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Title: Dynamite Stories - and some interesting facts about explosives
Author: Maxim, Hudson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive)





  Author of "Defenseless America," "The Science
  of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language," etc.



  Copyright, 1916, by

  _All rights reserved, including that of translation into the foreign
  languages, including the Scandinavian_



To the actors in the comedies and tragedies of real life presented in
these stories, without whose efforts and sacrifices the stories could
not have been so interesting and true, this volume is with grateful
acknowledgments most respectfully dedicated. As the parts played by the
actors were not rehearsed, the performances have required a little
retouching in the interest of the reader, the author having subordinated
history to story rather than story to history.




  INTRODUCTION                                   1



  THE POET'S UPLIFT                             34


  FOOLHARDY KRUGER                              42

  DISCHARGING PAT                               45

  LINES TO A LADY                               47

  HE SEPARATED                                  50

  THE WELL-DIGGER'S CASUALTIES                  53

  THE RIVAL EDITORS                             55

  THE PASSING OF "JEOPARDY"                     58

  THE INVOLUNTARY ATTACK                        59

  HOIST WITH HIS OWN PETARD                     62

  THE FORGOTTEN PRECAUTION                      64

  THE FATAL HAT                                 67

  A DROP TOO MUCH                               68

  A CLOSE CALL                                  70

  A PICKANINNY'S TREASURE TROVE                 72

  NOT TO BE BUNCOED                             73

  SIR FREDERICK'S BONFIRE                       76

  THE IRREVERENT NATIVE                         79

  AT FOLLY'S MERCY                              80

  THE WATCHMAN'S DOUBLE VISION                  82

  THE ZEALOUS FOOL                              84

  SOME LIVELY COTTON WASTE                      87

  SAVING TIME                                   88

  THE BROKEN SCALE                              90

  ENGLISHMAN                                    92

  THE MATCH AT THE PEEP-HOLE                    94

  THE FLASK OF LIQUOR                           96

  IMPERTINENCE PUNISHED                         97

  CURIOSITY'S UPLIFT                            99

  PROUD EVEN UNTO DEATH                        101

  THE DOG THAT ATE DYNAMITE                    104

  INSECURE SECURITY                            106

  THE LOADED CHINAMAN                          108

  LIVING BOMBS                                 110

  SHIPS THAT PASSED IN THE NIGHT               112

  A WILD PROJECTILE                            114

  THE BOMB AND THE TRAIN                       115

  THE MISSING VESSEL                           117

  THE DRUNKEN MESSENGER                        118

  NITROGLYCERIN BY AUTOMOBILE                  122

  THE JETS OF BLUE                             127

  THE WISDOM OF RETREAT                        129

  THE RACE WITH DEATH                          131

  THE INDOMITABLE POET                         134

  SCATTERED                                    136

  A LIVELY DEAD ONE                            138


  THE MULE GUN                                 152

  HOW GUSSIE GOT LOADED                        154

  DYNAMITE'S FREAK                             155

  EXPLOSIVE VAGARIES                           157

  THE TURKEY THAT WENT TO BED                  160

  BILL BENNETT, DETECTIVE                      162

  WINNING THE OX                               164

  A DUEL TO THE DEATH                          166

  THE BEWITCHED FLINTLOCK                      168

  WHEN HE SHIRKED                              171

  THE ELEVATION OF WOMANHOOD                   173

  DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS LOADED                    178

  THE WRONG TAP                                180

  "WHENCE ALL BUT HIM HAD FLED"                182

  BREAKING HIS NERVE                           184

  THE GRIZZLY CANNON BALL                      186


  CHINESE FIREWORKS                            190

  BROWN, THE GUNNER                            193


  WHEN THE WASH VANISHED                       207

  THE FRIGHTENED FISHERMAN                     211

  THE COLONEL WAS PROVOKED                     213

  WHEN THE DARKIES TURNED PALE                 215

  THE DOG THAT WAS A REAL MASCOT               218

  WEARY WILLIE'S DISCOMFITURE                  220

  LO, THE POOR INDIAN!                         224




An explosive material consists of a combustible and of an oxidizing
agent for burning the combustible. Hence it contains within its own
substance the necessary oxygen for its combustion, so that it will burn
without atmospheric air and therefore in a confined space.

There are two main kinds of explosive materials--high explosives and
gunpowder. There are also two mains kinds of high explosives--dynamites
and military high explosives. Lastly there are two mains kinds of
gunpowders--black, smoky gunpowder and smokeless gunpowder.

Dynamite is used mostly for commercial blasting purposes, such as
blasting rock in the construction of railways, and so forth. Military
high explosives are mostly employed for submarine mines, warheads for
torpedoes, and as bursting charges for high explosive projectiles.

A high explosive is consumed almost instantly by what is called a
detonative wave; hence it is said to detonate. When gunpowder explodes,
it is not consumed by a detonative wave, but burns from the surface, and
the more strongly it is confined, that is to say, the higher the
pressure under which it is burned, the more rapid is its combustion.
Although the action is rapid, it is yet much slower than is the action
of detonation of high explosives.

The name gunpowder is a misnomer, for gunpowder is no longer a powder,
but is made in the form of hard and dense grains or sticks, according to
the use for which it is intended.

A gunpowder is smoky when its products of combustion are not all
gaseous. Only about forty-four per cent. of the products of combustion
of black gunpowder is gaseous. The rest is inert solid matter, which
makes the smoke.

The products of combustion of smokeless powder, however, are
practically all gaseous. Consequently, weight for weight, it is much
more powerful than black powder.

Black gunpowder is a mechanical mixture of charcoal, sulphur and
saltpeter, the charcoal and sulphur being the combustible elements, and
the saltpeter the oxidizing element or the element that supplies the

In smokeless powder the oxygen is held in chemical union with nitrogen
and hydrogen, but the bond between the nitrogen and the other elements
is weak, so that when ignited the other more active elements are enabled
easily to unite at the expense of the nitrogen.

In the combustion of all explosive materials, great heat is generated,
and the force of the explosion is dependent upon the volume of gases and
the high temperature to which they are raised.

The smokeless powder used in the United States is made by dissolving a
special kind of guncotton or nitrocellulose in ether and alcohol, just
sufficient of the solvent being used to gelatinate the nitrocellulose,
which is then stuffed through a forming die into rods. The rods are cut
into sections of about three diameters long. The die, the invention of
the writer, contains seven mandrels arranged in such wise that when the
material is forced through the die the bar is multi-perforated with
seven holes at equal distances apart. The grains or rods of smokeless
powder are then dried for use.

When burned in a cannon, all of the surfaces of the material are
practically instantly ignited by a small flash charge of black rifle
powder used for the purpose of setting fire to the charge of smokeless
powder. The combustion in the perforations causes them to become larger
and larger until the grain is all consumed. This form of grain tends
better to maintain the pressure behind the projectile in its flight
through the gun, and enables the use of larger charges of powder with
lower pressures than could otherwise be employed. In fact, it would be
impossible to use a smokeless powder made of pure nitrocellulose in big
guns without the multi-perforations.

In certain European countries where the multi-perforated powder has not
been adopted, nitroglycerin is employed, combined with the
nitrocellulose, which causes the material to burn through a greater
thickness in a given time. Thus a smokeless powder may be made without
the multi-perforations, but smokeless powders containing nitroglycerin
erode the guns and destroy them very quickly, while guns employing pure
nitrocellulose smokeless powders last much longer.

When one of our big army or navy cannon is fired, the time which elapses
from the instant of complete ignition of the powder charge to the
instant that the projectile leaves the muzzle of the gun is about the
fiftieth or the sixtieth of a second, and in that time the hard and
horn-like smokeless powder material is burned through only about a
sixteenth of an inch; hence the rate of combustion or rate of explosion
of smokeless powder in a cannon is about four inches per second, while
it has been ascertained by actual experiments that the rate of
combustion or rate of explosion of dynamite and other high explosives is
about four miles per second, so that the rate of consumption of
smokeless powder, as compared to that of a high explosive, is as are
four inches to four miles.

As the time required for the projectile to be thrown from a twelve-inch
cannon is only about the sixtieth of a second, sixty of these huge guns
could be placed side by side and fired by electricity one after the
other, while grandfather's clock is making but one tick.

Our ideas of duration are but relative. We have seen that the combustion
in a cannon, though very rapid to our senses, is actually very slow
indeed as compared with the much more rapid combustion of a high
explosive; and great as is the speed of the detonative wave, yet the
speed of the earth in its orbit is four times as great.

If a celestial giant with a huge dynamite bomb the size of the earth
itself were to approach the earth in its flight through space, and
detonate the bomb immediately behind the earth, it would take half an
hour for the bomb to explode, that is to say, it would take half an
hour, or thirty minutes, for the explosive wave to pass through the
eight thousand miles of its diameter. As the speed of the earth in its
orbit is four times as great as that of the explosive wave, the earth
would rush away, leaving the bomb about thirty thousand miles behind by
the time it had completely exploded. If the interstellar ether were a
high explosive mixture and were to be set off by the bomb, the earth
would pass on clear around the sun, and while coming back, about six
months later, would meet the explosive wave still going. It would
require nearly a year for such a detonative wave to reach our sun from
the earth.

We have seen that if the earth were a ball of dynamite, it would require
half an hour to explode. If the sun were a mass of dynamite it would
require about two and a half days to explode.

We frequently hear the theory advanced that planets and suns sometimes
explode from pent-up forces within them, and that our earth might
possibly blow up. Now, the force exerted by a high explosive is
dependent entirely upon the pressure capable of being exerted by the
gases liberated by the explosion. The pressure exerted by the most
powerful high explosives has been estimated to be about 500,000 pounds
to the square inch. Consequently, were the whole molten interior of the
earth to be replaced with dynamite and detonated, the explosion that
would follow would not lift the earth's crust. The superincumbent
weight of the earth's crust is greater than would be the pressure
exerted by the dynamite.

If it were possible to throw a projectile from the earth to the nearest
fixed star, Alpha Centauri, it would take about four years for the light
of the flash to reach that star. The sound, if it could travel through
ether, would reach there about four million years later. The projectile,
traveling more than twice as fast as sound, would reach there in about
two million years.

When one of our big twelve-inch cannon is fired, the projectile,
weighing a thousand pounds, has a muzzle energy, stated in mechanical
terms, of about 50,000 foot tons, that is to say, its energy is equal to
50,000 tons falling from a height of one foot--energy enough to lift two
25,000-ton battleships to the height of a foot.

As the projectile weighs half a ton, the energy is equal to that which
would be developed by dropping the projectile from a height of more than
twenty miles, making no account of the resistance of the atmosphere.

Dropping upon a piece of armorplate too hard and thick for the
projectile to penetrate, the heat developed would be sufficient to melt
750 pounds of cast iron.

When one of these projectiles is fired from the gun directly against
twelve-inch armorplate, which the projectile is capable of penetrating,
the hard-tempered steel plate in front of the projectile is fuzed or
rendered plastic from the heat generated by the energy of the impact,
and is forced like wax from the path of the projectile.

There are many popular errors regarding the action of explosive
materials. One of the most notable is the opinion that the action of
dynamite is downward, and that if a body of high explosive be detonated
on the surface of the earth the main effect is downward.

The exact opposite is the truth. When a mass of explosive is detonated,
it is converted practically instantly into a ball of incandescent gases
and vapors under very high pressure. When confined the gases act to
disrupt their container.

When a large steel projectile is charged with a high explosive, like
picric acid, and the explosive detonated, the walls of the projectile
are not only broken but they are also torn, twisted and shredded, and so
quick is the action that the inner surface of the metal is compressed
and densified against the outer metal.

For this reason it is easy to tell from the character of the fragments
of a projectile whether or not a high explosive or an explosive of
inferior power was employed, that is to say, whether or not the
explosion was of high order or of low order.

There is one false belief about the action of high explosives that has
been about the hardest of any to kill, and the cost of killing it has
been very expensive. Furthermore, it possesses more lives than the
proverbial nine-lived cat. This belief is that five hundred pounds or so
of dynamite exploded upon a warship or upon coast fortifications would
destroy ship or fortifications, and that a few of such large bombs of
dynamite dropped in a city would lay the city in, ruins.

Upon the advent of the aeroplane and the dirigible balloon, it was
confidently believed that the aerial bomb would quickly become the most
destructive implement of warfare. It was prophesied that should war
come between England and Germany, London would soon be reduced to a heap
of ruins by bombs dropped from the German Zeppelins.

Several years before the European War broke out, I predicted that
Zeppelin bombs would not and could not by any possibility work very wide
destruction, and events have since vindicated my prediction. I pointed
out the fact that should a hundred Zeppelins visit the city of London,
once a day, for a year, returning to their base without mishap, and each
Zeppelin succeed in destroying two buildings, the destruction would just
about keep up with the growth of that city, for they build in London
sixty thousand houses a year.

We all remember the destructive powers that were predicted for the
fifteen-inch Zalinski pneumatic dynamite guns that were mounted at Sandy
Hook and at San Francisco at enormous Government expense. These guns
were capable of throwing with compressed air about six hundred pounds of
nitrogelatin to a distance of from a mile-and-a-half to two miles. It
was popularly believed that one of these bombs striking upon a huge
armorclad warship would utterly destroy it.

Also two of these guns were mounted in a sort of cruiser called the
_Vesuvius_. During the Spanish War the _Vesuvius_ was taken down to
Cuba, and in one action several of the huge bombs were thrown upon the
earthworks and fortifications of the Spanish. They succeeded merely in
mussing up the green, grassy effect. They did no material damage, for
the reason that the action of the explosive was nearly all upward into
the air.

When the pneumatic dynamite gun was promulgated, it was popularly
believed that all high explosives were exceedingly sensitive, and that
it was necessary to get them out of the gun very gently if they were to
be thrown from ordnance.

The writer was the first to dispel this folly, through the invention of
Maximite, a high explosive which will stand not only the shock of being
fired from heavy guns at high velocities, but which will also, without
exploding, stand the far greater shock of penetrating the heaviest
armorplate--armorplate as heavy as the projectile will stand to pass
through without breaking up.

While I was working upon Maximite and trying to get the Government to
adopt it, Congress appropriated the money for building an eighteen-inch
gun for testing a shell invented by Louis Gathmann, which was intended
to destroy battleships by exploding the shell on the outside of their
heavy armorplate, it being believed that if five hundred pounds of
guncotton were to be fired against the side of an armored ship and
exploded, the whole side of the ship would be blown in and the vessel

The gun employed by Gathmann was essentially the same type of gun as
that previously designed by me, and explained in a lecture by me before
the Royal United Service Institution of Great Britain in 1897, and
illustrated in a book of mine published the same year by Eyre &
Spottiswoode, British Government printers, except that the bore of my
gun, which was of the same weight as that of the Gathmann gun, was
greater. With my gun, however, I proposed to throw armor-piercing
projectiles, or projectiles capable of penetrating an object struck and
exploding inside of it. I did not believe that a quantity of high
explosive that could be thrown in a shell and exploded on the outside
of a heavily armored ship would destroy it, but believed it necessary
that the explosive should penetrate and explode inside the ship, and
within earthworks and fortifications in order to destroy them.

Maximite was adopted by the United States Army in 1901. It was during
that same year that the experiments were conducted with the Gathmann
shell at Sandy Hook. I attended those experiments.

Two Kruppized armorplates, each eleven-and-a-half inches thick, sixteen
feet long, and seven-and-a-half feet wide, and each weighing 47,000
pounds, were set up, one as a target for the Gathmann shell and the
other as a target for the regular United States twelve-inch Army Rifle.
Each of the plates was backed by supports to represent the same strength
as though mounted on a battleship.

The Gathmann shell weighed about eighteen hundred pounds, and carried
about five hundred pounds of guncotton, while the Government twelve-inch
shell weighed a thousand pounds and carried only twenty-three pounds of
Maximite. The Gathmann shell had a soft nose, which collapsed on the
plate at the instant before the explosion of the shell, so that the
guncotton might explode fairly against the side of the plate.

At the first shot of the Gathmann gun, the projectile struck the plate
squarely and exploded, but the only effect upon the plate was to leave a
great yellow smudge on its face. The plate was neither cracked nor
pushed back. Several more shots of the Gathmann gun were fired, and
although, under the heavy pummeling, the plate was pushed back and
broken through, up and down, it was not otherwise injured.

Then the Government twelve-inch gun was fired at the other plate. The
first shell contained nineteen pounds of high explosive, and it passed
through the plate, leaving a clean round hole, and exploded behind the
plate without breaking it. The next shell contained twenty-three pounds
of Maximite, and the fuze was timed to go off a little quicker. This
shell exploded in the plate when about two-thirds through, with the
result that a hole was blown in the plate as big as a barrel, and the
plate shattered into fragments.

One would think that these tests would suffice forever to seal the doom
of the Gathmann type of shell. Nevertheless, it matters not what Army
and Navy officers may learn by experience, or know without experience,
Congress does not know and does not understand, and depends far more
upon think-so than upon experience. The result is that Government
officers are often compelled, as in the case of the Zalinski dynamite
gun and the Gathmann shell, to waste large sums of money while they know
very well beforehand exactly what the results will be, and that the
tests will prove the devices to be abject failures. Even after the
failure of the Gathmann shell, another shell of almost identical
conception and purpose was made and tested under a Congressional
appropriation, to be relegated to the scrap-heap of failures.

It is very fortunate that things happen to be as they are in the cosmos
and that the action of a high explosive when exploding against a massive
body is to rebound from that body on the line of least resistance. It is
for this reason that more damage is not done by great explosions.

One of the biggest explosions in the history of gunpowder manufacture
occurred at Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, on the 9th of March, 1911, when
it was estimated that a thousand tons of black blasting powder blew up.
Glass was broken over a very wide area. Some glass was broken in
Chicago, about fifty miles distant.

But neither the walls nor the foundations of buildings were greatly
disturbed even but a few miles from the explosion. In the village of
Pleasant Prairie, at a distance of but two miles, although the buildings
were very much damaged the inhabitants continued to occupy them.

Early in the morning of July 30, 1916, a very large quantity, certainly
several hundred tons, of high explosive materials blew up in New York
Harbor, not far from Ellis Island. A large quantity of shrapnel
ammunition and other ammunition went up in the blast, their fragments
raining all over the surrounding water. There was but very little loss
of life, and the actual material damage to buildings in Jersey City,
Manhattan and Brooklyn was astonishingly small, except the loss from
broken glass.

Why is it, then, that so much glass is broken and at such long
distances, while the foundations and walls of buildings suffer but
little injury? Let me explain. When a quantity of high explosive
detonates, a wave of atmospheric compression is sent outward in all
directions by the explosion. It is, in fact, a huge sound wave, and
moves exactly at the speed of sound--about eleven hundred feet per
second. Of course, buildings or other structures or objects near enough
to the explosion to be struck by the expanding gases themselves, or by
the atmosphere immediately propelled forward by them like a projectile,
may be destroyed, but the area over which this action occurs is so
circumscribed that no great damage is apt to result at distances beyond
a few hundred feet.

However, the great sound wave may travel to a distance of many miles.
Consequently, as a result of the explosion just referred to, about a
million dollars' worth of glass was broken in New York City alone. One
would naturally suppose that the fragments of window glass broken in
this manner would fall inside a building, but they do not. Almost always
they fall outside into the street. The reason for this is that the wave
of compression, striking a pane of glass, forces it inward nigh to the
breaking point, and then as the wave of compression moves on, followed
by a partial vacuum, the glass, springing outward to fill the void,
breaks, and falls into the street.

