The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Explosion of the America
Lloyd's Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters..., 31 Jul 1850, p. 246-47

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Explosion of the America

This afflictive event took place on Lake Erie, July 31, 1850. The head of one of the starboard boilers blew off, turning the boiler deck upside down, raising the upper deck about four feet, and making all the central part of the boat a complete wreck. As soon as the report was heard, several of the passengers jumped overboard and were not seen afterwards. Many persons were killed or wounded, of whose names an imperfect list will be found below. The names of many of the passengers were not registered.

List of Killed.— J. McLaughlin, fireman ; H. Brown, colored waiter, (he was literally torn to pieces by the pitman, a part of the steam engine ;) Joseph Stancliff, Durham, Conn. ; James Chancellor ; Charles Porter ; P. Welsh, fireman ; Wm. Terry ; M. Hagerty and James Chintstar, firemen ; Patrick Kenby, deck hand ; the third engineer, and several passengers, names unknown.

Wounded.— W. H. Burnitt, of New York, hands and arms scalded ; Jeremiah Connor, wife and five children, of Missouri ; all badly scalded ; Wm. Livas, first cook, scalded ; R. Retalie, of Whitby, Canada, do. ; Luther Kinney, of Washington, Macomb county, Michigan, do. ; an old Frenchwoman, shoe-dealer of New York, badly [p. 247] scalded ; Archibald Lindsey, steerage passenger, of Michigan, badly scalded; J. F. Lalor, L. G. Rumsey and Patrick Howley, (deck passenger,) of Cincinnati, slighly scalded ; D. E. Terry, Norwalk, O., injured by a fall ; B. Welsh, of Buflfalo, badly scalded ; J. Downing, of Albany, N. Y., slightly do. ; Dennis Warren, deck passenger, much injured ; Patrick Murphy, deck hand, do. ; Thomas Purcell, fireman, do. ; colored cook, name not known, slightly scalded.

A spectator of this disaster says, "It was a melancholy sight to go through the cabin, and see the terrible condition of the wounded. On some of them scarcely a particle of skin remained, and the flesh was frightfully burned. I have never witnessed anything to be compared with this awful catastrophe. One poor woman and all her five children were dreadfully scalded. Their sufferings cannot be imagined. The woman was perfectly exhausted with suffering, but seemed to care only for her children. One of them, a little girl, tried several times to jump overboard. Her screams were agonizing to all who heard them."

Lloyd, James T.
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Date of Publication:
31 Jul 1850
Date Of Event:
31 July1850
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.2159067471614 Longitude: -80.13427734375
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Explosion of the America
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Explosion of the America