Tragic Nitroglycerin accident of 1878 examined at MI Iron Industry Museum

A tragic mining-related accident that shook the city of Negaunee in 1878 will be examined by Marquette historian Bill VanKosky at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at 2 p.m.

VanKosky's presentation, ''Negaunee's Nitro-Glycerine Tragedy,'' tells the story of a surface explosion of the volatile oil, which took the lives of seven local workers. The nitroglycerin was supposed to be delivered by railcar to the Republic Mine for use as an explosive in the mine.

The accident was the result of careless handling of the nitroglycerin, which was used by underground mine blasters as a replacement for less-powerful but more stable black powder for a short time in the 1870s. Dynamite was adopted in the 1880s.

The shock from the Negaunee explosion shattered windows throughout the small mining community, knocked underground miners off their feet, radiated distant tremors, and was heard by people 10 miles away.

The program is the sixth in a seven-part Tuesday afternoon lecture series offered by the museum through mid-August. The series concludes on Tuesday, Aug. 17 with ''Copper Mining and Community Building on Lake Superior, 1840-1990'' by MTU professor Larry Lankton.

All programs are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in the museum auditorium. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. The museum entrance is located on U.S. 41E, one mile west of Junction M-35, in Negaunee Township.

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE). It overlooks the site of the Carp River Forge, a pioneer industrial site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about the afternoon program series or coming events at the museum call (906) 475-7857 or visit

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is committed to the conservation, protection, management, and accessible use and enjoyment of the state's environment, natural resources, and related economic interests for current and future generations. Learn more at

Copyright © 2010 State of Michigan

Published: Thu, Aug 5, 2010


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