An interesting incident of this great explosion was staged at Ellis
Island. There were a goodly number of immigrants on the Island at
the time, congregated from the four corners of the earth, some of
whom had come to America to seek their fortunes in this land of
freedom-from-everything-except-freedom, but many had come to find
quiet and security from war's alarums. Few of them, indeed, had
ever felt the comfort of an overcoat, but many had dreamed of some
happy day when they would sport a veritable fur-lined overcoat.

When the great explosion came it sounded like the crack of doom, and
most of the immigrants believed it to be the real thing and proceeded
with agitated precipitation to get their souls ready for rapid transit
over the Great Divide.

All eyes naturally were averted to the celestial concave, aglare with
the great conflagration, when suddenly, to the confounding amaze of all,
a large flock of fur-lined overcoats began tumbling down out of the
heavens all over the Island. It is true they were lined merely with
sheep's fur, but even such a garment is as much the pride of the
Northern European peasant as is the broad, glad-colored sombrero the
pride of the Mexican peon.

As the Government statute books and rules and regulations governing
immigrants contain no provision for the disposal of such species of
manna as heaven-sent overcoats, the immigrants were the beneficiaries.

Great as are such explosions as that at Pleasant Prairie and that in New
York Harbor, they are but little things indeed compared with the
explosions that sometimes accompany volcanic eruptions. Mother Earth is
the greatest of all explosive manufacturers.

Water seeping down into the earth's crust and trapped in large
quantities in the neighborhood of volcanoes sometimes becomes heated to
high incandescence--heated until it is no longer water or steam, but
mingled oxygen and hydrogen, far above the temperature of their
dissociation--under a pressure so great that they occupy a space no
larger than the original water; consequently the entrapped waters exert
a pressure as great as the strongest dynamite.

The most notable volcanic explosion that ever occurred in historic time
was when that old extinct volcano, Krakatoa, in the Straits of Sunda,
that had been sleeping for thousands of years, was literally blown into
the sky by the pressure of the pent-up gases beneath it.

This great eruption occurred in 1883. More than sixty thousand persons
were killed. The captain of a tramp steamer, who happened to be passing
in the vicinity of Krakatoa at a distance of some miles, a short time
before the explosion occurred, saw a very strange disturbance in the sea
in the direction of the old mountain. Taking his glass he saw a perfect
Niagara of water pouring into an enormous fissure that had opened in the
earth. He was struck with consternation and rightly imagining that
something very serious was likely soon to happen, he put on all steam to
escape, and luckily he had reached a point which enabled him to survive
the effects of the awful blast when it came.

The vast mass of water which had tumbled into the bowels of the earth
was immediately trapped by the closing of the great fissure down which
it had poured. The water was quickly converted by the intense heat into
a veritable high explosive, with the result that the massive mountain
was literally blown bodily skyward, and fell in huge fragments into the
surrounding sea. The shock was so great that it was felt clear through
the earth, and an immense tidal wave was set going which encircled the
earth. The opposing portions of the great wave, meeting in the lower
Atlantic, flowed up even to the coast of France. An atmospheric wave
passed around the earth three times. It is estimated that the amount of
volcanic mud that was discharged from the mountain during the eruption
was more than the muddy Mississippi discharges into the Gulf of Mexico
in two hundred years.

There was so much impalpably fine volcanic dust blown into the upper
atmosphere that it did not entirely settle out of the air for more than
two years, which period was noted for its beautiful glowing sunsets, due
to the illumination of the fine dust suspended in the upper air.

As the ax is to the woodsman, so are high explosives to the engineer.
With dynamite he hews down the hills, fills the valleys and tunnels the
mountain-range to make a straight and even way for the locomotive. He
cuts canals through the width of the land, uniting rivers and seas.

Always in the van of civilization, there is heard the churn of the
rock-drill and the echoing crash and roar of the dynamite blast.

Also it is the huge high explosive shell that makes way for the march of
modern armies, and high explosive mines and torpedoes are the terror of
the underseas.

All forms of dynamite are high explosives, and all high explosives may
fairly be called dynamite.

Smokeless gunpowder is actually but a modified form of high explosive.
It is dynamite that has been chained and tamed by the chemist's cunning,
so that it will burn without detonation, and thus permit the
utilization of its awful energy to hurl shot and shell from war's great

Thus it is that dynamite in its varied forms deserves the high place
with steam and electricity as one of the great triumvirs that have been
the architects of the modern world.


In experimenting with high explosives and in their manufacture, a little
absent-mindedness, a very slight lack of exact caution, a seemingly
insignificant inadvertence for a moment, may cost one a limb or his
life. The incident that cost me my left hand is a case in point.

On the day preceding that accident, I had had a gold cap put on a tooth.
In consequence, the tooth ached and kept me awake the greater part of
the night. Next morning I rose early and went down to my factory at
Maxim, New Jersey. In order to test the dryness of some fulminate
compound I took a little piece of it, about the size of an English
penny, broke off a small particle, placed it on a stand outside the
laboratory and, lighting a match, touched it off.

Owing to my loss of sleep the night before, my mind was not so alert as
usual, and I forgot to lay aside the remaining piece of fulminate
compound, but, instead, held it in my left hand. A spark from the
ignited piece entered my left hand between my fingers, igniting the
piece there, with the result that my hand was blown off to the wrist,
and the next thing I saw was the bare end of the wristbone. My face and
clothes were bespattered with flesh and filled with slivers of bone....
The following day, my thumb was found on the top of a building a couple
of hundred feet away, with a sinew attached to it, which had been pulled
out from the elbow.

A tourniquet was immediately tightened around my wrist to prevent the
flow of blood, and I and two of my assistants walked half a mile down to
the railroad, where we tried to stop an upgoing train with a red flag.
But it ran the flag down and went on, the engineer thinking, perhaps,
from our wild gesticulations that we were highwaymen.

We then walked another half-mile to a farmhouse, where a horse and wagon
were procured. Thence I was driven to Farmingdale, four and a half miles
distant, where I had to wait two hours for the next train to New York.

The only physician in the town was an invalid, ill with tuberculosis. I
called on him while waiting, and condoled with him, as he was much worse
off than was I.

On arrival in New York, I was taken in a carriage to the elevated
station at the Brooklyn Bridge. On reaching my station at Eighty-fourth
Street, I walked four blocks, and then up four flights of stairs to my
apartments on Eighty-second Street, where the surgeon was awaiting me.
It was now evening, and the accident had occurred at half-past ten
o'clock in the morning. That was a pretty hard day!

As I had no electric lights in the apartments, only gas, the surgeon
declared that it would be dangerous to administer ether, and that he
must, therefore, chloroform me. He added that there was no danger in
using chloroform, if the patient had a strong heart. Thereupon I asked
him to examine my heart, since, if there should be the least danger of
my dying under the influence of the anesthetic, I wanted to make my

"Heart!" exclaimed the surgeon, with emphasis. "A man who has gone
through what you have gone through today _hasn't_ any heart!"

The next day I dictated letters to answer my correspondence as usual.
The young woman stenographer, who took my dictation, remarked, with a
sardonic smile:

"You, too, have now become a shorthand writer."

The grim jest appealed to my sense of humor.

On the third day I was genuinely ill and had no wish to do business.
Within ten days, however, I was out again, attending to my affairs.


About the first use of nitroglycerin in the United States as a blasting
agent on a large scale was in the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel in
Massachusetts, on the Boston and Albany Railroad.

So many accidents had occurred where the use of nitroglycerin had been
attempted, that engineers and contractors were afraid to employ it.
Nobel, however, had discovered that when nitroglycerin was absorbed in
infusorial earth, it was rendered much less sensitive. This material he
called dynamite.

A chemist by the name of Professor Mowbray believed that the main
trouble with nitroglycerin had been that it was not sufficiently
purified in its manufacture. He induced the builders of the Hoosac
Tunnel to try his product. He built a laboratory on the side of Hoosac
Mountain, over the village of North Adams, where he produced the stuff.

He put it up in tin cans, which held about a quart. For transportation
these were carefully packed with cotton flannel between them.

The method of using the dynamite was to pour it into holes drilled in
the rock, inserting an exploder cap and fuze in the usual manner. At
that time it was popularly supposed that if nitroglycerin or dynamite
were allowed to freeze, it became very highly sensitive and would
explode on the slightest jar. Stories were prevalent that the sound of a
fiddle string would explode nitroglycerin when frozen.

One day there came an urgent call from the east end of the Tunnel for
more nitroglycerin. Professor Mowbray had in his employ a care-free and
fear-free fellow by the name of Helton Swazey. When Swazey was sober, he
was the soul of good nature, but when drunk, which was very frequently,
he was as savage as a hungry cougar. This peculiarity earned Helton
Swazey the nickname of Hell Swazey.

It was a very cold winter day when the call came, and Professor
Mowbray, learning that Hell Swazey was going over the mountain that very
evening to attend a dance, asked him if he would not take over the
nitroglycerin with him. A hot-water bag was placed with the
nitroglycerin and all was wrapped in a heavy blanket to protect it from
Jack Frost. The shipment was placed in the back of Swazey's sleigh.

Hell Swazey's best girl, whom he took with him, did not know the nature
of the cargo.

The nine-mile ride over the mountain was very cold. Swazey kept himself
warm by imbibitions from a flask of liquid caloric, and to keep the
young woman warm he took the blanket and the hot-water bag from the
nitroglycerin for her comfort, leaving the explosive to the mercy of the
below-zero weather.

When Swazey arrived at the dance-hall to join in the frolic, he was in
so ugly and meddlesome a mood that he was promptly put out of the hall,
followed by his woman companion. Swazey was mad all through. He went to
the sleigh, and taking an armful of the cans of nitroglycerin, returned
to the hall, and opening the door proceeded to hurl them with all his
force at the merry-makers.

One can struck upon the stove and glanced across the room. Cans smashed
against wall, ceiling and floor.

As the frightened occupants fled through the windows, they did as Mark
Twain did when he saw the ghost--they did not stop to raise the windows,
but they took the windows with them. In the language of Mark, they did
not need the windows, but it was handier to take them than it was to
leave them, and so they took them.

When Hell Swazey turned up for duty the next morning, Professor Mowbray
had already heard of the escapade, but he was filled with marveling why
the nitroglycerin had not exploded, particularly as it must have been
frozen very hard.

When Swazey entered the presence of the Professor, he expected
immediately to be discharged. He was meek and crestfallen enough, and
began to excuse himself and to apologize for his behavior.

To his amazement, Professor Mowbray appeared to be very much interested
and pleased, tapping his forehead with his finger, smiling and nodding,
and muttering to himself, "Good; good; splendid!" He interrogated Swazey
carefully, to be assured that the nitroglycerin was frozen hard, that it
had been thrown hard, that it had struck hard, and that it had not

That very night there was mailed at the North Adams Post Office an
application for a patent for freezing nitroglycerin to make it safe to


Explosive factories are veritable schools of efficiency. All work is
done under the eye of the most vigilant caution, and the penalty for
negligence is so expensive in the destruction of life and property that
science, which is knowledge, and proceeds from sure premises to safe
conclusions, is the sole guide. It does not do to follow a guess. The
dynamite factory is no place for that class of persons who believe
themselves to be favorites of Providence or of Almighty God, for
dynamite plays no favorites.

There is probably no other class of persons so little guided by science
as are the poets. They pride themselves on the fact that they ignore
science. They claim that poetry is a sort of transcendental stuff,
star-dusted from the gods' abode upon only a few persons fortunate
enough to be born with a divine afflatus, which puts them into a fine
frenzy--a condition of body and mind partaking somewhat of the
ecstaticism of the Whirling Dervish, the spiritual clairvoyant and the
soothsayer--a holy hysteria--a delirium-tremendous effervescence of
over-soul--in which condition they are able actually to commandeer the
co-operation of the Deity.

To heighten the humbug, the poets claim, to quote, that "_poetry knows
no law_," that "_it is above and beyond all law_"; and consequently that
it is "_the antithesis of science_," veritably "_the despair of
science_," "_defying all attempts at analysis and understanding_," and
that, being an inspired product, "_poetry is the greatest achievement of
the human mind_."

The poets would have us believe that all of the great inventors and
discoverers, scientists and philosophers, have been far inferior to the
poets. The poets would have us believe that all the triumphs of
chemistry and mechanics have been small compared with the triumphs of
poetry. The poets would have us believe that the invention of the
phonograph, of the telephone, of wireless telegraphy, the discovery of
radium and the X-ray, the discovery of gravitation, are not equal to
such triumphs of the poets as "Aurora Leigh," "Curfew Must Not Ring
Tonight," and "The May Queen."

The poets would have us believe that the discovery of the spectroscope,
which tells the composition of the stars so far away that the light by
which we see them now left its source before the building of Babylon and
the founding of the Egyptian Pyramids, is a less wonderful product of
the human mind than is Shelley's "Skylark."

It is perfectly safe for the poets to live and move and have their being
in error, but it does not do even for a poet, when working with
explosive materials, to eliminate scientific procedure, for in that case
he is likely to get an uplift that will sprinkle the feet of the angels
with his filamented fragments.

This very thing actually once happened in the Pennsylvania oil region
when the poet laureate of his community was blessed by the discovery of
petroleum on his otherwise worthless farm. One well sunk by the oil
company gushed a large quantity of both oil and natural gas. The royalty
received by the poet was immense. One day he conceived the idea of
climbing to the top of the oil-derrick and writing a poem to vent his
pent-up fervor.

He had engaged the services of a photographer to catch his
beatitudinations. The sun was just descending the horizon, and the poet
and the top of the derrick were still aglow in the radiance of sunset,
while derrick and poet were enveloped in an explosive mixture of gas and
air a hundred feet in diameter. The photographer had said, "Beady, look
pleasant, please." This was the moment of inspiration. The poet loosed
his divine afflatus and set his fine frenzy to doing things. The
following science-confounding doggerel is what he effused:--

  _Poetry is a divine art
  And I am a poet to the heart,
  And am writing these lovely lines
  Right where the setting sun shines,
  Just at the close of a beautiful dag,
  Under the milk-like Milky Way,
  But which cannot be seen just yet though
  Because of the sunset's brighter glow.
  Yet I know it is there, and poesy may
  Raise me nearer the Milky Way._

... And it did, for at this point the poet struck a match to light a
cigarette, and the explosive mixture of natural gas and air about him
fired first.

When last seen the poet was headed for the Milky Way.


Once, when entering my storage magazine at Maxim, New Jersey, in which
were several carloads of dynamite, along with 37,000 pounds of
nitrogelatin, made to fill an order from the Brazilian Government, I saw
John Bender, one of my laboring men, calmly but emphatically opening a
case of dynamite with cold chisel and hammer. With some epithetitious
phraseology, I dismissed him.

It was not long after this incident, when the Boniface of the inn at
Farmingdale, a nearby village, called upon me to buy some dynamite. He
told me that he had employed John Bender to blow the stumps out of a
meadow lot. I related to him my experience with that reckless person,
and tried to impress him with the fact that Bender was temperamentally
so constituted as to court death, not only for himself but for others
about him, when handling dynamite.

But Boniface was unconvinced. He wanted Bender to do the work and he
wanted the dynamite to do it with. Bender, he said, had assured him that
he was a great expert in the handling of dynamite--that he could so
place a charge under a stump that he could always tell beforehand the
direction the stump would take, and about how far it would go under the
impulse of the blast. Therefore, it was only a question of the price of
the dynamite.

"Well," said I, "the dynamite you want is sixteen cents a pound, but
I'll bet you the dynamite against the price of it that John Bender kills
himself with it, so that if he does not succeed in blowing himself up
and killing himself with the dynamite, you can have it for nothing. On
the other hand, if he does blow himself up, you must pay for the

A few days later, there was some hitch in Bender's exceptional luck. A
particularly refractory old stump had resisted a couple of Bender's
dynamic attacks. The failure to dislodge the stump Bender took as a
personal affront, because it reflected upon his skill as a

"Next time," said he, "something is going to happen."

He placed about twenty pounds of dynamite under the deep-rooted veteran,
touched it off, and several things happened in very quick succession.
The huge stump let go its hold on earth, and proceeded to hunt Bender.
It was a level race, but the stump won. Striking Bender on the north
quarter, it stove in four ribs, dislocated a few joints, and damaged him
in several other respects and particulars.

Boniface came to settle for the dynamite.

"Sixteen cents a pound," I said. "Bender hasn't a chance in a hundred.
Wait till the doctors are through with him."

"What do you say to a compromise," suggested Boniface, "of eight cents a
pound? For really," quoth he, "I do not believe that Bender is more than
half dead."

And the account was settled on that basis.


One of the most dare-devil men I ever had in my employ was a young
fellow by the name of Joe Kruger. He was a very hard worker, and that
won pardon for his many indiscretions.

I sent him one day to a neighboring explosives works to get a special
kind of guncotton made there, and told him to have it sent by freight in
a wet state. Instead, however, he filled about fifty pounds into a big
burlap bag, in a perfectly dry state, and took it on the train with him
and into the smoking-car, placing it on the seat beside him. He struck a
match, lighted a cigar, and smoked throughout the entire journey. Had
the least spark of match or cigar fallen upon the bag, the guncotton
would have gone off with a tremendous flash and, although it would not
have detonated, it would have burned him terribly, as well as any
persons sitting near, and would have blown out all of the windows in the

At another time, in order to test the insensitiveness of a certain high
explosive, a quantity of it was charged into a four-inch iron pipe, and
the pipe hung against a tree as a target to ascertain whether or not the
bullet would penetrate the high explosive without exploding it.

Kruger and I fired several shots with a Springfield rifle from cover at
long range without hitting the cylinder of explosive. I was then called
away and told Kruger to continue firing until he hit the mark. As soon
as I left him, he advanced with the gun to within a few rods of the
tree. His first shot penetrated the cylinder, exploding it with terrific
violence, blowing the tree, which was about eight inches in diameter,
clean off, while the fragments of metal flew about his head like
hailstones. But none happened to hit him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is the sort of adventure that is likely to happen to
anyone under similar circumstances and has doubtless happened before and

Kruger had a dog which was well trained to fetch anything that his
master threw for him. One day Kruger took some sticks of dynamite and
went to a neighboring stream with the intention of dynamiting some fish.
He attached fuze and exploder to a stick of the explosive, and threw it
toward the stream, but, missing his aim, the dynamite landed on a rock.

The faithful dog, thinking that the stick had been thrown for him to
bring, ran and returned with it to his master in great glee, with the
fuze sizzing nearer and nearer to the explosive. Kruger ran in horror,
the dog after him, deeming it great sport. The dog being the better
runner, danced about his master. Finding it impossible to escape by
running, Kruger climbed a tree with all the alacrity he could muster,
and had just reached a vantage of safety when the dynamite exploded, and
the dog--well, the dog was holding the stick in his mouth when it went


A works foreman of mine who had been employed as assistant
superintendent in another dynamite factory told me the following story:

He one day intercepted an Irish laborer who was taking a barrel, which
had been used for settling nitroglycerin, down to the soda dry-house,
with the intention of filling it with hot nitrate of soda from the
drying-pans. The foreman scolded Pat roundly, and told him that, should
he do such a reckless thing again, he would be instantly discharged. The
foreman then went to the superintendent's office and reported the

In the meantime, Patrick, utterly ignoring the injunction, simply waited
for the foreman to disappear, then proceeded to the dry-house with the
barrel and began to fill it with the hot nitrate of soda.

Over in the superintendent's office the foreman had just completed his
narration of Pat's carelessness, when there was a thunderous report and
a crash of glass, and Pat's booted foot landed on the office floor
between them.

