker. Accordingly they sat down on the front porch, Miss Hutton, taking a rocking chair, sat facing Mrs. Wells. Suddenly Miss Hutton threw up her arms and said, "I'm struck!" With that she lowered both arms and commenced to unfasten her dress at the neck. When Mrs. Wells saw her attempt to unfasten her dress she screamed and caught Miss Hutton, supposing she was attacked with heart disease or something of the kind. Many of the neighbours came in and offered their assistance. They removed the body upstairs and laid it on a bed. One of the ladies who had helped to carry it discovered blood on her hand and on examination the wound was found. The ball entered near the shoulder on the back and passed diagonally through to the other side, cutting in its way the heart. There had been several shots fired in the neighbourhood just before the fatal accident, but several persons in the immediate vicinity say that for some moments before Miss Hutton was shot no report was heard, nor, in fact, was the one that killed her heard. The porch stands back some seventy-five feet from the road, and in front of the house is a large lawn. No one was in the immediate vicinity, and the only theory is that the fatal shot came from a rifle in the hands of some reckless person, at present unknown.— New York Herald.

The San Francisco Call on June 28, 1904:

Philadelphia. June 27.--Dr. Benjamin Lee, secretary of the Board of Health, has sent to the authorities of every town in the State statistics intended as a warning against the use of the toy pistol.

It is asserted that on the last Fourth of July there were sacrificed "on the altar of a lawless and spurious patriotism" a greater number of victims than have been slain in any of the battles in the Far East or than were drowned or burned in the Slocum tragedy in the harbor of New York.

The total number of casualties in the United States on July 4, 1903, was 4249.

The Aberdeen Journal on July 6, 1927:

New York, Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands who deserted New York for the country over the Fourth of July Holiday, began arriving this morning by train and motor car from all parts of the country. The usual number of casualties are reported a result fireworks, and altogether nearly persons, mostly children, have died in consequence of burns and other injuries directly traceable to ubiquitous fire-crackers. More than a hundred were injured in Washington alone, while at Milwaukee 1200 persons were arrested by the police for violation of the city regulations governing the use of fireworks. In the forest reserve near Des Plaines, Illinois, a premature explosion of a rocket set off a huge pile of fireworks, and some children were injured by being trampled upon in the general stampede to flee from the rain of fire. At the Westchester Baltimore Country Club, near New York, where nearly 600 people were dining on the Terrace, a large box of fireworks under one of the tables suddenly went off, and the hissing rockets and spluttering crackers, which flew in all directions among the assembled diners, provided a distinctly original contribution to the evening's amusement.

The Illustrated Police News on July 16, 1892:

A balloon ascent which took place at Boston in connection with the festivities on the occasion of Independence Day had a fatal termination, two persons being killed outright and a third seriously injured. The balloon, after ascending to a considerable altitude, rapidly went in the direction of the sea, whereupon Mr. Rogers, who was in charge, attempted to open the valve. In doing so, however, he made a rent in the silk, thus permitting the gas to escape, and causing the balloon to descend with terrific velocity. It finally struck the water, and collapsed. Mr. Rogers was almost instantly killed, and sank immediately, and his assistant, Mr. Fenton, was so badly injured that he died before he could be conveyed to the city by a tug, which happened to be in the vicinity when the balloon fell. Mr. Goldsmith, a reporter, sustained a severe shock and inhaled a quantity of gas, and is now in hospital. The other passengers were rescued by the tug.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper on July 13, 1890:

Saginaw, Michigan. Saturday.-The Kinney hotel in this city was set on fire yesterday during the firework display of the fourth of July celebration., A package of fire-crackers exploded in the bedroom occupied by James Henham, 28 years old, a guest, who had registered as coming from Montreal. The fire spread so rapidly that Henham was burned to death, and four other persons who were in adjoining rooms were severely injured while escaping from the flames. The loss is estimated at over thirty-five thousand dollars.


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