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Morgan Ammunition Depot Explosion: Topics in Chronicling America

On October 5, 1918, explosions rocked the Morgan Ammunition Depot, killing scores of people. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Morgan Ammunition Depot Explosion” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"12 towns shattered by Morgan explosions; populace in flight." October 5, 1918. Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, PA), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

“With scenes graphically resembling those of war-devastated France, a dozen towns in northern New Jersey were in a shattered condition this afternoon as a consequence of the munition disaster,” read the Evening Public Ledger out of Philadelphia on the night of October 5, 1918. With explosions lasting into the next morning, and fires bruning for three days, the Morgan Depot Explosion was a devastating blow to the town of Sayrevile and surrounding neighborhoods. In total, over 300 buildings were destroyed and over $18,000,000 of damage was done, while it is believed that around 100 people lost their lives. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

October 4, 1918
7:30PM
Initial explosion sparks a fire at the Gillespie Company Plant in the town of Sayreville in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Fires set off multiple explosions that devastate the plant and nearby buildings in the town.
October 5, 1918
10AM
Explosions persist until the following morning. It was believed that there were over 12 subsequent explosions.
October 5, 1918 The cities of Sayreville, South Amboy, and Perth Amboy were evacuated and a radius of over 10 miles around the plant was deemed unsafe. The fires burn into the next day. US Coast Guardsmen that were stationed nearby were called in to aid in rescue operations.