The superintendent dryly remarked, "Evidently, Pat is already


Some years ago, when I was conducting experiments with detonators for my
safety delay-action fuze, which was adopted by the United States Navy in
1908 as the service detonating fuze for high-explosive projectiles, I
received instructions that a parcel of fulminate detonators, made at the
torpedo station, had been received and were being held for me at Fort
Lafayette, and I was told to go to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, whence I
would be taken in a tug to the Fort for them.

After having procured the package, I concluded that it would be much
more expeditious for me to take a trolley car home than to return by the
tug. On entering the car and seating myself, I placed the package beside
me on the seat, keeping my eye constantly upon it. It was, by the way,
perfectly safe to carry if subject to merely ordinary handling, but it
would not do to jump on it or to kick it about much, for, in that case,
there might be some energetic results.

No sooner had I comfortably seated myself in the car than a huge,
determined, militant-looking woman entered, brushing a few small men
aside. Seeing all the seats occupied except the space where the package
was, she turned and hurled herself backward and downward.

Her movements were so quick that I had barely time to throw my left arm
firmly under her, and, although I am unusually strong, I had all I could
do to support her enormous bulk. When she felt my arm beneath her,
protecting the package, she was all the more indignant and determined to
crush the package in order to teach me a lesson, and she glared upon me
fiercely. I finally succeeded, by throwing my shoulder against her, in
toppling her sufficiently to remove the package with my right hand, and
then I let her down upon the seat.

I seldom wax poetical, and never permit myself to write verses to ladies
when I am not sure that they will be gratefully received. But, in this
case, I side-stepped a little from my usual course, and, taking my
note-book from my pocket, wrote the following lines, which I folded up
nicely, and when I arrived at my street, I handed the paper to Her

  _Dear Madam, I'm an anarchist.
  That package was a bomb.
    I'm on my way
    Someone to slay,
  And this is really true--
  I didn't want to waste that bomb
  On just the likes of you._


The freezing point of dynamite is about eight degrees F. higher than
that of water. Once frozen, it remains congealed at temperatures
considerably above the freezing point. When solidly frozen, it can be
detonated only with much difficulty, and even then only with great loss
of explosive force. Consequently, when conducting blasting operations in
cold weather, it is necessary to thaw frozen dynamite before using it.
The process is neither dangerous nor difficult if conducted with
ordinary precautions, but it may be made full of peril by carelessness
or ignorance.

A friend of mine named Roynor, when gold-hunting in Alaska, had as a
partner a venerable prospector whose only known name was Andy. Andy was
the dynamiter of the combination, as well as chief cook and dish-washer.

The old man used to utilize the oven of the cooking stove for thawing
his dynamite. Occasionally, he would forget that the dynamite was there
until it was heated to the danger point. These little inadvertencies at
last strained the nerves of Roynor beyond the elastic limit. He
remonstrated to his aged partner with all the epithetitious
sesquipedalian terminology of which he was capable, but nothing in the
way of language or dynamite had any terrors for the old man.

"Andy," said Roynor, finally, "if you are not more careful with that
dynamite, we are going to separate, and we are going to separate the
very next time you put any dynamite in the oven."

The following evening, as Roynor was returning from his day's work, and
when nigh the shack where his partner was cooking, he saw the shack
instantly convert itself into a blinding flash, which solidified into
numerous scattered débris that flew by him and fell round him in

When he recovered from the stunning shock of the explosion and dazedly
looked about him, he saw many fragmentary evidences of the repetition of
the prospector's carelessness.

"Well, Andy," he sadly remarked, "I told you we should separate the next
time you did it. We have separated all right--particularly you."


At my laboratory near Lake Hopatcong, one of the natives, who had made a
reputation as a well-digger, and claimed to be able to descend through
more rock in a day than could any other living man, thought that his
strenuous habitude would adapt him to the manufacture of explosive
materials, and with this in view he applied to me for a position.

My foreman gave him a job in which his duty was to assist with the
rolling of motorite. The foreman gave the fellow explicit instructions
about the care necessary to keep his fingers from getting in between the
rollers, as it would not only prove uncomfortable for him were he to
shed a finger or a hand, but it would also spoil the motorite by mixing
it with his lacerations.... Almost at once, the end of one finger went.

Immediately, the well-digger was discharged, for his own sake and for
the sake of motorite.

The man next took a contract to dig a well for one of the cottagers on
the Lake. It was in the early winter. The weather was cold, and his
dynamite froze very hard. He placed it in a bucket of boiling hot water,
which thawed the outer stratum of the frozen stick, overheating it and
rendering it very sensitive, while the core remained frozen solid.

He was too active and impatient a workman to wait long for a stick of
dynamite to thaw, so he took the partly thawed stick, seized a hatchet,
and proceeded to chop off one end of it.

The blow of the ax upon the soft, overheated, highly sensitive portion,
compressing it against the frozen interior, which served as an anvil,
exploded the stick. There was one finger and the thumb left on his right
hand which held the ax, while his left hand, which had held the
dynamite, and his whole left arm, were blown away.

When he looked about him with the one astonished eye that was left, he
seemed pained that his old friend dynamite had gone back on him in that


The following story was related to me by a professional liar, and yet I
have suspicions that it is not true in every detail; but I feel sure
that some variant of it has been true more than once, with the exception
of the aerial incident.

A certain inventor had invented one of the very often-invented high
explosive compounds of chlorate of potash, sulphur, charcoal, paraffin
wax, etc., thinking that he had made a great discovery.

Now it happens that there is so much erraticism about high explosive
mixtures with chlorate of potash as a base that the pathway of invention
of such compounds has been strewn with the wreckage of the hopes and
anatomy of their inventors.

The inventor had enlisted the financial support of a promoter, and the
promoter was endeavoring to enlist financial support for himself, and to
that end had invited several men of means, with two rival newspaper
editors of the place, to witness a demonstration of the explosive at the
inventor's laboratory, which was a two-story, light frame structure.

The promoter was letting himself be interviewed by the two editors and
other newspaper reporters on the upper floor, while the inventor was
making a demonstration with some of the stuff on the lower floor, the
prospective investors warily watching the proceedings from a respectful

The inventor had about half a barrel of the stuff in a tub. He first
took a portion of it and pounded it on an anvil to show that it would
not explode from shock. Next he took a handful of it and threw it into
the fire under the boiler, to show that it would not explode from mere
ignition. He then took a hot iron, which he had brought to a white heat
in a forge, and thrust it into the half barrel of the infernal mixture,
to show that it simply could not be exploded except with a very powerful
exploder or detonator.

But the mixture happened, on that occasion, to differ somewhat from the
inventor with respect to the sequence of eventuations--and exploded.

The building went up, and the promoter, the two editors and the
reporters on the upper floor accompanied the building.

Two of the newspaper men were great rivals. One of them was the editor
of the _Clarion_ and the other the editor of the _Echo_. It so happened
that the _Clarion_ had better facilities for getting telegraphic news
than the _Echo_, and accordingly the _Clarion_ was usually able to post
its news in advance of the _Echo_, and the editor of the _Clarion_ used
often to chaff his rival with the remark, "It's no use to put up your
poster now, for my poster of the same news is just coming down." He
called the _Echo_ the echo of the _Clarion_.

When the explosion occurred, the editor of the _Clarion_, being more
directly over the explosive than was the editor of the _Echo_, went up
farther and faster, and on his return met the editor of the _Echo_ still
going up, and called out to him, "Behind as usual! All of the other
fellows are coming down."


We once had a servant girl whom we nicknamed "Jeopardy," because she
could not be prevented from pouring kerosene directly from the can upon
a lighted fire.

One day, Jeopardy left us very suddenly, and she never came back. We
were sorry she left, as Jeopardy was a good girl. It developed that she
had chanced to find a fifty-pound case of dynamite sticks in the
wood-shed, which she had been using to start the fire in the kitchen

Sometimes, dynamite will work all right for such a purpose, but it is
notional stuff and can not be depended upon merely to burn. It was
during one of these intervals of independability that Jeopardy went.


Soon after the invention of the Maxim automatic machine gun, I took the
American agency for the introduction of the weapon to the United States
Government. Among the tests that were conducted with the gun at Sandy
Hook was one known as the sand test, sand being sifted into the
mechanism of the gun, which was then loaded and fired. The gun went
through the test perfectly.

The commanding officer, however, had not himself been present at the
regular tests and arrived upon the scene only after they had been
concluded. This particular officer was a dyspeptic, and was at times
very unpleasant and domineering. On this occasion, he was particularly
so. When told by the officers immediately in charge of the tests that
they had been concluded, he peremptorily commanded that the gun should
be loaded and fired again. One of the under-officers demurred, stating
that a sand test was a very hard one on the gun, and that it would be
unfair to subject it to unnecessary hardship of that character. That
officer was immediately sat upon very hard.

The gun was loaded and made ready, pointing out to sea, as usual. At
this moment, a schooner was seen rapidly coming into range. The
commanding officer, however, said that he wanted to see only a few
rounds fired, and that there would be plenty of time to fire them before
the schooner came into the zone of danger; and he immediately gave the
command: "Fire."

My assistant, who was operating the gun, instantly obeyed. After the
discharge of perhaps twenty-five rounds came the command: "Cease

But the gun kept right on. Then, the command came several times in loud
shouts, but the gun did not hear. The rage of the commanding officer was
at white heat, but it did no good. The gun kept right on firing.

There were three hundred and thirty-three rounds in the belt, the weapon
had been rigidly clamped to a set direction, and my assistant, being a
little bit rattled at the loud shouts of the commanding officer, did
not think to unclamp it, and turn it out of range of the schooner.

Soon, a stream of bullets, flying at the rate of six hundred a minute,
were ricocheting all about the schooner, and there was wild excitement
and waving of hands on board--all to no purpose, until the last
cartridge had been exploded.

The trigger had been pulled by the sand and held pulled. It was,
consequently, impossible to stop the gun from firing, until the belt of
cartridges was exhausted.

I felt glad. The subordinate officers also looked gratified.


Liquid nitroglycerin is still used to torpedo the oil-wells when they
get old, in order to give them a new lease of life.

There was one teamster in the old days who had become notorious as a
hauler of the dangerous explosive. The law does not permit the shipment
of the liquid by freight or by express, and for that reason this
teamster had plenty to do in hauling nitroglycerin for long distances.
He was a great smoker and his old pipe was always alight, though he
might be riding on a ton of nitroglycerin with a few kegs of black
gunpowder chinked into the load.

One day he was carrying, on runners, about two tons of nitroglycerin and
a few odd kegs of gunpowder, when something happened. There had been a
fall of several inches of light snow the evening before, and the scene
of the eventuation was an open field which he was crossing.

There was an enormous crater in the ground; the light snow around the
crater was besprinkled with a few shreds of horse and harness and a
sliver or two of sled, but not a trace of the driver was ever found.


I once hired board and apartments at the house of a Frenchwoman, who
took in only a few select gentlemen boarders. Perhaps I may have been
justly esteemed the star boarder, inasmuch as I paid the highest price,
and, too, in addition to a sleeping room and a library, I hired another
large room to serve me as a laboratory. Although my main laboratory was
located at my factory, still I was in the habit of conducting a few
experiments in a small way when not at the factory.

I had given my landlady particular instructions about not handling the
various things in my laboratory. I strictly enjoined her not to touch
anything under any circumstances--I would keep the place in order
myself. Nevertheless, she could not be prevented from entering the
laboratory to dust and tidy it up a bit, and she generally knocked over
a thing or two in the process.

One day, I brought home a pint glass jar of pure nitroglycerin, setting
it up out of reach of the little three-year-old girl, who often used the
laboratory as a playground, in spite of my protestations. I called my
landlady's attention to the fact that this bottle contained
nitroglycerin, and I explained its dangerous character unless it were
left undisturbed.

I told her that, if she found it out of the question to let the bottle
alone, and should, in dusting, succeed in knocking it over and spilling
its contents upon the table where it stood or upon the floor, and should
wipe up the oily liquid with a rag, not to put the rag in the stove,
for, if she did, she would blow the roof of the house off, and project
herself into the empyrean, and through it and out at the other side.

She actually remembered this injunction for more than three days, but,
on the fourth day, on my return home, the little three-year-old met me
as I came in, and said:

"Mamma very sick. Cure Mamma."

"Mamma" was lying upon a sofa, pale as a ghost, and breathing heavily.
When I asked her what the matter was, she answered, "Oh, I am so sick!"

I began to be thoroughly frightened, and wormed out of her the fact that
she had a terrible nitroglycerin headache. It came out that she had been
dusting and tidying the laboratory that day, and had inadvertently
knocked over the bottle of nitroglycerin. Fortunately, it did not
explode as it fell, the contents being merely spilled upon the table and

She took an old towel and soaked the liquid up with it. She then rolled
up the towel in a tight, snug, compact wad, and started toward the
kitchen to put the wad in the cook-stove and burn it up, when, just as
she arrived at the stove, she felt a dizziness in the head, and a
strange sort of sinking sensation in the stomach. The top of her head
began to buzz and pound.

Then, she saw light. It dawned upon her, like the inspiring flash that
came upon Saul, that this was nitroglycerin, and she recalled what I had
told her about the effect it would have upon her if she handled it, and
my direction that, if she should spill the stuff and then wipe it up,
she must not burn the rag.


Out in the Pennsylvania oil regions in the early days, while
nitroglycerin in the liquid state was being used experimentally as a
blasting agent, some boys found in a creek an old felt hat, which had
been used as a filter for nitroglycerin.

One of the boys accidentally discovered that when laid upon a stone and
the edge of the hat hit with a hammer, it would crack, so they took it
to a blacksmith's shop, where they could have some fun by hammering it
on an anvil.

At the first blow the old hat exploded. Two of the boys were killed
outright, and two more were badly injured.

The blacksmith at the time of the accident, happened to be standing
outdoors, which thereafter constituted his blacksmith shop until he
could rebuild.


Professor Mowbray, who made the nitroglycerin for the Hoosac Tunnel and
afterward served the American Xylonite Company many years as consulting
chemist, conceived the idea that he could make a very powerful smokeless
gunpowder by the use of nitroglycerin merely absorbed by fibrous
guncotton and rolled into pellets. He had at the time a young assistant
chemist at work for him, who has now become a man of much wealth and
prominence in New York.

The assistant prepared some of the pellets under Mowbray's directions,
loaded them into a rifle under wad and ball, and fired at a target made
of several layers of pine boards. But the pellets did not seem to give
the bullet the required penetration. Mowbray suggested remedying this
defect by adding a little more nitroglycerin, which was done. The young
chemist demurred a little. Still, he did as instructed--loaded and
fired the piece again, with but little better results. This time,
however, the breech mechanism stuck, and was opened with difficulty.

Mowbray said that there was but one thing to do, and that was to add a
few more drops of nitroglycerin. It occurred to the young chemist that
this sort of gunpowder came pretty near being dynamite, and he declined
to fire the piece the next time, and was deaf to all entreaties of the
Professor. As a compromise, the gun was rigged up on a rest, pointing at
the target; a string was attached to the trigger, which the assistant,
standing behind a barricade, pulled.

This time, there was considerable penetration of the target, and the
walls of the building where the test took place were penetrated in many
places, not with the bullet, but with the fragments of the exploded

Mowbray, hearing the report, ran out and ventured the suggestion that he
guessed he must have got in a drop too much of nitroglycerin.


I had one very close call while conducting a sand test of the Maxim gun
at Annapolis, where the Naval Proving Grounds were formerly located. The
gun had passed through all of the regular tests satisfactorily, and it
was then suggested to try if sand enough could be put into the mechanism
box to block it and prevent its firing.

The gun fired perhaps fifty rounds before it stopped. Then it stuck, and
my assistant worked at the belt and lever, attempting to start it again.
I told him to put down the safe so that the gun could not fire, which he
did. I was then about to step around the gun in front, which I confess
was a very careless thing to do, when it began firing again. I was
already so close to the muzzle that my clothes were cut by the bullets
and burned by the gunpowder.

The trigger had been pulled, and held pulled, by the sand, so that the
safe did not prevent it from firing.

It is pretty good practice to keep away from the business end of a
loaded gun.


Once at Annapolis, while we were firing a six-pounder semi-automatic gun
in a speed test, we had succeeded in firing forty-two aimed shots in a
minute into a huge earth butt, which, owing to recent rains, was merely
a heap of mud.

The day following, a negro boy, about fourteen years old, found one of
the projectiles, which had penetrated the butt, and glancing, came out
at the top without exploding. This he brought up to where my assistant
was doing some work on the gun, and showed what he had found.

My assistant shouted at him, "Look out! That's loaded, and if you drop
it, it might go off."

Frightened, the negro immediately dropped the projectile upon the hard
cement pavement, and, as it struck point down, it did go off, and took
off one of his legs; and a fragment of the shell came dangerously close
to the head of my assistant.


The great Du Pont Powder Company had in its employ at one time a
faithful, patient and lucky fellow, an Italian, who worked constantly,
with not a day off except Sundays, for twenty-one years in the corning
mill, breaking black gunpowder press cake into grains. During that
period the coming mill had blown up seven times, once every three years,
but each time Giovanni had happened, by the merest chance, to be outside
for a few seconds to get a drink of water or on some other brief errand.
Twice he had had his clothes nearly ripped off him, and his face and
hands burned, such had been his proximity on these occasions to the
crater of fire as the mill went up, and once he had been rendered
unconscious by the shock.

Finally, at the end of twenty-one years of service, having put aside a
snug little fortune, sufficient for the remainder of his life in sunny
Italy, he packed up his belongings and turned his face toward his old
home. Arriving in New York, his ticket purchased, he hied himself to a
noted Italian hostelry, to await the coming of the joyous morrow when he
should actually be on the big steamer, headed for home.

Giovanni had no bad habits, and the bunco man failed to lure him. He
took no stock in the dapper, polished-mannered compatriot just recently
from his home place, who was acquainted with all the folks. His cash was
sewed into his clothes, and those clothes would not come off until he
reached his destination.

When he was shown up into his room at night and left alone with his
thoughts, a placard upon the wall above the gas-burner attracted his
attention. It read: "Don't blow out the gas," and under this injunction
was the statement that gas burned after ten o'clock would be charged

Giovanni was indignant. Here he was at last caught between the horns of
a dilemma. This, to his mind, was downright thievery. He would cut the
Gordian knot. He would disobey the injunction. He would not pay for gas
burned overtime perforce; and he blew it out....

       *       *       *       *       *

An old sea-captain who had for forty years traveled on every sea, who
had weathered a thousand gales, and survived a hundred shipwrecks, on
his return from his final voyage, in making his landing on his home
shore, slipped from the dock into the water and under the skiff, and was

Such is the irony of chance!


Sir Frederick Abel, who was the originator of the modern process of
making high-grade guncotton and of compressing it into dense cakes for
use, told me the following story:

At one time, Sir Frederick had about five tons of dry guncotton, which
was not of sufficient purity to stand the Government tests. He had, on
previous occasions, frequently demonstrated how compressed guncotton,
though dry, would quietly burn away without exploding when ignited, so
he now fancied that his five tons would make a capital bonfire. With
this idea of entertainment in possession of him, he invited a party of
friends to witness the unique conflagration.

The friends were dominated more by the spirit of aloofness than was Sir
Frederick himself, and they kept at a respectful distance, while Sir
Frederick advanced toward the pile of explosive, and threw a lighted
torch upon it. Then he retreated a short distance to avoid the intense
heat, for he expected to see the whole pile burn away.

It started by merely burning; but, as I have already said about
dynamite, it is notional stuff. So, on this occasion, the guncotton took
a notion to explode after it got fairly on fire, which did not take very
long. The whole mass detonated with terrific violence, and, even before
Sir Frederick had retreated as far as he expected to go, he was knocked
senseless by the concussion, and nearly every shred of clothing was
blown from his body.... Although considerably bruised and lacerated, he
recovered after several months.

