|Harwick Coal Mine Explosion
January 25, 1904
An explosion occurred at the Harwick Coal Mine, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on a bitter cold January 25, 1904, morning. It was so cold that ice had formed in the mine's air intake tunnel, greatly reducing, if not cutting off, the air flow in the mine. Methane gas built up in areas of the mine because of the poor airflow. At 8:15 a.m., an improperly placed charge of black powder ignited a pocket of gas. The gas exploded, causing coal dust from the walls and floors of the mine to become airborne. The suspended coal dust also exploded, causing a chain reaction of explosions and fire to spread with ferocious velocity throughout the mine. It took only seconds to involve the entire mine. The cages were blown out of the mine shaft. A mule that had been at the bottom of the shaft was caught by the force of the explosion and blown 300 feet out of the mine. The blast killed 177 men - 121 of whom were identified, and 56 of whom were not. The youngest victim was 15 years old. Two rescuers were also killed while searching for victims. They were in separate parts of the mine and had each been overcome by gasses.