The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Sat., Oct. 26, 1872

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The Explosion.
The Tug P. P. Pratt Blown up while tying at the Dock Last Evening

Last evening about three minutes after six, the tug boat P.P. Pratt exploded her boiler while lying at her dock at the foot of West Cayuga street. The shock was such as to startle our citizens, although not equal to that when the Dodge blew up in 1870. No one was killed.

The Boat.

The tug Pratt was about seven years old, and in comparatively good condition. She was owned by the estate of the late A.P. Grant, was valued at $4,000, and was considered a fair boat and good property. She has been engaged in the towing business in our harbor for some time, and was favorably known by all who had work for her to do.

Captain and Crew.

The Pratt was commanded by Mr. Worden, a gentleman and good captain: her engineer was John Donovan, her fireman Richard Jones, and the deck hand Thomas Gannin. At the time of the writing she had no cook, her crew taking their meals at the Oswego Hotel.

The Explosion.

Last evening the Pratt was tied up at about ten minutes before six, at the foot of West Cayuga street, the captain and crew going to their supper at the Hotel. At six o'clock and some three or four minutes an explosion took place which shook many of our buildings to their foundations, and rattled windows, china and glassware, all over our city.

The crew of the Pratt rushed into the street, apprehending that their tug had blown up, and hurried to the wharf. A torn and sinking hull, was that remained. Fragments of the wood work and boiler were falling all around. An instant after the explosion took place, a man came hurrying up Water street shrieking and crying, "my head is all blown off!" Upon examination, however, his head was found to be all right.

It was a narrow escape however, as he had stood upon the dock but a few feet from the boat when the occurrence took place. Within ten minutes a crowd had gathered near the scene of the explosion and many and various were the opinions given as to the cause of the affair. It seemed to be however inexplicable.

The captain and engineer both claim that the boat was in good order when left. That she had but some seventy pounds of steam on, water well up and furnace door open.

This spring the boiler stood the Government test, which we think is one hundred and forty five pounds, cold pressure. She was allowed to carry ninety six pounds, and as before stated, she had but seventy pounds on when she blew up. That the statement of her engineer is correct, cannot be doubted. The mate of the schooner M. Drayton also confirms his statement that the furnace door having been left open, the mate having been on board of the tug after the crew had left her, and noticed the open furnace door. These facts are therefore undeniable, and leave the cause of the explosion in obscurity.


No one was severely injured by the accident, although the mate of the schooner Drayton, previously spoken of, was slightly hurt by a piece of wood which struck him.

The effect of the jar, occasioned by the explosion, upon the surrounding buildings was but trifling compared with the force of it. This may be accounted for by the fact that the greater part of the power seemed to be in an upward direction. The dome of the boiler, a cylindrical piece of iron weighing over one thousand pounds, was thrown over two blocks, alighting on West First street, in front of Blackwood's bakery, where it ground the flagging to powder, then bounded onto the very doorsteps of the aforesaid store, breaking, by its fall, every light of glass in the front windows. Other pieces of the boiler fell upon the roofs and in the streets adjacent to the place of the accident.

Doolittle Hall was hit, also Skinner's shoe store, while a large piece of wood came sweeping over the Mansard Hall block, carrying part of a chimney into the street with it.

It is certainly almost wonderful that no one was killed by the explosion, considering the time of night it was, when many people would naturally be in the streets, and also remembering the amount of debris that was falling in every direction. We heard a rumor that the smoke stack was found upon West Fifth street, but for the truth this we cannot vouch. An idea that the Government safety valve was out of order seems to be prevalent to-day.

The engine is to be taken from the hull, which lies at the foot of Cayuga Street. The contract has been given to Mr. Hunt. The wreck is probably worthless.

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Sat., Oct. 26, 1872
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Sat., Oct. 26, 1872