He had learned a useful lesson: that a small quantity of compressed dry
guncotton can be very well depended upon to burn quietly away without
detonating, but, when a large mass of it is ignited, the greater heat of
combustion and the greater pressure generated in expelling the larger
quantity of the products of combustion, is almost sure to produce

The fact that a small quantity of an explosive material will burn away
quietly without exploding has often led persons to think that a large
quantity would burn in the same manner.

At one time, the British Government had on hand at Woolwich Arsenal
about a hundred tons of cordite that had begun to show signs of
decomposition, and it was decided to burn it. The entire quantity was
taken out into an open meadow, at what was supposed to be a very safe
distance from the city limits. A train was laid to the pile and set on

For the same reason that the five tons of Sir Frederick Abel's guncotton
detonated, this huge heap of cordite also detonated. Almost instantly
after it was ignited, it exploded with most awful violence, and with
very disastrous results. A number of buildings in the near vicinity were
leveled to the ground. A few persons were killed and many more injured.


After I had sold out my interests at Maxim, the place was taken over by
a dynamite-manufacturing company. As there was left in one of the
magazines a considerable quantity of dynamite when the property changed
hands, the new concern, not choosing to sell it as their own
manufacture, proceeded to utilize it as fertilizer upon a field of

One of the natives, with his team and helper, was engaged to do this
work. They had been instructed to use great care in opening the cases,
but they still held their own opinions about the care necessary, which
were based largely upon the contempt that is born of familiarity, and,
having arrived upon the potato-patch with a good, big load of dynamite,
they began to knock the cases open in any old way.

There were no surviving witnesses, not even the horses.


After I had sold the works at Maxim and had invented motorite, I needed
a place in which to make the material, and hired a branch of the works
there for that purpose.

It was winter. My wife had accompanied me as a precautionary measure.
She was sitting in the laboratory to keep warm, near a big barrel stove
charged with bituminous coal.

On entering the laboratory for something, my wife asked me what was in
those two tin pails sitting near the stove. She said that she had a
suspicion it might be nitroglycerin, and she informed me that one of my
men had just been in, stirring the fire, and that the sparks flew out in
all directions, some of them lighting in the buckets, to be quenched in
the very thin film of water floating on top of the oily liquid.

"Horrors!" I said. "It _is_ nitroglycerin!"

I called the man who had placed it there, and told him to take it away.
As it was necessary to keep the material from freezing, he took it into
the boiler-house near by. A little later, on going into the
boiler-house, I saw one of the men stirring the fire, while the other
was standing with his coat-tails outstretched in either hand, forming a
shield to keep the sparks from flying into the nitroglycerin.

It is practically impossible to make the ordinary man appreciate the
necessity of care in the safe handling of explosives, and the life of
the careful man is always endangered by the actions of the careless


My successors in the use of the dynamite plant at Maxim had in their
employ a day-watchman, an all-round combination useful and useless man,
his usefulness and uselessness alternating with the alternation of his
sobriety and inebriety.

One morning, after a night out, he proceeded to build the fire in the
laboratory stove. To start up the kindling wood, he had been in the
habit of lighting a handful of shavings, and then pouring on a little
kerosene from a tomato can, which he kept upon a near-by shelf.

During that night, someone--possibly one of the laboratory
operatives--had placed a similar can, filled with nitroglycerin, upon
the same shelf, to keep it from freezing.

In periods of convalescence from his various stages of intoxication, the
watchman had before seen two cans upon that shelf or shelves, but he
knew that one of them was real, and the other an hallucination.
Couldn't fool him that way!

Thinking that the hallucination would naturally be the lighter of the
two cans, he took the one containing the nitroglycerin, and proceeded to
pour it upon the fire.

There was so little of him left together after the explosion that, like
Captain Castagnette, he died of surprise at seeing himself so


On one occasion, at my laboratory near the shores of Lake Hopatcong, I
was conducting some experiments to test the efficiency of the safety
chamber of a detonating fuze for exploding projectiles charged with
Maximite. The huge loaded shell armed with a fuze was placed in a pit
and fixed so as to be set off by electricity from a distance.

To prevent any possibility of a circuit being formed to explode the
detonator while making the connections at the pit, I went into the
machine-shop, and opened the switch at the other end of the wires where
they were connected with the battery. Not only did I take this
precaution, but I disconnected also the wires themselves, in order to
make assurance doubly sure.

Returning to the pit to connect up, my assistant, my wife and my
father-in-law accompanied me. My assistant descended into the pit,
while we stood over him, looking on. The instant he brought the wires in
contact, the detonator went off. We looked at one another in amazement.
It takes time to get thoroughly scared; but, as soon as we realized the
full danger through which we had passed, we were numb with fright. Even
now, when I think of it, I have a creepy feeling.

We had made half a dozen tests before this, and all of the shells had
exploded except one. This was the second in which the safety-chamber had
proved effectual. Had it failed this time, and had the Maximite charge
exploded in the huge shell, we should all have been blown to ribbons.

I rushed back to the machine-shop, where I found that a certain
employee--one of those careful, painstaking souls who are always
attending voluntarily to the odds and ends of work left undone by
others, had discovered the wires detached from the switch. With no
memory of the rule that the switch should always be left open, he
forthwith connected the wires, and then, to make his culpable industry
complete, he closed the switch, thus making the electric connection
with the loaded shell; and, doubtless, he was comforted by a sense of
duty well done. His duties in my services certainly were done, for they
ended right then and there.


I once had an Italian laborer as man-of-all-work, who was rather a
good-looking fellow. An exquisite mustache and a wealth of curly hair
were sources of great pride and joy to him. One day he was engaged in
burning up some rubbish, and to start a fire, took what he supposed to
be a bunch of dry cotton waste, but which was in fact guncotton. Holding
in one hand the wad of guncotton the size of his head, he applied a
match to it. There was a quick, bright flash, and hair and mustache had
disappeared. He did not mind the burn so much, but his anxiety about his
appearance in the eyes of his sweetheart was pathetic.


When I had completed at my works, Maxim, New Jersey, a certain frame
building of generous proportions, of which I was quite proud, and in
which I had installed various processes and apparatus for making
smokeless gunpowder, I told one of my assistants to have a gauge put on
a large bell-drier that stood in a corner, which was employed for the
time being to extract the moisture from about forty pounds of guncotton.
He gave instructions to a machinist to do the job, telling him to remove
the guncotton first.

As it was necessary for the machinist merely to bore a hole through the
bell-drier and screw in the connecting pipe, he thought it a useless
expenditure of time and effort to remove the guncotton. After he had
bored the hole nearly through, he took a punch and hammer to knock out
the remaining burr. A spark ignited the guncotton, and that bell-drier
went right up through the roof and turned a somersault, striking about
a hundred feet away. The walls of the building on the end where the
explosion occurred were thrown outward, and the roof came down.

My assistant and another young man were in the building with the
machinist at the time. Although dazed by the shock, they immediately
rushed to the rescue of the poor fellow, who lay prostrate under a pile
of burning débris. Not much could be done for the unfortunate, and he
died soon afterward.

This instance is a type of many that result from inadequate precaution
by workmen in the manufacture of explosives.


One of the closest calls that I ever had in my life occurred in my
laboratory at Maxim, New Jersey, in the early nineties.

Two of my assistants and myself were weighing out small batches of
fulminate of mercury from a ten-pound jar. There were on the bench as
many as half-a-dozen small squares of glass, each with its little pile
of fulminate upon it. There was also a five-pound bottle of
nitroglycerin standing on the bench. A little way removed, and under the
bench, was a fifty-pound can of gelatin dynamite.

We were proceeding very cautiously, when all at once the scoop toppled,
and an iron weight fell, striking within an eighth of an inch of one of
the pieces of glass on which was fulminate of mercury. After a second of
suspense, we stared at one another in amazement, wondering whether or
not we were still in the land of the living.

An investigation into the cause of the accident revealed the fact that
one of the young men employed in the laboratory had broken off an arm of
the scales--one of the supports of the scoop--the day before, and, with
criminal reticence, had made absolutely no mention of the fact to
anyone. Had that weight fallen upon the fulminate, it must have dealt
death to all of us.


It so happened that during a tour of inspection seven of us were
together, going over the works. On entering the guncotton dry-house, I
noticed a strong odor of nitric acid.

"Out of here, quick!" I cried. "The place is going to blow up!"

There were perhaps a hundred pounds of dry guncotton in the room at the
time, spread out in pans. As was afterward learned, the foreman, being
in a hurry for the guncotton, had turned live steam into the pipes
instead of circulating hot water through them as instructed.

We were barely out of the room when the guncotton burned with a flash,
wrecking the building and setting fire to the fragments. I was just
congratulating myself that no one had been injured by the explosion,
when it was discovered that one of the party, an Englishman, the even
tenor of whose way nothing could accelerate or disturb, and who feared
nothing, had not quite made up his mind in time to get out of the room
before the flash came. On seeing him emerge at last from the zone of
destruction, I was horror-struck, for apparently every hair had been
burned from his head and face, while shreds of skin hung from his hands
and cheeks and brow.

Nevertheless, the Englishman's usual phlegmatic manner was wholly
unruffled, and he spoke in his conventional voice, untinged with

"Mr. Maxim, it isn't often that one has an opportunity under such
circumstances of witnessing exactly what occurs."


A certain patented device is used for the recovery of solvents in the
manufacture of smokeless gunpowder. An acquaintance of mine conceived
the idea that it would be an excellent thing to employ this same device
for the recovery of alcohol used in the manufacture of felt hats. He
conducted experiments successfully, having the hats placed in a chamber
through which hot air was circulated, and from which it was afterwards
conveyed to a refrigerating compartment to condense out the alcohol,
then reheated and returned to the drying chamber.

Ultimately, this ingenious person so won the confidence of a company of
hat manufacturers that they determined to build the apparatus at their
factory, and to give it a thorough trial to test its practicability.
Things progressed very well indeed, until there came a day when a leak
was discovered in some part of the apparatus, and a plumber was called
in to make the necessary repairs. This artisan's first act was to open a
peep-hole, light a match, and peer into the drying chamber.

There was much instantaneity in the activities that followed. Fourteen
persons were killed outright, including the plumber and his assistant,
and the building was completely wrecked.


Some years ago, in Austria, a worker in one of the mines found a flask
nearly full of a liquor that he took to be whisky. Delighted with this
treasure trove, he raised the flask to his lips, and gulped down a
portion of the contents. Another workman, standing by, snatched the
flask, and, in his turn, quaffed the liquor greedily.

That liquid in the flask was nitroglycerin, which, taken internally, is
one of the most virulent of poisons. Both of these workmen were stone
dead in less time than it has taken to tell this story of their fatal


During the experiments at Sandy Hook which preceded the adoption of
Maximite by the United States Government, a young lieutenant just out of
West Point was placed in charge of the loading, although he knew
absolutely nothing about explosives. He tried hard, however, to make up
for his deficient knowledge by the most exacting, impertinent and
foolish requirements.

I rebelled, but was told by the commanding officer that, while he fully
appreciated the situation, he must, as a matter of duty, support his
subordinate officer, and he advised me to return to my task in looking
after the loading of the Maximite, under the direction of the impudent
youngster. This I did.

The lieutenant, now having his own way, heated some Maximite very hot
and filled a projectile with it through the false base plug provided for
the purpose. There were two holes in the false base plug, through one
of which the Maximite was poured into the projectile, while the other
served as a vent. Being uncertain whether or not the projectile was
filled solidly, the officer took a round stick, and rammed it down one
of the holes, while he looked into the other. The result was that his
eyes were filled and his face covered with the hot liquid Maximite,
putting him out of commission for a week.

My sympathy for the fellow was quite overbalanced by my gratification.


Shortly after the Russo-Japanese war, there drifted in upon the Chinese
shore one of the huge floating mines constructed by the Russians,
containing about five hundred pounds of guncotton. This strange object
greatly excited the curiosity of the Chinese, who flocked in large
numbers to view it. While half a thousand of them were crowded in close
upon the mine, marveling over the mystery of this flotsam, one of their
number began to investigate it with a hammer, and, hitting the fuze a
heavy blow, exploded the mine.

An American witnessed the event from a distance. Wondering what all the
excitement was about, he had started toward the crowd with the intention
of making an investigation on his own account, when, of a sudden, there
was a flash and shock. The horde of Chinamen that had been clustered
about the mine vanished in a cloud of dust. Fragments of heads, arms and
legs rocketed skyward in the form of an inverted cone. The head of a
Chinaman, severed from the trunk, went hurtling through the air, with
the queue out-streaming behind, like a comet coming to perihelion. It
passed just over the horrified American and struck the ground some
distance beyond him.


An inventor, who lived in the mosquito belt of Staten Island,
constructed a dynamite gun out of a piece of four-inch-gas-pipe, and a
dynamite bomb out of a short section of gas-pipe, capped at both ends.
The bomb was filled with No. 1 dynamite. He placed several pads of felt
between the projectile and the powder charge, to lessen the shock upon
the bomb. By using small charges, he succeeded in firing a number of the
projectiles safely. Although the velocity was low, still it was greater
than that obtainable with the Zalinski pneumatic dynamite gun, which at
that time was beginning to receive some measure of public attention.

The inventor was so fortunate as to have a "pull" with the congressman
from his district, and through this influence he succeeded in getting
Government permission for a test of his piece at Sandy Hook. In the
meantime he had strengthened the powder chamber of his gun by driving
on several steel hoops, in order to use larger charges of powder. So
confident was he of the safety of his system of throwing high
explosives, that, when the officers at Sandy Hook insisted on his
retiring with them behind the bomb-proof during the firing of the piece,
he balked and insisted that he be permitted to stand by his gun while
firing it, as he had done in his previous experiments on Staten Island.
He was not in the least impressed with any possibility of danger by
reason of the fact that he was now using a much larger powder charge.

The officers, however, were obdurate. They told him bluntly that he must
either stand behind the bomb-proof, or his gun would not be tested.

He replied:

"Very well, if Uncle Sam does not want my gun enough to let me test it
in my own way, then I will sell it to foreign governments, and make
Uncle Sam feel very sick and sorry."

On his return with his gun to Staten Island, he gathered together a
party of neighbors and some representatives of the press, to witness
the experiments that Uncle Sam had missed. When the gun was ready to
fire, the little knot of spectators frayed out, and peeped from cover.
There was but one shot, which was not a shot, but an explosion.

After waiting for some time for the inventor to come down and explain,
the spectators went home, disappointed.


In the early nineties I was experimenting with a new fulminate compound
as a detonator for fuzes in high explosive projectiles. The compound
consisted of fulminate of mercury with gelatinated guncotton and

One of my workmen had a pup of a miscellaneous breed, which would eat
anything under the sun that he could masticate, and when anything was
thrown into his mouth not too big for him to bolt, he swallowed it
without the formality of chewing it.

One day his master gave him about half a pound of this fulminate
compound. Another of the workmen put some metallic sodium and dry
fulminate into a gelatin capsule, stuck this into the end of a quintuple
dynamite cap, wrapped the whole thing in a piece of meat, and, calling
the dog out into the field, made him stand up and "speak" for it. Then
he dropped it into the dog's throat and it was swallowed at a gulp.

The next instant, the latter workman's own dog, which he prized very
highly, came upon the scene and entered into a very brisk wrestling-bout
with the dog that had been charged. Before he could call him away, there
was a terrific explosion, and both dogs vanished from this vale of


Before the discovery by Nobel that the absorption of nitroglycerin by
infusorial earth rendered it much less sensitive to shock, numerous
attempts were made to bring it into general use, in liquid form, as a
blasting agent, the most notable of which was during the digging of the
Hoosac Tunnel. But, owing to its highly sensitive character, fatalities
were numerous; while, furthermore, the necessity for perfect purity in
order to render nitroglycerin stable--that is to say, to make it keep
well--was not at first recognized, and many disasters were the result
from explosions due to its decomposition.

The first attempt to introduce nitroglycerin as a blasting agent into
the United States was made by a young German student. He called the
stuff "glonoin oil." He brought over a few hundred pounds in cans on the
steamer with him, most of which he disposed of during his sojourn in
the States. But his venture was not a financial success, and he was
obliged, when he returned to Europe, to leave an unpaid board bill at a
New York hotel where he had been staying. He had left one fifty-pound
can of glonoin oil, which he let the hotel proprietor hold as security,
but which, however, later developments proved to be insecurity.

The glonoin oil occupied a place of honor in one corner of the barroom
for several months after the departure of the German student.
Decomposition having set in, yellow nitrous fumes began to emerge from
the receptacle, the malevolent odor of which was soon noticed by one of
the guests, who called the landlord's attention to the fact. Highly
disgusted, the landlord picked up the can, walked to the front door, and
threw it into the middle of the street. The act resulted in a miniature
earthquake, which shattered the walls on both sides of the street, broke
window-glass over a square mile, and landed the hotel proprietor in the


During the Russo-Japanese war a certain officer of the Czar, who was an
impatient, overbearing person and a great martinet, had a Chinese
servant whom he treated with the utmost harshness for the smallest
delinquency, or for none at all. One of his favorite methods of
inflicting punishment for offenses was to order the Chinaman to leave
his presence, and, as the fellow went, to give him a hard kick.

The Chinaman aired his grievances one day to a Japanese spy, whom he
took to be a brother Chinaman. The Jap suggested padding the seat of the
Chinaman's trousers to prevent further contusions, and this was done,
the padding being furnished by the Jap. A rubber hot-water bag was
filled with absorbent cotton containing all the nitroglycerin it would
hold. A small exploding device armed with percussion caps was placed in
the bag so that the nitroglycerin would be exploded by any sudden blow.
The unfortunate Chinaman was wholly unaware of the nature of the

At the next meeting of the Russian with his servant, the poor Oriental
inadvertently spilled some tea upon the officer's new uniform. Thereupon
the enraged master proceeded to dismiss the Chinaman from his presence
in the usual way, but with somewhat more precipitation.

One of the officer's legs was blown off, one arm was crushed to pulp,
four ribs were broken, and it was more than a day before he was restored
to consciousness. When he did come to, he found himself a prisoner in a
Japanese hospital, having been left behind by the retreating Russians.

As to the Chinaman himself, poor fellow, he never knew that he had been


An American reporter, who was with the Japanese during the Manchurian
campaign, told me the following story:

Column after column of Japanese had assaulted a Russian position, the
capture of which was exceedingly desirable. Line after line of the brave
little fellows was swept down by the unerring gun-fire of the Russians,
but each time a few Japanese would scale the works, and go over them,
only to be slain by the Russians inside.

There was a lull for a short space, and the reporter thought, as
doubtless did the Russians, that the Japanese had given up the task,
when, suddenly, a troop of perhaps a hundred Japanese rushed forward, in
a widely scattered line. Onward they flew toward the Russian position,
and, as they went up, there was a blaze of the Russian rifles, and half
the Japanese column disappeared with a flash and a tremendous report....
They had exploded!

Each of them had been loaded with an infernal machine, hung across his
breast and over his shoulders, so that should but a few of them reach
the enemy's position, they could explode themselves and hurl death and
destruction all around them.

The Russians were so astounded, so paralyzed by the spectacle and by the
unexpectedness of it, that they ceased firing, while the remaining
living bombs scaled the ramparts and leaped in among their enemies, who
instantly vacated the place, flying like rats from a sinking ship.


During the Russo-Japanese conflict, more than one of the Czar's warships
disappeared in a night cruise without leaving a trace.

