Washburn ‘A’ Mill Explosion
On May 2, 1878, the Washburn ‘A’ Mill — the largest flour mill in the United States at that time — exploded. The mill exploded when flour dust in the air inside it ignited. The explosion claimed 18 lives, decimated the surrounding area, and brought instant notoriety to Minneapolis. The tragic explosion led to reforms in the milling industry. Ventilation systems and other precautionary devices were devised in order to prevent further tragedy.
GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:
- The Dust Explosions at Minneapolis, May 2, 1878, and Other Dust
Explosions, by Stephen F. Peckham.
[New York: s.n., 1908].
Reprinted from The Chemical Engineer.
MHS call number: TS2149.D9 P4.
- "Explosion of the Washburn ‘A’ Mill, May 2, 1878."
In Eventually News, vol. 1, no. 27 (Apr. 28, 1920): pp. 1-7, 12.
MHS call number: Folio TS2149.D9 W38 1920.
- "The Great Mill Explosion and Fire of 1878."
In Hennepin County History, vol. 16-2, no. 62 (Apr. 1956): pp. 9-10.
MHS call number: Reading Room F612.H52 H4 v.16:62.
- "'The Minneapolis Horror': The Great Mill Explosion of 1878,"
by Robert M. Frame.
In Old Mill News, vol. 9, no. 1 (Jan. 1981): pp. 8-11.
MHS call number: TS2149.D9 F72.
- The Washburn Mill: A Complete Solution of the Mysterious Causes
, by R.J. Taylor.
Minneapolis, Minn.: s.n., 1880.
MHS call number: TS2149.D9 T24.
- Edwin H. Brown and Family Papers.
Family papers document many aspects of the lives of members of the Brown, Hall, and Christian families, including the Minneapolis flour milling industry (1860s-1870s), especially the Washburn ‘A’ Mill explosion in 1878.
MHS call number: P1455 and M600; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks — filed under P1455 for the original documents and M600 for the microfilm — for a detailed list (there are 3 boxes plus 1 oversize folder of original documents or 1 reel of microfilm), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
Note: Microfilm may be borrowed on Inter-library Loan.
- William De la Barre Papers.
Papers relating to De la Barre, an engineer who was employed by Minneapolis waterpower owners and grain millers. There is information in the collection on the explosion of the Washburn ‘A’ mill in Minneapolis 1878.
MHS call number: A/.D332; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there is only 1 box of material).
- Curtis H. Pettit Papers.
This archival collection contains business records of this Minneapolis merchant, miller, and dealer in real estate, including a record book of the trustees of the Mill Disaster Relief Fund of Minneapolis, 1878.
MHS call number: A/.P511; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 2 boxes of material, but not all relate to this topic).
- Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
- Minneapolis Tribune
- St. Paul Pioneer Press
- St. Paul Dispatch
- Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
- Check the library catalog for other materials.
- Visit the Mill City Museum, built within the ruins of the Washburn ‘A’ Mill, a National Historic Landmark.