James B. Wise, a Watertown industrialist, operated a brass factory which made plumbing fixtures. He died on June 7, 1916 in Atlantic City, NJ. Prior to his death, he had formed the J. B. Wise Ammunition Company tor the manufacture of munitions. Prior to America's involvement in the War, factories in the U.S. provided munitions to both sides in the war. It was reported in news accounts of the day that the Wise factory was capable of providing rifle cartridges for both Serbia and Austria.

JB_Wise_Ammo_Foundry.jpgThe Wise plant on Mill Street manufactured artillery shells providing hundreds of good paying jobs for local men and women.
Although the War ended with the November 11, 1918 Armistice, the Wise Company still had orders to fill before their contracts expired, necessitating production even on that Christmas Eve..

On the afternoon of Tuesday, December 24, 1918, a small building used for loading shells was racked with the explosion of dozens of shells, killing 6 and injuring 19 workers. The dead included Mrs. Ruby Allen, Miss Rita Kirkpatrick, E..E. Larabay, Alfred Marculler, and brothers, Wesley and William Black. There had been 20 women and 5 men in the building when a primer cap exploded, setting off a barrage of shell explosions that wrecked the building, shattered windows throughout the neighborhood, and brought a dismal mood to the Christmas season in Watertown.
The City Coroner ruled that the explosion had been caused when a primer became jammed into the roller, and Larabay had attempted to extract it when it exploded, starting a chair reaction of shell explosions resulting in the fatalities. It was the final ruling for the Coroner, whose position had been scheduled to be abolished on December 31.


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Disasters and Catastrophes

  • watertown_munitions_explosion_christmas_eve_1918.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/12/06 17:17
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