I got the following story somewhat indirectly, and for that reason
cannot vouch for its truth. It was told to my informant by a Japanese
officer while in rather a more communicative mood than is usual for an
officer of the Mikado.

This Japanese official at the time commanded a torpedo-boat. In the
flotilla of which his vessel was one there was a torpedo-boat that
carried neither guns nor torpedoes, for she had been stripped of all
armament and every mechanical device not absolutely essential to her
navigation, in order to lighten her. And then she was loaded with
dynamite to her full capacity.

The Japanese officer declared that when a volunteer crew of half a dozen
men was called for to navigate her, ten times the required number
offered themselves, although they well knew that they were going to
certain death.

The flotilla was steaming slowly through the darkness one night, not far
from Port Arthur, when there suddenly loomed up ahead the huge bulk of a
Russian warship. At once the dynamite-laden craft threw herself directly
in front of the oncoming leviathan.

Without the pause of an instant, the doomed Japanese crew sprung the
huge mine, when a vast cone of flame shot up, reddening the night,
carrying with it high into the air, decks, superstructure and guns of
the warship. The warship's magazines, fired simultaneously by the
dynamite blast, aided the complete demolition. The returning torrent of
guns and wreckage plunged into the sea.

All was over, and it was dark again.


In spite of every precaution at Government proving grounds, big
projectiles do sometimes glance out of the butts or heaps of earth into
which they are fired, or from the face of armorplates against which they
are directed, and finally land in most unexpected quarters.

One day, while a thirteen-inch gun was being tested at Indian Head, a
projectile glanced out of the butt, mounted high into the air, and then
came down through the roof of a building, where there were engaged a
number of officers and book-keepers. The projectile passed down through
the floor, close to the desk of one of the officers, and buried itself
in the earth.

As the projectile contained no explosive charge, the damage was not
great, but the scare that was thrown into the occupants of that room was
of considerable magnitude.


One of the most anxious moments that I ever experienced was during some
experiments made by me at Maxim in throwing aerial torpedoes from a
four-inch cannon.

These torpedoes were about four feet in length, charged with a very
powerful high explosive, and armed with a detonating fuze. We had
successfully fired several of them into a sand-butt where they exploded
with great violence. There were six of them: five had been fired and the
sixth was loaded into the gun, ready to be discharged, when a passenger
train on the Jersey Central Railroad hove in sight, and was passing us
about a thousand feet away as the gun was fired.

We had no idea of there being any danger to the train, as its position
was well away from the line of fire, and each of the preceding
projectiles had behaved so well. But, this time, the torpedo glanced
from the sand-butt, and went after that train. We stood paralyzed with
dread as we saw it pass over the train, close to the roof of a car, and
strike in the swamp just beyond it, perhaps a couple of hundred feet
behind the track. An inverted cone of black earth shot up, followed by a
dull sound.

In imagination we had witnessed a frightful catastrophe, the wreck of a
passenger train, with fearful loss of life, and all the horror of our
own resultant predicament. Now that the danger was past, the even tenor
of our way did take on a new relish. What objects we are, after all, of
the mercy of chance!


At the same place, I was one day on the point of beginning an
experiment, for which I required a small quantity of dry guncotton.
Before going for it to the guncotton dry-house, I instituted a search
for a suitable vessel in which to carry it. For some mysterious reason I
had much difficulty in finding anything just adapted to my purpose, and
the hunt delayed me a matter of five minutes or more. Finally, however,
I secured a satisfactory vessel, and hurried out of the door in the
direction of the dry-house.... I had covered less than a rod of the
distance when the dry-house blew up.

In this instance, surely, a benign Providence interfered to save me from


Some years ago, soon after I had built my experimental laboratory near
Lake Hopatcong, a dear old friend came to visit me. He had seen hard
times in the interval that had separated us, and had suffered from both
business reverses and ill health since the days when he and I were
chums. He was plunged in the depths of pessimism, while I was
optimistic. He was in the throes of abject discouragement. Though I made
him many offers of assistance in varied forms, none of them seemed to
cheer him in the least.

When I knew him in our youth, he had been one of the bravest men that
ever lived; now, he appeared to have lost all his former courage. Often,
however, he made the remark that he was minded to make an end of
everything, since life offered him nothing worth while. I frequently
importuned him against the folly of contemplating suicide.

It came about that one day I was in need of fulminate of mercury. As
this material cannot be taken upon a train or sent by express, it was
necessary to go for it with horse and wagon. Both my assistants and
myself were just then too busy to be spared from the work in hand. So,
it occurred to me that my old friend would be exactly the person to send
on the quest. Since he was even then engaged in meditating suicide, he
would not be in the least afraid of fetching the stuff for me. Of
course, I should not have thought of sending him had I believed there
was any particular danger. Certainly there would be none if the material
were handled properly, and in a wet state.

My old friend started on the mission valorously enough, but he lost his
courage presently, and returned empty-handed.

I then sent one of my helpers, a spare man who worked for me
occasionally, as he had been long connected with the manufacture and
handling of explosives. I gave him the necessary money for the purchase
of the material, for the hire of the team and his other expenses, and as
there would be two or three dollars over, I told him he could spend
that in any way he liked, for his own use and behoof.

He returned along toward evening, left the horse and wagon at the
stable, and started up to the works with a bag containing ten pounds of
fulminate, placed in a small hand-valise. Fortunately I saw him coming
soon after he had abandoned the vehicle.

The road was altogether too narrow for him; the ground seemed to reel
under his feet, and he was steadying himself by swinging the valise back
and forth from side to side with great violence. A drunker man never

I took the valise away from him, and carried it to the works myself. The
next day, when we opened it, we found that instructions had not been
followed about wetting the fulminate. The bag of dry fulminate had, when
he procured it, been merely set in a pail of water for a few minutes,
and only long enough to wet a thin stratum of the explosive, leaving the
whole interior perfectly dry.

It is surely a wonder that the drunken man had not exploded this mass of
dry fulminate in the rough handling he had given it. Had he fallen with
the bag, he must almost certainly have caused an explosion by the shock
of the impact of the fulminate against the ground.


At another time, I required some very pure nitroglycerin. As this
material, like the fulminate of mercury, could not be transported by
either freight or express, it was necessary to go and bring it over by
horse and wagon, or by automobile. I decided to go and fetch it myself
with my automobile, which, at that time, was a Haynes-Apperson of one of
the early makes. That machine had the faculty of going wrong oftener and
in more places than any other piece of machinery I ever saw or heard of.

It had a very short wheel base, and, as the steering gear had worn so
much that there was a good deal of lost motion, it required very great
skill to keep the car in the road. No sooner would it be brought in line
with the highway than it would immediately proceed toward the ditch or
some wall or tree. It swayed from side to side of the road like a
drunken man, and it was necessary, in order to keep it in the road at
all, to calculate an average with it.

As it was quite a long drive to where I was to procure the
nitroglycerin, I went into New York and brought out a young chauffeur
from the Haynes-Apperson Company, explaining to him fully why I wanted
him, and for what I was going. I made him understand that I did not want
him to start to accompany me unless he had the courage to stand by me to
the end. He was all courage; bravery seemed to ooze out of him at every

When we started on our journey, early the next morning, I found that he
was wholly unable to steer the automobile. He could not keep it in the
road at all, and I had to drive it all the way myself; but, as he
understood the machine and how to repair it, I concluded that he might
prove valuable on that account. And he did, for during the outgoing and
return trip, that old machine broke down three times, and the tires went
flat four times.

On arrival at the factory, I let the chauffeur wait while I went to
procure the nitroglycerin. I took a lot of bicarbonate of soda with me,
with which I absorbed the nitroglycerin, forming a sort of paste. This
rendered it safe to handle, and, by placing it in water, I could at any
time dissolve out the bicarbonate of soda, and leave the pure

When I had prepared fifty pounds of nitroglycerin in this manner, placed
it in glass jars and rolled them up with several thicknesses of felt
covering material, I had them taken up to the automobile and placed in
the rear part of it.

I then told the young chauffeur that I was ready to proceed, but he said
that he had been talking with the men in the office, and that they had
told him that they would not ride with Mr. Maxim in that automobile with
that nitroglycerin for all the money in the world. They had frightened
the fellow nearly out of his wits. It was with much persuasion and
reasoning and insistence that I finally got him to consent to get into
the car with me and ride along a very smooth even road to the skirts of
the town, letting him believe that he could there escape, and that I
would proceed alone.

When we got a little out of the town, I reminded him of his agreement to
stick with me, and told him that it would be out of the question for me
to attempt to proceed alone without an assistant, as I had but one hand,
and could not repair the machine very well if anything should go wrong.
But he was deaf to all entreaties.

Then I told him, with highly colored emphasis and significant gestures,
that, should he not proceed with me, as he had agreed, I might prove
then and there more dangerous to his comfort and well-being than the
nitroglycerin--and I kept him with me!

After having traveled a few miles, the chauffeur began to recover his
courage, and I had no more trouble with him.

As I was ascending a steep grade along a narrow road, on the return
trip, I saw a big touring car bearing down upon me, with a party of four
young men and two young women in it. They were traveling like the wind.
I turned out of the road as far as I possibly could, and stopped my car,
and signaled with my hand to them to slow down, pointing to the
narrowness of the road.

They gave little heed to this, and rushed by me like a tornado, coming
so close that they could not have missed my machine, hub to hub, more
than an inch.

There is little consolation in the fact that, had they struck us, they
never would have known how foolish a thing they had done.


A chemist friend of mine once invented a process of converting
nitro-benzole into tri-nitro-benzole by a very quick and labor-saving
method, which consisted in mixing the nitro-benzole with nitric acid,
confining the mixture in a large, strong, steel cylinder, then gradually
heating the cylinder until the required pressure should be produced,
which was expected to effect the desired reaction.

Accordingly, five hundred pounds of nitro-benzole was mixed with the
necessary quantity of nitric acid of the requisite strength, and the
heating process was begun.

While anxiously watching this infernal machine, my friend saw a peculiar
blue flame emerge from the seam around the head. Being of an alert
nature, and able to take a hint without being kicked by an elephant, he
withdrew from the vicinity of that cylinder. He did not merely sidle
away from the perilous place--he fairly flew with an alacrity born of
desperation. He had barely emerged from the laboratory when there was a
terrific explosion that leveled the building, and formed an enormous
crater in the earth where he had stood, the concussion knocking him
senseless. And, today, he still swears, with solemn earnestness, that a
freight car could have been buried in the hole that was blown in the
ground when his pet project went off.

This experience so impressed him that he concluded that explosive
compounds possess properties which place them in a class by themselves,
and that it is a good class to avoid.


During the experiments with Maximite at Sandy Hook, previous to its
purchase and adoption by the United States Government, I was loading
some shell in a small house, near where a ten-inch gun was being fired.
About a year or so before, when a ten-inch gun of this particular make
was being tested at Sandy Hook, the breech block blew out, went through
the bomb-proof, and killed several officers and men.

Having completed my work, I started up the railroad track in the
direction of the steamboat landing, to return home, when there came the
ring of the bell for another discharge of the cannon. As the breech of
the gun was pointing in my direction, I recalled the above fatality; but
I reasoned with myself that, as a large number of tests had since been
made with these guns, and as the defect in the breech mechanism was
supposed to have been corrected, the chance of the breech blowing out at
this particular discharge and coming my way was infinitely small.

Nevertheless, I thought, it is exactly on such occasions that the
unexpected does happen. So I ran for all I was worth up the track and
off at one side. Then I heard the report of the gun, and looking around,
saw that sure enough the breech block had blown out, and saw it pass
through a building in its path. I saw it strike the track over which I
had been walking, cut a rail off, saw it strike the old stone fort
beyond me, and ricochet high into the air.

There was an immediate shower of stones and débris falling around me,
which I dexterously dodged. On examining the small house where I had
been charging the Maximite shell I found that the windows were fairly
riddled with pieces of smokeless powder, which had been blown from the
breech of the gun.


Among the many dynamite plants that hang upon the verdant hills of the
American countryside, there is one which stands somewhat apart from the
railroad, and the dynamite has to be carted to the station over the
highway. At one point the highway passes close to the edge of a
precipice of considerable height, at the bottom of whose abrupt, ragged
sides nestles a pleasant villa, owned by a wealthy business man.

A friend of mine, who told me the story, had just paid a visit to this
factory of explosives, and was walking leisurely along the road. At a
distance of perhaps a hundred yards ahead of him there was one of the
dynamite wagons, moving two tons of dynamite to the railroad. The driver
had recently purchased a couple of fresh horses, which he pronounced "a
spanking pair." They were rather restive and shied at everything they
saw. But the driver was a brave fellow and a strong one, and he had no
fear of being unable to control them.

All at once, under the impulse of a gust of wind, a newspaper flared up
in front of them. Quick as a flash, they bolted, rushing headlong, the
bits held firmly between their teeth; while the high-piled load of
dynamite swayed from side to side menacingly as the wagon took the
curves of the road.

At this instant the foreman of the dynamite-works flashed by, driving a
pair of horses to an empty wagon. He had observed the plight of the
driver of the dynamite wagon, and was lashing his horses in mad pursuit.

Although the foreman's team was inferior, still his wagon was empty, and
he was soon neck and neck with the runaway horses. For several hundred
yards it was a close race, neither achieving any appreciable advantage
over the other. Nearer and nearer were they coming to the precipice,
which yawned just where the road turned sharply to the right. Still on
and on they flew, when, in a moment of advantage, the foreman leaped
from his wagon, full upon the neck and head of the nigh horse of the
runaway pair, and brought the team to a standstill within less than
fifty feet of the precipice, and directly over the villa I have

Had not this foreman possessed both the presence of mind and the
athletic qualifications necessary, coupled with great daring, that load
of dynamite must inevitably have gone over the precipice as the horses
struck that curve. Little the peaceful occupants of the villa under the
hill imagined what a calamity at that fearful moment overhung them!


An editor in a large Western mining city once hit upon a happy expedient
for getting rid of obnoxious callers. To this end, he filled a gunpowder
keg with ashes, inserted a fuze, piled a handful of black gunpowder
around it, to give the whole an air of reality, and established the
arrangement on a table in his ante-room. On the advent of certain bores,
the office boy followed instructions by lighting the fuze, and walking
out of the room with the audible remark:

"I'm goin' to blow up that old guy in there!"

The thing proved its worth as an automatic bouncer, until, on a
memorable day, a long-haired, calf-eyed, dreamy-looking young male
person came into the place, who informed the office boy that he desired
to see the editor. He explained in cadenced speech that he deigned to
exhibit to the editor a poetic effusion, the lucubration of a fine
frenzy, fairly oozing divine afflatus, on the Surplusage of Over-Soul in
Young Maidens.

On hearing his minion's report concerning the visitor, the editor told
the boy to light the fuze and to ask the poet to sit down; that the
editor would see him in half an hour.

When the editor went out into the ante-room the fuze had burned out, the
surface gunpowder had flashed off, but the poet was still sitting


I was once called as an expert to visit a dynamite plant where a new
kind of high explosive was being manufactured instead of the ordinary
nitroglycerin dynamite. It consisted of a mixture of chlorate of potash,
sulphur, charcoal and paraffin wax. Its inventor had given it the
reassuring name of Double X Safety Dynamite.

A quarry-man in a nearby town had, with his safety-ignoring habitude,
attempted to load a hole with the stuff, using a crowbar as a rammer,
with the result that he set off the charge, and the crowbar went through
his head.

This unscheduled eventuation aroused the apprehension of the president
of the company, who was also its backer. He began to grow suspicious
about the safety of the material. Being so much interested, he went with
me on my visit of inspection.

We left the train at a siding about a mile from the works, and had just
started in their direction when there came a sudden boom and roar, and
the earth shook. Over the powder works there rose a huge column of black
smoke, flaring wide into the sky.

We found a great crater where the mixing house had stood. Three men were
working in the building when the explosion occurred. A fortunate
survivor who had left the place a moment before to go for a bucket of
drinking water, was walking about the crater, apparently searching for
something among the scattered remnants. As we approached him, he sadly

"I can't find much of the boys. I guess you'll have to plow the ground
if you want to bury them."


Several years ago, at the works of the American Forcite Company, a batch
of nitrogelatin blew up in process of manufacture and several men were
killed. One laborer who was working so close to where the explosion
occurred that his clothing was nearly all blown off and he was spattered
with the blood of his companions and crazed by the shock, started in a
wild and aimless run along the road, with his tattered garments flying
in the wind.

A woman of the neighborhood, whose husband was employed at the works,
intercepted him with the eager inquiry:

"Is anyone killed?"

"Yes, yes!" said he, "We are all killed! Every one of us is killed!"

And it was some time before he could be convinced that he was not among
the dead.


Motorite consists of a compound of about seventy per cent. nitroglycerin
and thirty per cent. gelatinated guncotton, the mixture being compounded
in such a way as to form a tough and rubbery substance. This material is
made into bars, which are smoothed and varnished upon the outside and
then forced into steel tubes. In use, these steel tubes are placed in an
apparatus in such wise that the bar of motorite can be ignited only at
the exposed end, in a combustion chamber, into which water is forced,
and as the combustion is confined to that end, it proceeds with absolute
uniformity, according to the pressure, and without explosion. In other
words, the motorite acts as a fuel, the products of combustion serving
as a flame blast, blowing the water through a series of baffle plates,
atomizing it, and converting it instantly into steam. The object of
motorite is to replace compressed air in the driving of motors for
self-propelled torpedoes.

I have already expended more than fifty thousand dollars in experiments
with motorite and on different kinds of apparatus for its use. As about
four times as much energy is available for driving a torpedo by this
system as by any other, I hope some time to effect arrangements for the
equipment of torpedoes with it.

The first bars of motorite that I made, I formed by passing through a
die. The result was that a small, microscopic flaw which could not be
seen with the naked eye extended through the bars from end to end, so
that, when the bar was placed in the combustion apparatus, the flame of
ignition passed immediately down through the flaw, exploding the

After the first apparatus blew up, I made another one, and, as I could
not very well conduct the experiments at the place where the first
mishap occurred, I hired a floor in a building to make the test. But I
needed an assistant, and it was problematical where I could find one.

One day, while returning home, I was accosted by a panhandler, a young
man claiming to have just arrived from Pittsburg, seeking work. I told
him that if he was actually looking for work I had a job for him, and I
bade him come right along with me. I took him home that night, fed him,
and watched him.

The next morning we went down to the shop. I explained to him all about
the nature of the experiment that I was about to try, and told him that,
if he had any timidity, the time to abscond was then and there. He told
me that he was not afraid of anything, if I was not.

"Very well, then," I said, "I do not expect the thing to blow up;
otherwise, I would not be here."

I got my time-watch ready, and told him to press the electric button to
ignite the motorite. Instantly there was a terrific explosion. The
windows were blown out into the street, and pieces of the shattered
apparatus were driven into the ceiling and into the wall all about us;
but fortunately neither of us was hit.

John looked calmly about him for a moment, and then at me, and

"God, she busted!"

While we were recovering from our amazement, half a dozen policemen
rushed into the place, accompanied by a priest. I explained the mishap
the best way I could, and, seeing that the priest was a handsome,
genial, good-natured fellow, I appealed to him. He had a little chat
with the policemen, and they all left.

I sent that priest a box of the best cigars that I could buy.

Under the counsel and advice of the landlord I then moved away from

I next bought a house, and in the back yard I built a laboratory with no
windows or doors in it, except a skylight at the top and the windows and
doors that fronted my house. The walls were of brick, and made thick.
The skylight at the top was a large one, and was arranged to open up
full size. Special precautions were taken by means of various
attachments to cause the roof to stay on in case of emergency.

