“Tester of Explosives Injured”

Straughn James F Photo (3)
Frank Straughen, ca. 1922

My 2nd great-grandfather, James Franklin Straughen, had many occupations during his lifetime from fisherman to carpenter and more. In 1903, he was working as a gunpowder tester at the DuPont munitions factory at Carney’s Point, New Jersey. In 1903, Frank was 39 years old and had four children, who ranged in age from 13 years to 1 month old.

On October 7, 1903, a man arrived at the factory with a gunpowder that he claimed to have just invented. Telling the employees that he did not have equipment to test the powder himself, he asked them to test it for him. Frank prepared two shells with the powder and loaded them, not the wisest decision he would make that day.

The gun exploded in Frank’s hands and a piece of the shell casting lodged in his arm. The paper reports only that he was “painfully but not dangerously injured”. However, my mother says the family story goes that Frank was out of work for months while he recovered from the injury.

Of course, the wacky inventor didn’t stick around to answer for his creation, he made off with the remaining shell!

Straughn 1903 Newspaper J Frank The_Philadelphia_Inquirer_Thu__Oct_8__1903_
Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 Oct 1903
Straughen 1903 J Frank The_Monmouth_Inquirer_Thu__Oct_22__1903_p4
The Monmouth Inquirer, 22 Oct 1903, p. 4


3 thoughts on ““Tester of Explosives Injured”

Add yours

  1. Thanks Ellen. Like Uncle Jim, I had not heard this one but do remember hearing about the later DuPont explosion where James Franklin Straughen was seriously injured and others died due to toxic gas.

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