Researching the Greenwood Delaware Disaster of 1903

Recently I have been doing research on a deadly Delaware tragedy that spurred a vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad to push for national safety transportation regulations.  Following a number of accidents involving powerful explosives, including a catastrophic one in Greenwood, DE, the Bureau of Explosives was created under the American Railway Association.

The Sussex County disaster occurred over a hundred years ago, December 2, 1903.  In the midst of a blinding snow storm two trains collided in the center of the town of 367 people.  One pulling a lethal cargo of dynamite and naphtha exploded, the blast and fire severely damaging the Sussex County community.

Since I have been searching for photographs, maps, and other sources, here is some additional material that has been located:

Click here to read a narrative about the disaster.

This is a post about the research process and going about finding material on the incident.

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Scenes from the destruction in the vicinity of the railroad junction in Greenwood. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 4, 1903

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Dr. Johnson’s home and barn. His horse was trapped in the barn and died during the blaze. source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 4, 1904

One of the Locomotives.  Source:  Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 4, 1903

One of the Locomotives. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 4, 1903

This is a Sanborn Map of 1924, some 20 years after the incident.  It is the only detailed map of Greenwood I have located thus far and was the only series Sanborn published for the town.  source:  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1924.

This is a Sanborn Map of 1924, some 20 years after the incident. It is the only detailed map of Greenwood I have located thus far and was the only series Sanborn published for the town. source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1924.

One of the pages of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1929. Source:  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1924

One of the pages of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1929.
Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1924

The Delaware State Gazeteer for 1874 describes the village a number of decades before the accident.  Source:  Delaware state Gazetteer 1874 via Google Books

The Delaware State Gazeteer for 1874 describes the village a number of decades before the accident. Source: Delaware state Gazetteer 1874 via Google Books

The Delaware State Gazetteer, 1874.  source:  Google Books

The Delaware State Gazetteer, 1874. source: Google Books

Philadelphia Inquirer report on the extent of the disaster.  source:  Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 5, 1903

Philadelphia Inquirer report on the extent of the disaster. source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 5, 1903

A report on the extent of the damage.  Source:  Philadelphia Inquirer.  Dec. 5, 1903

A report on the extent of the damage. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer. Dec. 5, 1903

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2 Responses to Researching the Greenwood Delaware Disaster of 1903

  1. Sherry says:

    If I’m not mistaken greenwood also endured a catastrophic flood also I could be wrong but I think cafe tamburelli in greenwood has some pictures of it

    • Kelly Willey says:

      That is correct Cafe Tamburelli does have pictures from the flood. Thanks for sharing this article I live in Greenwood. Born in raised in Harrington but my father and husbands family was from Greenwood.

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