A new apparatus was made and erected and got ready to test. This time my
wife was my assistant, and we arranged to touch the thing off by
electricity from the house. Again it exploded, and one of the fragments
of the apparatus, coming through the open door, struck the wooden wall
behind which my wife and I were standing and nearly passed through it.

On entering the laboratory, I discovered for the first time what was the
actual cause of the trouble, namely, the longitudinal flaw already
referred to, evidenced by the fragments of the motorite that remained
after the explosion, for motorite, like smokeless gunpowder, when
subjected to explosive pressure, is immediately extinguished upon the
release of the pressure, so that when the apparatus blew up, all of the
unconsumed motorite was extinguished, just as when the projectile leaves
the gun any unburned smokeless powder is extinguished and is blown out
in front of the gun, where the partially consumed grains may be

The next motorite was made by rolling the material into sheets, cutting
into discs, sealing them together under pressure, and in that way
building up the bars, which precluded the possibility of there being any

Some motorite was soon made in this manner, and another apparatus
constructed, which was tested and which worked very satisfactorily.

Following this successful result, I built a laboratory at a dynamite
plant near Lake Hopatcong for conducting the experiments on a larger

My assistant at the motorite laboratory was one of that American country
type, absolutely honest, perfectly fearless, painstaking and diligent,
of such timber as the great men of the earth are made. He was altogether
a most lovable fellow. He had all his life worked with explosives, and
was a veteran in the manufacture and use of nitroglycerin and dynamite.
But, when doing pioneer work with explosives, there is always an
unavoidable element of risk, even when the greatest care is taken.

We at first had the hydraulic press, in which we built up the sticks of
motorite, located in the laboratory room itself; but I suggested to my
assistant one day that it had better be placed outside, and a heavy
brick wall built between us and the press, as a barricade in case of a
possible accident.

"For," I said, "suppose you should by oversight neglect to put in the
leather packing between the piston and the motorite, we might have an

He said that he could hardly forget that precaution. Nevertheless, the
press was placed outside, and the barricade built. The very first time
that we used the press thereafter he did forget the packing, with the
result that the press exploded. Although we were behind the barricade,
still the concussion brought us to our knees. Had the explosion occurred
while the press was being operated in the main laboratory, we should
both have certainly been very seriously injured, if not killed.

It was a matter of several months before the full-sized torpedo
apparatus with which we were to experiment was completed and erected,
and the necessary quantity of motorite made.

On the day before the regular test was to be conducted, I was called to
Morristown, as expert on a case in court, and I left orders with my
assistant to make up an additional small quantity of sealing compound,
used for sealing the discs of motorite together in building up the
bars. This sealing material was made of a mixture of nitroglycerin,
guncotton, camphor and acetate of amyl.

As I did not receive the telegram to go to Morristown until after I left
home that morning, my wife expected that I would be working at the
laboratory that day, but knew that I might possibly have a call to

On my way home that evening, I was informed by a neighbor that there had
been an explosion in my laboratory, that my assistant had been killed,
and that the place had been burned down. I hastened to the spot and
found my wife there waiting for me. All that was left of my assistant
lay in an adjacent building covered with a piece of sacking.

That was one of the saddest moments of my whole life. It is impossible
to know what little slip or misjudgment may have produced the explosion.
A little inadvertence in the handling of a bottle of nitroglycerin may
have been the cause.

The manner in which my wife was informed of the accident was about on a
par with that employed by the Irishman who took the remains of a
fellow-workman, killed by an explosion, home to his wife in a
wheelbarrow, and, knocking upon the door, asked:

"Does the widdy McGinnis live here?"

She replied: "Indade, and I'm not a widdy."

And he said: "And faith ye are, for I have his rimnants here in the
wheelbarry with me."

A butcher was the messenger-bearer to Mrs. Maxim. He said:

"Mrs. Maxim, have you heard the news about the explosion?"

And he continued: "Mr. Maxim's laboratory blew up and burned down today.
They have found some of his assistant, but they haven't found any of Mr.
Maxim yet."

Mrs. Maxim immediately rushed to the scene of the accident, where she
learned the welcome news that I was in Morristown that day.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a matter of another year of hard work before I was again ready to
make a new trial of the torpedo apparatus. There were several amusing
experiences in connection with that testing.

The apparatus held a charge of one hundred and ten pounds of motorite.
Water was pumped continuously through a water jacket over the steel
cylinders containing the burning motorite and into the combustion
chamber during each run. The apparatus was provided with an exhaust
valve so constructed as to control, to a nicety, the pressure in the
combustion chamber.

Under three hundred pounds pressure to the square inch, which was what
was mainly used, the motorite burned at the rate of a foot in length per
minute, and as each foot in length weighed twenty-five pounds, it burned
at the rate of twenty-five pounds per minute. Each pound of motorite
evaporated a little more than two pounds of water, and the products of
combustion, mingling with the steam produced, escaped from the exhaust
valve through an inch-and-a-half nozzle.

The roar of the escaping gas and steam was so great that it was
impossible to hear one shout at the top of his voice. The loudest shout
was less than a whisper. The roar could be heard with great distinctness
more than two miles away. A good idea can be had of the violence with
which the steam and gases escaped, from the fact that a door, which
accidentally swung shut during one of the runs in front of the nozzle,
although seven feet distant, was blown from its hinges, broken in two,
and the fragments hurled twenty feet away. The noise was so confounding,
that it was some time before my assistants and myself could keep our
senses about us and note and record the pressures on the various gauges
during a run, although the apparatus was separated from us by a
barricade so strong and heavy that there was no possibility of our being
injured, even should there be an explosion.

One day, just as we were about to make a run, the superintendent of a
nearby explosives works called upon us, and I asked him if he would like
to see the run, and he said he would.

I then asked him to note particularly and to record the pressure on a
certain gauge. The run lasted about five minutes and, on turning to him
for his notes, he himself was surprised that he had been so confounded
by the noise that he had not thought of looking at the gauge at all.

On the day when the final test took place, the firm of torpedo-builders
that was interested with me in the apparatus sent several
representatives, including their chief engineer, vice-president and
other officers of the company, to witness the test. Everything being in
readiness, and each member of the committee being convinced that there
was no possible danger in remaining in proximity to the apparatus and
back of the barricade, while it was being tested, I gave each of the
committee explicit instructions to watch the various gauges and to note
the pressures, while the chief engineer and myself were to watch the
nozzle gauge, and to observe the character and force of the steam and
gases escaping from the nozzle.

I told the several members of the committee it was indispensable that
they should carefully watch the pressure gauges during the entire run.
As it was a condition of the test that I should get up steam within ten
seconds, the chief engineer stood ready with his stop-watch when the
electric button was pressed to ignite the motorite.

As the action was instantaneous, that is to say, as steam was got up
practically instantaneously and was escaping at the nozzle under full
head as quickly as a gun could be fired, he did not think of his
stop-watch, and it was some little time before I could get him to look
at the pressure gauge on the nozzle, so as to observe the character of
the escaping steam. His eyes had a blank, meaningless look, but it must
be confessed that he had the grit to stand there. Not so, however, with
the other members of the committee. Each of them was far more interested
in his own individual run than he was in the run of the apparatus, for
not one of them was in sight when the run was completed. They came
straggling back sheepishly, but no urging sufficed to bring them near
the apparatus during any of the succeeding runs.


In the old days when the Indians were sometimes troublesome on the
Western frontier, an officer in the regular army, who was rather an
ingenious fellow, conceived the idea of making a mountain gun out of a
mule and the barrel of a common field-piece, using the mule for the
carriage. He therefore had the gun securely mounted on the back of the

They had not proceeded far with this novel battery, when a small knot of
hostile savages was espied quietly eating their midday meal within easy
range. The mounted gun was forthwith loaded heavily with grape and
canister, the mule taken by the head and pointed in the direction of the
Indians. A short piece of fuze that had been placed in the touch-hole of
the gun was ignited.

The mule, hearing the sizzing of the fuze, began to rear and snort and
kick and whirl about, while the officer and his men scudded to cover,
and flattened themselves out upon the ground. They had not long to wait
when there was a terrific crash. The gun had exploded under the
overcharge, with the utter demolition of the mule carriage.

The Indians, hearing the report, looked quickly about them, and seeing
the fragments of an exploded mule rocketing through the air, were
frightened nearly out of their wits, and fled precipitately.


When I was a young man I taught several terms of school in Maine, where,
in the small country districts, the teacher is expected to be a walking
encyclopedia of information.

One day there came a loud knock upon the door of the schoolhouse. On
going out to see what was the cause of the imperative summons, I found
standing there the wife of one of the neighbors, white as a sheet with
agitation and alarm. She excitedly told me that her little boy, Gussie,
had just swallowed a bullet, and she asked me what she should do for

"Why," said I pleasantly, "Give him a good charge of gunpowder. But be
careful not to point him toward anybody."

She went home and gave him a dose of gunpowder, without ever seeing the


A contractor, who does business up in New York State, told me the
following story:

A carload of nitroglycerin dynamite had been shipped to him, but was
held up in a freight-house for a day or two before delivery to him. One
night while it was there, the freight-house took fire. Hearing the
fire-alarm and looking out, he was astounded to see that it was the
freight-house burning. Believing that his carload of dynamite would be
sure to explode, he started to run to the scene in all haste, to warn
the firemen and others to keep far away from the inevitable explosion,
when, suddenly, there was a great burst of flame, which shot high into
the sky and flared out bright and wild in all directions, sending up an
enormous column of smoke. But this fierce combustion lasted only a few
minutes, and then subsided.

He knew that his dynamite had burned up, and, curiously enough, without

He met the fire chief after the conflagration, and they spoke of the
fire. The chief remarked that there must have been some very combustible
freight on one of the cars. He said that, when the fire first started,
the firemen played a full stream of water on this car, but it did not do
any good. The car burned so fast and so fierce that they had to rush
away for their lives, or they would have been consumed by the intense
heat, and he wondered what it could be that would burn so fiercely.

When told that it was a carload of dynamite, he felt like a man who
discovers the next day that he had, during the night, walked along the
sheer edge of a high precipice.

Although dynamite in such quantities as a carload when ignited is almost
certain to explode instead of merely burning, still, sometimes, even
that quantity will take fire and burn up completely without exploding;
while, at other times, a single stick of dynamite when ignited will


One of the old importers of picric acid in this country told me the
following story:

He sold about five tons of picric acid to a manufacturer of dynamite
doing business at a certain place up the Hudson, for employment as an
ingredient in a particular kind of high explosive.

Not being very familiar with picric acid and the character of the
exploder necessary to detonate it, the purchaser had poor success with
it, and he called upon the importer with the grievance that he had been
sold such a poor lot of picric acid that it was actually non-explosive,
and was therefore practically worthless, and he wanted the seller to
take it back immediately.

The importer could not convince him that he was mistaken, although he
insisted that it was only necessary to know how to explode it, and that,
when properly detonated, it was one of the most powerful explosives in
the world.

"No," said the purchaser, "that picric acid you have sent me is not an

He admitted he knew that picric acid was recognized as a very powerful
explosive; but he was sure of one thing--that the picric acid that had
been sent him was not an explosive.

"Why," said he, "it is no more explosive than sand, and I want you to
take it back."

"All right," said the importer, "you may return me a sample of it, and I
will submit it to the requisite tests, and if it proves an inferior lot
I will take it back."

That day, during the purchaser's absence, some workmen were moving a
barrel of the picric acid in order to let a plumber mend a small leak in
a lead pipe, which supplied the place with water. Over and about this
lead pipe had been spilled a considerable quantity of picric acid, which
had formed picrate of lead with the lead pipe.

The friction from the barrel set off this picrate of lead, which in turn
detonated the picric acid; and the whole five tons went off with such
violence as amply to demonstrate its explosive qualities.

The following day the purchaser returned to the importer with the
complaint that that picric acid sold him was the most sensitive, most
violent and treacherous explosive material in the world.

The importer laughed, and reminded him of their previous conversation.
But, as the dynamite factory had been demolished and several men killed,
the purchaser did not respond very readily to the humor of the


Possibly it may not be diverging too much from dynamite stories to tell
of an experience of mine with a steam-cooker, which I invented away back
in the eighties.

In this cooker I was able to roast and bake by superheated steam.
Sometimes it worked very well. At other times the safety valve gave me a
great deal of trouble, being altogether too uncertain in its action.

One day I was sitting alone in the kitchen, steam-roasting a turkey,
when dispossessed Bridget, who was waiting in an adjoining room, opened
the kitchen door, and took a sly peep at me. I was endeavoring to
convince her that the thing was perfectly safe, when, of a sudden, that
cooker blew up. The kitchen windows were blown out, the door ripped off
its hinges, and the stove demolished.

Fortunately, none of the fragments found either Bridget or me. The oven
portion of the cooker, containing the turkey, went upstairs somewhere,
through the ceiling. Later developments showed that the turkey had gone
to bed in the room over the kitchen.

That cooker was my first patent.


We had a neighbor, when I was a young man down in Maine, by the name of
Bill Bennett, a hard-working farmer, who was very proud of his pile of
dry hard wood, which he had prepared for the winter's cold.

Late in the autumn, however, the wood began to disappear faster than he
thought it ought. He was sure that someone was stealing it, and inasmuch
as his nearest neighbors had no store of wood whatsoever, and, too, were
notoriously shiftless, he concluded that they must be the pilferers.

A little bit of detective work that he practiced to ascertain the truth
of his conclusions was certainly ingenious and worked well.

Bennett took a dozen sticks of wood, and bored a large hole in the end
of each of them, which he filled with rifle powder, putting about a
pound into each stick. He then plugged the holes skillfully to conceal
the evidences of his work, sawing off a short bit of the plugged end of
each stick, so that the plug would not show, and distributed these
sticks upon the part of the pile that was shrinking. He was careful to
select the wood for his own burning from another portion of the heap.

The following evening he was looking from his window toward the house of
the neighbors, wondering how long it would be before his ingenuity bore
fruit, when suddenly there was a flash, a crash and a roar, followed by
screams of "Murder!" and "Fire!"

The mystery had been solved.


This Bill Bennett was a good deal of a marksman, and one day while
attending a county fair, where he had imbibed a considerable measure of
bottled-up unsteadiness, he came reeling along to a group of men who
were engaged in shooting at a target. The range was long, and the price
paid by each contestant for a chance to display his skill, or lack of
it, was a dollar a shot, but the prize was a fat ox, which was destined
to go to the first who made a bull's-eye. As yet none had succeeded in
making the lucky shot.

Bill staggered into position, and threw down a ten-dollar bill for ten
shots. The attendants steadied him sufficiently to confine his wild
target practice to that part of the sky and horizon where the target was

Bill had wasted nine shots without coming within speaking distance of
the target, which to his drunken sight appeared to be double. Rolling
like a ship in a storm, Bill brought the gun to his shoulder for the
last round, declaring, "By gum, I'm agoing to hit one of them targets
this time."

And he did. As they went sailing by, he let blaze at them, and behold,
it was a bull's-eye! Bill had won the ox on a one-to-a-million chance.


In the old pioneer days of Maine, when it was still a province of
Massachusetts, a young French officer had an altercation with the chief
of the Oldtown Indians, and according to the custom of the times,
challenged the Red Man to fight a duel with him.

The old Indian, according to the courtesies of the game, was allowed the
choice of weapons, and he chose two kegs of gunpowder. Each was to sit
upon a keg, with the bung out. Then two pistols were to be discharged in
succession. On the firing of the first pistol, two iron pokers, heated
to a white heat, were to be laid upon a table beside the duelists, which
was to be immediately followed by the discharge of the second pistol. At
this signal they were each to seize a poker and thrust it into the
bung-hole of the keg on which his adversary was sitting, the old Indian
calculating that he would be quicker than the Frenchman.

But the Frenchman had a little calculation of his own, and he figured
out something that the Indian had doubtless not thought of. This was
that the explosion of either keg would be certain to explode the other.

But he made a bluff of it, thinking that the old Indian too might be
bluffing, and so everything was arranged. Each mounted his respective
keg and the first pistol was fired. The savage was a graven image, but
the Frenchman did not wait for the second signal, and unlike Lot's wife,
he never looked back.


My father used to tell a good story about a one-time chief of the
Oldtown Indians, and, as it had to do in a way with explosions--indeed,
a series of them--I add it to my collection.

There was a farmer living in an adjacent town, who frequently received
visits from the old chief. On such occasions, the Red Man always carried
his shotgun with him. The weapon, according to the times, was a
flintlock, single-barreled muzzle-loader.

One day in the autumn, the farmer was feeding his turkeys by stringing a
long line of corn upon the ground, on either side of which the turkeys
were standing, head to head, in two opposing ranks for the feeding. The
Indian was present, and the farmer asked his guest what he would give
for a shot at that double line of turkeys' heads. The Indian answered
that he would give five dollars, if he could have every turkey that he
killed or wounded. The farmer, who had previously drawn the shot from
the Indian's gun, leaving only the powder charge, accepted the offer.

The Indian leveled his gun and fired; but not a turkey fell. The old Red
Man looked puzzled. The farmer laughed at his marksmanship, but the old
savage merely grunted, and went home.

The chief appeared again next day, and the farmer asked him how he would
like to take another shot, having again drawn off a charge of shot from
the Indian's gun. He would gladly give another five dollars for a try.
This time the discharge of the gun brought down a goodly number of
turkeys. The Indian had taken the precaution of loading his gun with a
double charge of shot. On the next visit received from the Indian, the
farmer unloaded the gun down to the powder charge, then put in a wad of
punk, and another powder charge with another wad of punk, and so on,
until he had loaded the weapon nearly to the muzzle. He then replaced
the gun in its position in the corner, dropped a fire-coal into the
muzzle, and invited the Indian to supper.

After the lapse of a few minutes, the Indian's gun went off, bang! Much
surprised, the Indian looked around, and remarked that it was a strange
occurrence, that he had never before known his gun to go off by itself.
While he was still cogitating over the strange occurrence, bang! went
the old gun again.

The Indian hurried through his supper, very greatly perturbed, but he
had not quite finished when the old gun spoke yet once again. The chief
rose from the table hurriedly, seized his ancient weapon, and started
off for home with as nearly a display of agitation as is permissible to
the dignity of the Red Man. Before he had gone far, however, the old gun
uttered another bang! He then broke into a rapid run, and just as he
arrived at his wigwam, the gun banged again. Now thoroughly frightened,
he hurled it from him over a fence. Still, for more than two hours the
Indian's weapon continued its mysterious barking.

When the farmer explained the trick to the old chief, he felt that he
had been somewhat compensated for the loss of his turkeys.


A prominent financier, who was a much better business man than he was
inventor, read of Moissan's experiments in making artificial diamonds.
The financier conceived the idea of converting anthracite coal directly
into diamonds by subjecting it to enormous pressure of gunpowder
exploded in a strong steel cylinder.

As he wished to market a large quantity of his manufactured diamonds
before their artificial character should leak out, he determined to
conduct his experiments very secretly; consequently, he put the
man-of-all-work at his country place upon the job. This faithful and
useful servant was to report the progress of the work regularly at the
city office of his employer.

After trying several experiments with black gunpowder, the man reported
that the scheme didn't work--that no diamonds were produced.

The financier then told the useful that he had evidently reached the
limit of power of black gunpowder.

"Now try dynamite," said he.

There was a break in the chain of reports, and he wrote the useful,
asking him why he did not report. Still no answer.

After waiting some days, the idea suddenly struck the financier that
possibly the process had proved successful and that the useful planned
to betray him. He accordingly sent a peremptory telegram to him to
report at once on pain of discharge.

