Eddystone Ammunition Works Explosion

A total of 133 people were killed in the explosion, mostly women and young girls.

On that Monday, April 10th at about 9:55 a.m., “F” Building of the plant was torn apart by a terrible explosion where about 380 girls and young women were loading shells with black powder. One hundred and thirty-three persons, mostly girls, lost their lives in the explosion. The majority of the women killed worked in the loading room. The first explosion was followed by two smaller ones. Bodies were thrown in the air and some were found hundreds of yards away. The Chester Times published three extra editions the day of the explosion. At first, many thought the explosion was an act of sabotage as the United States had just entered World War 1 just days before the explosion. Fifty-five of the dead were never identified. More than 12,000 persons gathered here on the morning of April 13, 1917 for perhaps the largest funeral service in the Cemetery's history.

The unidentified dead were buried at a mass funeral service in Chester Rural Cemetery. The service was held on April 13 at 11:00 a.m. An estimated 12,000 people attended the funeral service. The Eddystone Ammunition Company paid for all the funeral services. In less then two weeks the company was back to work. The mystery of the explosion was never solved. Whether it was carelessness on the part of a worker, German sabotage or Russian sabotage, the cause never became known. Investigators later felt that the Russian, Leon Trotsky, had the plant sabotaged to prevent the shells from reaching the new government set by Kerensky, which was democratic. The Plant closed shortly after the First World War ended and remained empty for many years. In 1956, the Plant was bought by Philadelphia Electric Company and torn down for the company’s Eddystone Power Station.