The next day a vision, swathed and bandaged and perambulating on
crutches, entered his office.

"You infernal old scoundrel!" yelled the wreck, as he entered. "Blow a
man up with dynamite, and then threaten to discharge him for not


I had a certain man in my employ down at Maxim by the name of Benjamin
Billings, whom we called Ben Billingsgate. Ben held views very strongly
prejudicial to dogs and matrimony. He was all that is implied by the
term "all-round useful." Though an erratic fellow, he was bright and
energetic and seemed to be able to do anything under the sun when he set
about it. But he lacked initiative, except in the expression of his
opinions about those two abominations--dogs and matrimony.

When he was young and ardent he had married Sukyanna, a maiden who was
dominated by the delusion that she had been born with a mission, to
which all other considerations were secondary and should be
subordinated. She was also a woman with a pug dog. Benjamin's nerves had
been frazzling out for some time, and his patience was sorely tried by
the division of the lady's affections between him and the dog--with a
decided leaning toward the dog.

One day he brought home to his wife a beautiful Christmas present, which
consisted of a large colored photograph of himself, mounted in an
exquisite gilt frame. The expense of the thing represented a week's hard
labor, but he wanted to create an impression upon his wife. He believed
in doing things by wholes and in striking hard to win. His wife was very
pleased--with the frame.

On his return from work the following evening, he took a sidelong glance
toward the mantel over which the picture had been hung. He did not
recognize himself. There in the frame was a life-size photograph of the
pug in place of his, which Sukyanna had removed.

He uttered never a word, but his whole mental mechanism was turning
somersaults. The next day, at roll-call, that dog was reported among the

Benjamin pretended to sympathize and to condole with his wife, but she
was disconsolate. Some Gypsies had passed that way during the day, and
it was suspected that they might have stolen the dog. The horse was
accordingly hitched up and a drive of ten miles was taken. When the
Gypsies were overhauled and rounded up, the pug was not discovered. Then
an advertisement was inserted in all the town papers. Still no pug. The
canine continued a persistent absentee.

As a matter of fact, Benjamin had devoted ingenuity enough to the
destruction of that dog to form the basis of a Sherlock Holmes detective
story. He had prepared a sort of canister-bomb, adapted to go off by a
strong thump of any sort. The dog, the bomb and a stout rawhide string,
with which to tether the bomb to the dog, were confidingly placed in the
hands of a small boy in the neighborhood, known to have both a sense of
humor and a taste for the mischievous. The boy was, however, fond of
dogs, and it eventuated that he decided to keep the dog for himself.
Hence the delay in the finale of this story.

But the urchin's sense of humor finally got the better of his affection.
He found it impossible to choke off the appeal to his imagination of
hitching that bomb to the dog's tail. Consequently he took the pug out
and carefully tied the canister to its tail. Following the ingenious
instructions of Benjamin, as soon as he had done so he dodged into the
house and shut the door before the dog realized what had happened.

When the pug discovered itself a part of an infernal machine,
old-home-week associations rose up in its memory, and it made a bee-line
for home and human mother.

Benjamin had made a little miscalculation about the amount of thumping
that would be required to actuate the exploding mechanism of his
ingenious bomb, and it did not explode immediately, as expected. The dog
and bomb, consequently, hurtled through space like a comet with a head
on both ends of the tail.

On the dog's arrival, Sukyanna was going about her household duties,
with a book in one hand written by Miriam Mushroom on The
Transcendentalism of the Universal, and Its Relevancy to the Elevation
of Womanhood; while, with the other hand, directed only by subconscious
mental process born of habit, she was preparing supper for Benjamin. She
prided herself on that power of concentration and absorption, so common
to the artistic temperament, which can resist for a while the
battering-ram assaults on consciousness of howling children, barking
dogs, or a house on fire.

As a result, she did not hear or see puggy as, with whine and din and
clatter, he rushed into the room where she stood. Not receiving the
expected attention and consolation, puggy in his impatience circled
around the human mother, entwining the shanks of her in the strong
rawhide cord, until dog and bomb had effectually hobbled her skirts,
when, tripping, she went down on both.

This mean trick on the part of Benjamin bruised her artistic soul and
proved far too much; she instantly separated from Benjamin--in the
direction of the empyrean.

She had at last achieved the realization of the Elevation of Womanhood.


At the works of the Maxim-Nordenfelt Company in England, when some of
the early experiments with smokeless powders were being made in that
company's laboratory, a strong hydraulic cylinder, which had been
employed for compressing experimental explosive materials, was thrown
out of commission by the ram, or plunger, sticking in the cylinder. The
cylinder was taken to the shop, and the job of getting the plunger out
of it was given to one of the workmen. He thereupon commenced in his own
peculiar way by heating the cylinder over a forge, thinking to expand it
sufficiently to allow the plunger to be removed.

He succeeded before long, with an effectuality that perfectly
dumbfounded his slow sense of expedition. The contained explosive
naturally ignited, and the plunger was blown out like a shot from a
cannon. The cylinder itself was blown downward, demolishing the forge,
passing through the plank floor, and burying itself in the ground,
while the plunger whizzed upward through the roof, and disappeared in
the direction of Scotland.


The worker among high explosive materials must never relax his ceaseless
vigilance. Not only his own life, but also the lives of those working at
his side, hang upon the thread of infinite care. This fact is
emphatically illustrated by an experience of my own, while conducting
some experiments with a continuous process for making nitroglycerin
which I had invented.

Orders were waiting, and it would take a week of constant labor on my
part to complete the apparatus. I therefore crowded the week into three
days, working constantly day and night, without a moment's sleep or

I had thought out every detail of the process with the utmost care. I
had tested every step, unit by unit, so I was confident not only that
the process would prove successful, but also that it would be safe to

On the forenoon of the third day, everything being at last in
readiness, I now prepared to turn on the acids and the glycerin. I was
well aware of the grim possibilities of my being killed, for if I had
made a miscalculation or any wrong determination, I knew that my life
might be the forfeit. I gave little thought to the likelihood of my
being incautious due to the tremendous strain to which I had so long
subjected myself. As it happened, I was so worn out that at the very
outset I turned on the glycerin first, instead of the acids. My hand was
actually upon the acids tap before I realized my error.

In that vital moment, some secret sense or instinct called back my
wandering wits in the nick of time, and, shuddering, I dropped my
fingers from the tap. Had I turned it on after the glycerin began to
flow, I must inevitably have been blown to pieces.


I have a literary friend by the name of Marvin Dana, who, although he
was for years editor of the _Smart Set_, once failed in a bit of à
priori perspicuity. Some Italians were blasting out a bit of rock at
Landing for the foundation of a new bridge, to carry the roadway over
the railroad in that village. They had just finished charging a big,
deep hole with dynamite, and had lighted the fuze, when Marvin started
to cross the temporary bridge with his usual measured stride of
ever-conscious dignity. The Italians, who had withdrawn to a safe
distance, seeing him coming, and they being unable to speak English,
gesticulated wildly, and pointed excitedly in the direction of the blast
under the bridge.

The littérateur concluded that there must be something extraordinary
going on down below there--something quite worth looking at, and,
walking directly above the blast, leaned over the bridge and looked
down. Just at that instant the mine exploded.

He was, happily, unhurt by any of the flying stones and débris, but the
knock-down argument of the shock from the blast convinced him that such
carelessness on the part of those Italians, with never a guard to wave a
red flag warning pedestrians, was, indeed, truly shocking.


Just back upon the hills that rise up from the southern shores of Lake
Hopatcong, there is one of the most important dynamite works in the
country. James Wentworth began his labors there first as an errand boy,
at the age of twelve, soon after the works started. It was his brag that
he had grown up with the works, but that he had never gone up with them,
although he had seen many another go up, when, on occasion, by some
freak of chance, a packing-house or a nitroglycerin apparatus would be
blown to the four winds of heaven, spraying wreckage of men and timber
over the whole celestial concave.

Jim had no lack of courage. He had worked in every department of the
business; had made nitroglycerin and nitrogelatin, and had become one of
the most skillful dynamite packers. As he did piece-work, he made money

One day, at a church strawberry festival, he was drawn into the vortex
of that swirling passion, love, and married. The young wife importuned
him to give up the dynamite business, as he had already laid up
sufficient money to start him in another business. Yielding to her
wishes, he gave notice that his resignation was to take effect at the
end of two weeks.

On the third day of the period of his notice, on the advent of the noon
hour, he was seized with an uncontrollable impulse to take his
dinner-pail and himself out of the packing-house where he was working.
He said afterward that he got to thinking, "Suppose this packing-house
should blow up; what would become of Susie?"--to say nothing of his own

He went to the top of an elevation to eat his dinner, in full view of
the packing-house, continuing his pessimistic reflections.

The place began to look suspicious. For the first time in his life he
felt fear. On a sudden, that packing-house became a white, dazzling ball
of flame, and he was knocked down by the concussion.

He told the superintendent that the three days he had served on his
notice must suffice--he had lost his nerve!


In the early days, when there was more individual and less corporate
mining in the gold country of the West, a long and lean Yankee, Jim
Evans, who was once a neighbor of mine in Maine, contracted the
gold-fever, and went West.

Luckily, he almost immediately struck a pay streak high up the face of a
cliff, where there was a wide shelf of rock that afforded a very
convenient roadway for his use, as well as considerable area for the
transaction of his operations.

Someone before him had started operations on the same site, but had
become discouraged and quit, leaving a big steel tank, open at one end,
lying upon its side, the open end pointing, like a huge cannon, over the
mining settlement a thousand feet below. Jim used this tank to warehouse
certain edibles, together with a keg of black gunpowder.

One day, on Jim's return from grubbing in the ground, he was amazed to
find the entrance to his warehouse blocked by a huge grizzly bear that
had crawled in to get at the edibles, and that fitted the big tube like
a wad in a gun.

Jim was addicted to humor, and as there was a three-quarter-inch hole in
the tank near the closed end right over the keg of gunpowder, the head
of which had been removed, it occurred to him that he might make it
somewhat interesting for the bear by lighting a piece of fuze and
dropping it into the gunpowder. This he proceeded to do, and the bear
proceeded to leave that tube after the manner of a cannon ball.

Hearing the report, and seeing a large volume of smoke, the townspeople,
looking skyward and Jim-ward, were astonished at seeing a ton of grizzly
hurtling outward from Jim's place and descending upon them.

On Jim's return to the village that evening, he was surrounded by
numerous interrogators regarding the bear. "Oh," he said, casually, "I
found the bear in my shack, and just threw him out, that's all."


When the Alaskan gold excitement was at its height, a couple of
adventurous spirits, prospectors from California, had expended several
months of precious, good old summer-time and exhausted their resources
in an endeavor to locate pay dirt by sinking a shaft into a narrow table
of land which jutted out from a high mountain near its base.

After thawing and grubbing and blasting through fifty feet of earth,
with no gold in sight, they came upon solid ice underlying the cover of
earth through which they had penetrated.

They kept on, however, for several weeks more, in an endeavor to
penetrate through the ice; but they found ice, and only ice, for another
fifty feet.

Then it was that it occurred to them to salt that ice with fine gold
dust and sell out to some tenderfoot sucker.

They very easily found the desired victims in two Chinamen, with evident
ample means and sufficient lack of experience.

The two prospectors had about a ton of dynamite on hand. This they
lowered into the shaft and concealed it in a side drift just deep enough
and big enough to hold it, calculating that the first shot fired by the
Chinamen would set off the dynamite and, by completely demolishing the
shaft, conceal their fraud.

The first blast made by the Chinamen did explode the dynamite, which not
only wrecked the shaft, but also lifted the whole jutting bit of
tableland--ice, earth, everything--sending it--an avalanche--down the
mountain slope several hundred feet, exposing a thick stratum of glacial
detritus, under where the ice had been, so full of gold that it proved
to be one of the richest finds ever made in Alaska. The one blast had
made the Chinamen millionaires.


During the gold-digging days of California, before there was a
restriction imposed upon the immigration of Chinese, a big American
sailing vessel, while in Chinese waters, had taken aboard a large cargo
of fireworks and a few tons of gunpowder of a special brand, which was
safely housed in the hold, while all the sleeping quarters except those
occupied by the crew, and all available deck spaces, were filled with a
cargo of coolies to man California mines.

The vessel was one of those staunch, fast, sail-driven craft brought to
their highest perfection in the shipyards of Maine just before the
advent of the steamship.

When the ship was about a day out on its homeward voyage, the captain
learned, through his faithful Chinese cook, that a big part of the
Chinamen that he had picked up were half-breed Malay and Chinese pirates
who had taken passage for the sole purpose of capturing the ship for
piratical purposes, and that they were armed to the teeth, so that
resistance offered by his crew of only twelve would be utterly hopeless.

While the captain was deliberating upon what to do, word was brought by
his cook that the pirate horde were beginning to act very ugly, and had
already taken possession of the fore part of the vessel, preparatory to
a final assault upon the crew.

The captain ordered two lifeboats immediately to be filled with water
and provisions and lowered, while he went below decks and lighted a
train to the cargo of gunpowder and fireworks. Then the captain and his
crew, together with the Chinese cook, manned the lifeboats and pulled
away, to the amazement of the Chinese pirates, who seemed immensely
pleased that they had captured the ship without a struggle.

The captain and the crew, in his two boats, lay on their oars at a safe
distance quietly watching events, while the ship, which had now been
turned about, was sailing away landward. When at a distance of about
half a mile, that ship turned volcano. The whole above-water portion
went up into the air with a belch of fire and thunder-roar like another
Krakatoa, whose eruption shook the whole earth in 1883.

In their upward flight, Chinamen raced with rockets, while the heaven
was filled with burning fireworks--and then it rained Chinamen. In fact,
it was a real cloudburst of Chinamen, fire-crackers and ship's


For many years, all inventors and manufacturers having occasion to
attend experiments with their productions at the Naval Proving Grounds
at Indian Head, were aided in their work by Brown, the gunner. He was a
very ingenious, genial, gigantic fellow, one of the most likable men in
the world. There was nothing about the mechanism of guns and gunnery
unfamiliar to him.

Once, during the early years of his service there, a fragment from an
exploding gun struck him in the forehead, leaving a great dent. As soon
as he recovered, he returned to his duties undeterred, although he had
had many other close calls.

One day, a few years ago, he walked in on me at my summer home on Lake
Hopatcong. During his visit, he asked me if I believed in presentiments.
He said he had had a very strange presentiment of impending danger in
his work at Indian Head. He told me that he had confided this to the
commanding officer there, who laughed at him, and said, "Oh, Brown, at
last you are losing your nerve. Go and take a two weeks' vacation, and
then come back."

Brown did go back at the end of his vacation.

A few weeks later, while testing a new heavy gun, something went wrong.
The breech block blew out, and Brown was killed.


Some time ago, a young lady who had been my private secretary for about
four years got married. Thinking that one of the best ways of securing
another competent stenographer and typist to take her place would be to
go to an employment agency, Mrs. Maxim and I called upon the manager of
one of those institutions.

Mrs. Maxim, according to the habitude of her sex, led in the
conversation. She told the manager about the unusual requirements that
the person engaged must have--that she must have a good general
education, must be very expert as stenographer and typist, and above
all, must be an exceptionally good speller. Furthermore, Mrs. Maxim
placed especial emphasis upon one stipulation--that we did not want a
girl under twenty or a woman over thirty-five, for the reason that a
girl under twenty is very apt to lack the necessary experience and
serious-mindedness for such a position, while a woman around and above
forty is apt to be set in her ways, and to lack the necessary
flexibility of mind and nature readily to adapt herself to anything to
which she has not always been accustomed, and is, furthermore, likely to
be unable to learn anything new with the facility of a younger person.

The manager was all suavity, pleasant manners and promises, and assured
us that he had on his waiting list a number of young women who would
exactly meet our requirements, and that he would send three of them over
that very evening.

We learned from the bit of experience which followed that employment
agencies and those who are sent by them to apply for positions, are apt
to be governed by reasoning similar to that of the small boy, who,
seeing an advertisement that twenty-five dollars' reward would be paid
for a Pekinese spaniel, thought it would do no harm to try, and so he
called to claim the reward with a huge mongrel--a cross between a
Newfoundland and a St. Bernard.

Well, at the appointed hour, two archaic dilapidations wafted themselves
in upon us, who looked as though their nascency had a priority on the
Stone Age and they had been vouchsafed to us among the antediluvian
survivors of Noah's Ark.

The first one--a slip of a girl of some sixty-seven to the nth-power
summers and as many winters--betrayed her lack of typistical experience
by mistaking a national cash register for a typewriter. Then she
confided in us the little confidence that she really knew nothing about
typewriting as yet, but that, in the sweet long ago, in the days of auld
lang syne, she used to drum quite a lot on the piano, and, consequently,
she imagined that typewriting, being a sort of mere finger play, would
come so easy to her that she would have little difficulty in acquiring
the necessary aptitude on a typewriter to qualify for the position.

The next applicant was a tall, slight, sinuous, willowy, sylph-like and
ethereal creature of the hippopotamus variety, who floated into our
presence like a breath of old winter, made sweet summer by the mingled
odor of violets, lilacs, musk and new-mown hay. I gave her a short
dictation, which she took down in longhand. I asked her why she did not
write shorthand. She said she did write shorthand, unless she was in a
hurry. Contemplating her huge bulk, I insinuated that we should want
someone a little lighter on her corns than she, as one of the desirable
accomplishments in a private secretary was that she should be able to
play tennis. She said that although she had never played tennis herself,
still it ran in the family, because her grandchildren were expert tennis

When the third antique entered, the thing began to get monotonous, as
Mark Twain remarked, when a mule had fallen through his tent three times
in one evening. We were getting out of patience. I told the old lady at
once that we did not want anyone under twenty or over thirty-five. She
assured me that she was not under twenty. I told her that I had guessed
as much, and asked, "How about the other limit!" She sharply retorted
that she had never, in all her life, touched thirty-five. "Well," said
I, "if that be so, you must have been skidding some when you went by
that numeral."

Disappointed, and highly indignant, we called again the next day upon
that manager of the employment agency. He was profoundly apologetic,
and said that he happened to have waiting in another room a young lady
who was exactly what we wanted. She was immediately asked into the
private office, where Mrs. Maxim and I examined her. She was about
twenty-five years of age, and was, as they say down in Maine, as smart
as a steel trap. I gave her a dictation replete with multi-syllabic
terminology, and with unusual words of difficult orthography, but she
took down everything with lightning speed, read back her notes to
perfection, and transcribed them rapidly on the typewriter without a

We asked for what salary she would be willing to come to us. The salary
asked was pretty high, but we instantly agreed to pay it. The manager
and the young lady exchanged glances, and both looked a bit surprised.
Mrs. Maxim and I then asked if we might talk with the young lady alone
for a few minutes.

After some Sherlock Holmesy talk with the young woman, Mrs. Maxim and I
came to the conclusion that she was a show girl kept by the manager
merely to prove that he had the goods when required, provided anyone
wished to pay a sufficiently high salary, and the salary was made high
enough to deter most applicants. We got it from the girl that she had
several times been hired and had worked a few days for each of a number
of employers, until she could find some rational excuse for breaking
away and returning to the agency, the manager of which, we also learned,
was her brother, and she was a partner in the business.

The incident reminded me of a story told by a friend of mine in New York
who bought a beautiful and highly trained Scotch terrier of a Broadway
dog vendor, thinking that after keeping the dog tied up for a week,
feeding him and treating him with kindness, he could be depended upon to
stay with his new master, but the moment the dog was freed he
disappeared, and the next day he was again with his master, the dog
vendor, ready to be resold. Some time later, a light was thrown upon the
inner consciousness of my friend by reading an account in the newspapers
of the arrest of the dog vendor for obtaining money under false
pretenses and practicing fraud in the sale of dogs, or rather, of the
dog. The canine was a sort of homing-pigeon dog, trained, like a carrier
pigeon, to return from each new master as soon as freed. The buying and
selling of that one dog constituted the main business of the scamp.

When our interview with the young woman was concluded, we started to
leave the office in disgust, but at that moment a young woman of rather
prepossessing appearance, about thirty years of age, entered the office
looking for a position. She explained that her late employer having gone
to Europe, she was looking for a new place.

After a critical examination, we found that she would meet our
requirements very well. Then it developed that, having read in
newspapers and magazines some of the accounts, highly colored by the
writers of them, of how I cooked with high explosives and lighted my
cigar with a stick of dynamite, and burned nitroglycerin in a lamp to
light the room, she, being of a rather nervous temperament, was afraid
of the prospective companionship with explosive materials.

I assured her that the accounts were misrepresentations of actual facts,
and explained that we lived at a very safe distance from any explosive
works, and that she would be exposed to no danger whatsoever. I finally
convinced her that our home was a safe place, and although still
harassed with some doubts she decided to come with us.

In the edge of the evening, after her arrival, she and I were sitting at
the dining-room table engaged in conversation. I was telling her how
groundless had been her fears, when there came a terrific explosion. The
sky was lighted up with a brilliancy that would shame the noon-day sun,
and fragments of brands from the burning fell all about the house.

I confess that I was as much surprised as she was--and that was going
some. I rushed out, and found that my tool-house, located about a
hundred yards from my residence, had blown up, and the wreckage was on
fire. Being sure that there were no explosives in the building, I was
greatly puzzled.

There were in the place at the time perhaps a hundred rounds of Mauser
rifle cartridges. These were exploding, one after another, from the
heat. The neighbors who had run to witness the fire, were greatly
frightened, and did not dare to render any assistance in putting out the
flames, especially while the cartridges were exploding.

I ran to a hydrant nearby, got out the fire-hose, and found, to my
amazement, what one usually finds under such circumstances, that the
nozzle of the hose had been taken off, and the hose disconnected from
the hydrant, and that there was no wrench there. I ran and got another
hose and a wrench, made the connections, and ran out the hose to
extinguish the fire, when I found that only a small stream of water as
big as my thumb flowed from the hose. I then ran down to my house to see
if there were any faucets open which would reduce the pressure, and then
to the pump-house to measure the water in the supply tank, and found
that the tank was nearly full, and that thirty-five thousand gallons of
water were available for extinguishing the fire. Yet I could get no
pressure. The result was that nothing was saved, and the building and
all its contents were a complete loss. As there was no insurance, the
loss was about fifteen hundred dollars.

After it was too late to save the building, I walked down to the Hotel
Durban, on my property, which I supplied with water, to calm the fears
of some of the guests who were agitated, when, to my amazement, I found
a two-inch fire-hose turned on full, and running in the road. I learned
then that a stupid fellow who was staying at the hotel, had turned the
water on at several fire hydrants to play water on the hotel, although
the hotel was at such a safe distance from the tool-house that there was
not a particle of danger whatsoever. It never occurred to him to close
off one hydrant when he opened another; consequently, the pressure was
reduced so that no water at all could be had at the scene of the fire,
and not pressure enough on the hose-pipes that he had turned on to do
any good even had they been needed.

After things had quieted down, I returned to the house to resume my
conversation, and to repeat my assurances to the young lady secretary,
but I found a polite note tacked to the table-cloth, requesting that her
trunk be forwarded the next day. She had not waited for further
conviction as to the safety of her new position.

On investigation, I learned that a fire had started in the tool-house
from some cause unknown, and had proceeded long enough to get one side
of the interior of the building well ablaze. As there were five gallons
of denatured alcohol in the place, and the same quantity of gasoline,
and about ten pounds of sulphuric ether, it is probable that one of
these had become heated and, bursting, set free a lot of vapor which,
mixing with the atmosphere, exploded. There were also in the building
about thirty pounds of finely pulverized aluminum, ten pounds of
magnesium powder and other ingredients for flashlight powders, with
which I intended to conduct experiments. As these materials were not
mixed, they were not explosive, but their combustion was what produced
the wonderful light when the explosion occurred. The result was not like
that from an explosion of dynamite, in which case the building would
have been literally blown to fragments, but, as is usual in gas
explosions, the roof of the building was lifted up, the sides thrown
out, and the roof dropped in. Even the front door of the building,
charred from the initial fire, was found otherwise intact.

While sitting on the porch of my house on Lake Hopatcong, dictating this
story to my stenographer, and when I had arrived at this point, she
suddenly called to me, "Look!" pointing her finger across the Lake to a
huge column of smoke going up from the Atlas Powder Works, and
mushrooming out into the sky. The direct distance is about three miles,
but it seemed quite a long time before we felt the shock and heard the
sound. Although the sound was loud and the shock considerable, the sound
was much louder and the shock much heavier even at longer distances in
several directions, owing, I imagine, to the difference in the
underlying strata of earth.

As I learned later, the explosion took place at one of the packing
houses, which carried another packing house with it, together with a
nitroglycerin storehouse, so that about ten tons of dynamite, or its
equivalent, went up in that column of smoke. I understand that seven men
were killed, and about twice as many injured. It was the largest and
most destructive explosion that had ever occurred at those works.


I was once invited to speak at a County Fair at Pittsfield,
Massachusetts, where I used to live when in the publishing business. My
subject was Explosive Materials and Their Use in Warfare.

The management was especially desirous that I should give my auditors
some sort of spectacular demonstration, to show what explosives would
do. A platform was erected in an open field, and I had an arena roped
off at the rear of the platform about fifty feet wide, and running back
several hundred feet. In the rear portion of this arena I buried several
sticks of dynamite, and connected them with an exploder and a battery on
the platform.

Also, I brought several cotton bosom-shirts, several cotton undershirts,
half-a-dozen handkerchiefs, a couple of towels, half-a-dozen pairs of
cotton socks, and as many cheap cotton collars and cuffs. These I had
immersed in a concentrated mixture of nitric and sulphuric acids,
converting them all into guncotton. Then I washed and soaked the acid
out of them, and dried them.

I stretched a clothes-line from the speaker's platform to a distance of
about thirty feet to my right, and on this I hung my guncotton clothes,
only a few feet away from the front of the audience.

There were, perhaps, a thousand people massed in front of me, crowding
up close, that nothing should miss them. I made a brief talk on the
nature and use of explosives, and burned some smokeless powder under
water, and then I touched off the dynamite in the rear of the field,
which made a very pretty showing.

The audience was very curious about that wash. That I should have hung
my linen out to dry on that occasion they thought was very peculiar
taste, to say the least; and some of them did not hesitate to say that
they considered it very bad taste.

I then said to the audience that I must beg their pardon for displaying
my underwear as I had done; that I appreciated the fact that it was an
unsightly display, and, to accommodate them, I would immediately
proceed to get it out of sight. I then touched it off with an electrical
igniter, and that laundry disappeared in one great bright flash of

There happened to be in my audience an ingenious fellow with some
knowledge of chemistry, who was a noted wag and practical joker. Taking
the hint from my nitrated laundry, he nitrated a cotton handkerchief and
sent it to the Chinese laundry with the rest of his wash.

When he called for his clothes, he found John Chinaman with his right
arm in a sling. However, John was all smiles, and apologized for the
absence of the one handkerchief, but said nothing more about it.

A short time after the fellow had put on his clean underwear, he
developed a very severe case of prickly heat, followed, a little later,
by a sensation like that of needles being stuck into his body over the
entire surface. Anyone who has taken a bite of a wild Indian turnip
knows what that sensation is. The Chinaman had charged his customer's
garments with a preparation extracted from a Chinese variant of the
Indian turnip. It took a couple of weeks, with the aid of a physician,
for the wag to recover from the little unpleasantness which the Chinaman
had inflicted upon him.


When testing big guns at Sandy Hook, the officers are often greatly
annoyed by fishing boats that persist in getting within range of the
guns and in remaining there, entirely regardless of the work or wishes
of the officers of Uncle Sam.

It is a curious circumstance that, according to the law of the country,
these ships have the right of way, and even the officers of the
Government Proving Grounds have no power to compel a fishing smack to
move out of range.

There was one boat of this kind that persisted in anchoring daily
exactly in the range of a ten-inch gun that was under test, and day
after day the tests had to be delayed.

One morning, however, there being a haze or fog floating close down upon
the water at a distance of a couple of miles from the shore, and the sea
looking perfectly clear to that distance, the officers in charge of the
testing of the gun concluded that the range was clear, and they fired,
but the captain of the fishing boat above referred to happened to be on
his job, just as usual, though concealed by the fog. He had stretched
himself out in a hammock on deck and was taking a snooze, when a
ten-inch projectile passed through his boat under him, and ricocheted on
out to sea. He kept out of the gunner's range after that.

Following this incident, one of the officers conceived the brilliant
idea of keeping fishermen from coming into the line of fire in the
following manner: When a boat was seen sailing into range he would fire
several six-pound shells, exploding them in the water along the line of
range, and directly in the path of the oncoming boat. This method served
the purpose admirably. While the fishermen would calmly cast anchor and
occupy a position directly in range of a gun being tested, they did not
dare to sail directly into the line of fire of exploding six-pound


An Army officer tells me the following story:

One time, while he was on duty at the Sandy Hook Proving Grounds, they
were testing a gun-shield to see whether or not it would resist the
penetration of a six-inch shell.

The officer whose duty it was to attend to the loading and firing of the
gun did not always allow the required time to elapse after sounding the
warning before discharging the gun, especially when he took it for
granted that no one was in the zone of danger, in which case he was apt
to consider the signal of warning a mere formality.

Such was his attitude and action on the occasion to which this story
refers: He gave the signal, and immediately fired. The projectile, which
was expected to penetrate the shield, went only half through, and stuck
there, when, to the horror of all participants, especially of the
careless officer referred to, the Colonel of Artillery emerged from
behind the shield, unhurt, but madder than a demon in Dante's Inferno.

No more guns were fired without the lapse of an ample period of


At one of our Government proving grounds, some years ago, the officers
were testing a new high explosive, and, as was their custom, they
charged a twelve-inch shell with the material in order to estimate the
power of the explosive by the fragmentation of the projectile when the
charge was detonated.

They had a bomb-proof chamber prepared for this purpose. It consisted of
a room about ten feet wide, twelve feet long, and eight feet high, lined
with armorplate. The projectile was placed on the armored floor in the
middle of the room, and covered with a few hundred pounds of fine sand.
It was armed with an electrical exploder, which was set off from another
bomb-proof at a safe distance. After each explosion, the fragments were
sifted from the sand and counted and weighed.

A twelve-inch shell charged with Maximite and exploded at Sandy Hook
during the tests there of that explosive, was broken into ten thousand
fragments. The fragments made deep dents in the hard face of the
armorplate. The shell that enters into this story was exploded under
similar conditions.

When the officers were ready to explode the shell, they sounded the
usual alarm to give warning to laboring men on the premises to seek
cover. Now, it so happened that about a dozen negroes who were engaged
in some pick-and-shovel work had been in the habit of using this very
bomb-proof as a shelter when a big gun was fired; consequently, when the
warning was sounded, they immediately rushed for cover within that

The officer in command was about to close the switch to explode the
projectile, and his hand was already upon it, but, being an exceedingly
cautious man, he thought he would take another look to be sure that all
was safe, and, to his amazement, he saw a negro who had been screening
himself behind a pile of rubbish making a dash for the bomb-proof
containing the projectile, when it was revealed that the dozen darkies
had all huddled into it for safety.

When those darkies found out how close a call they had had, they turned
just as pale as negroes can turn. Had the projectile been exploded while
they were in the bomb-proof, they would not only have all been killed by
the blast, but would also have literally been blown to ribbons.


In the long line of trenches that constitutes the French and British
front, facing the equally long German front, the soldiers relieve time's
tedium by numerous artifices. Many kinds of pets--dogs, cats, owls,
doves, parrots--are harbored for the sake of their company, or as
mascots--bringers of good luck.

A French soldier had a dog that was a great favorite in the trenches,
for the reason that he was a famous ratter, and as the trenches were
infested with rats, he was a most welcome guest.

One day, when the Germans were bombarding the French position before
Verdun preparatory to a charge, a huge howitzer shell, penetrating deep
into the earth in front of one of the French trenches, and exploding,
buried half a hundred men--among them the owner of the dog.

The dog also was quite buried by the explosion, but he quickly dug
himself out, and then he began an eager search for his master. Smelling
out his location, he dug furiously with all his might to unearth him.
Fortunately, his master's head was near the surface of the ground, but
his arms and legs were bound tight so that he could not move, and he was
nearly suffocated when the dog succeeded in digging out his head and
face so that he could breathe.

Happily, relief came soon, and when the rescuing party arrived, they
found the dog still working with all his strength to uncover his master.

Pick and spade soon brought the dog's quarry to the surface, who was
quite unharmed except for a few bruises, while the dog, it was seen, was
bleeding at ears, eyes and mouth from the effect of the explosive


Some good old English folk whose prosperous son had made a large amount
of money in the railroad business in America, were persuaded by their
boy to give up their fine, old-fashioned English country home for such
home life as America could afford.

The dutiful son had anticipated the wants and pleasures of his parents,
and on a fine country estate he had built practically a replica of the
old English homestead. There was the big fireplace and the big, wide
chimney, to be swept by the smutty chimney-sweep. The chimney was
provided with pegs to climb up and down.

Some time after the good parents were quartered in their new home, Weary
William the wanderer, a real hobo, walking past the place late one
night, could see enough of it in the moonlight to recognize its genuine
English aspect; for Weary Willie had, in his boyhood days, been one of
those smut-faced chimney-sweeps in old England, and when he walked up
and peeped through the window and saw a few embers in the familiar
fireplace, he concluded to go down that chimney and take a nap in the
cosy comfort that the room provided, and perchance find something to eat
and drink without waking anyone.

Entering the room by way of the chimney, he did find, all set as though
for himself, edibles and wine--left-overs from someone's late supper.

After feasting, he took a snooze on the sofa, intending to take his
leave the way he came at an early hour before the family was up, but he
had drunken more of the good wine than he ought, and he slept soundly.
He was awakened by voices, which told him that it was high time and past
for him to make his exit, and he scooted up the chimney in great haste,
but not a whit too quickly, for by the time he had raised himself up out
of sight, several persons entered the room. He did not dare continue his
ascent or move for fear of making a noise. He waited there, breathless,
for a more favorable opportunity to climb out.

It so happened that an ingenious Yankee neighbor of the English
gentlefolk had suggested a more expeditious way of cleaning the chimney
than by sweeping it out in the old British fashion. He said that all
that was necessary was to throw several pounds of black gunpowder into
the fire, which, flashing, would blow the soot out of the chimney. Of
course, the genius had never tried the experiment himself, but as such
geniuses are usually cocksure, he was so confident of success that he
did not feel the need to make any preliminary experiments. Therefore,
just as the tramp had mounted above the line of vision into the chimney,
the genius, entering the room, threw the gunpowder into the fire, which
instantly exploded with a great flash and smoke, blowing cinders and
embers all over the room and filling it with dense, black, sulphurous
smoke, burning the face and hands of the genius considerably, and
frightening the elderly people out of their wits. But what frightened
them all still more, was the appearance of the thoroughly singed and
scared tramp, who fell from his perch in the chimney, down into the
fireplace, and rolled out into the room, sneezing, coughing and saying
things, all at once.

The terrified tramp was easily secured, and when the master's gold
watch--a gift from royalty and a family heirloom--was found upon his
person, the genius was not only forgiven for his miscalculated
experiment, but also thanked for his good offices.


Dave King, editor of the _Morris County Press_, Morristown, New Jersey,
was reared a lariat man in the Wild and Woolly, in the days before
civilization, rum and guns had subdued the Cheyennes, the Comanches and
the Sioux to extinction or to the more uncongenial fate of enforced good

In all of Dave's hair-ruffling experiences--corralling stampeding
long-horns, lassoing and riding a bull-buffalo bare-back, hunting, with
Rex Beach, the great Kadiak bear in Alaska, whose enormous bulk and
Ivan-the-Terrible disposition would by comparison make the grizzly of
the Rocky Mountains a gentle companion--his most intimately interesting,
close-to-nature adventure was when he was ten years old, and dwelt upon
the upper waters of the Arkansas.

Dave's father, a husky pioneer, accompanied by his ten-year-old son, his
brother, "Uncle Joe," an assortment of dogs, guns and ammunition,
embracing a dozen kegs of gunpowder, had gone there to stake a
squatter's claim, hunt buffalo and grow up with the country.

Timber was scarce, so, after the manner of the troglodyte, they burrowed
out a room in the side of a hill, which constituted at once cook-room,
dining-room and parlor, and also museum of rare weapons, dog-kennel and
powder-magazine. The cook-stove was placed in the middle of the room,
and the flue was run up through the ground for ventilation and the
escape of products of combustion.

One day, Dave's father and Uncle Joe went on a buffalo hunt, much to the
disconsolation of Dave, who wanted to go along. Toward the end of the
afternoon following the departure of the hunters, Dave built a roaring
fire in the stove to keep himself company, and incidentally to prepare
supper for himself and the hunters, who were expected to return before

His eyes regarded longingly a double-barreled shotgun hung on the wall.
He had many times been warned by his father to exercise caution in
handling the guns during his absence, but Dave had the dare-devil
spirit of his parent, with the added impulses of the small boy, and he
took down the shotgun and fondled it lovingly, examining its firing
mechanism. Then he proceeded to return it to its hanging, not noticing
that he had left one of the hammers cocked. He did not know that the gun
was loaded, and he would not have been deterred had he known. In putting
up the weapon he accidentally touched the trigger of the cocked hammer
and the charge in that barrel exploded, sending shot and burning wads
under the sleeping-bunks, just missing one of the kegs of gunpowder.

Dave proceeded with his cooking, but soon he smelled smoke, and looking
under the bunks discovered, to his horror, that a fire had started.
Under the bunks he went, pawed at the fire with his hands, and smothered
it with his hat, until he thought that he had extinguished the last
spark. Then he started for a water-hole an eighth of a mile distant, to
get a pail of water, accompanied by his favorite dog.

When he got out into the open, he saw a dozen horsemen just coming into
view over a rising ground between him and the sinking sun. He thought
at first that his father was bringing company home to dinner, and he
waited and watched. But he soon saw by the feathered and blanketed
make-up and demeanor of the horsemen that they were savages on the

Dave was not long getting himself and his dog out of sight in a
badger-hole which he had, during many days of hard labor, enlarged for a

The Indians were a party of Cheyennes who had been forcibly located in
the Indian Territory by the Government. On this occasion, half a
thousand of those fierce warriors decided to go on the warpath and
return to their former hunting grounds in Wyoming. On their way they
burned houses and slew and scalped everybody that fell in their path.
Among many other outrages they, for a little diversion, killed and
scalped a young woman school-teacher and forty pupils. United States
troops then rounded them up and corralled them in Fort Robinson,
Nebraska. One night they made a break to escape and the soldiers, now
out of patience, killed the whole bunch.

But to return to Dave: When the Indians saw the smoke coming out of the
top of the ground, their curiosity was excited, and discovering that it
was a dwelling they rode round it, red-man fashion, in a constantly
narrowing circle, firing guns and war-whooping.

The dog began to bark and struggle to free himself to get after those
Indians, but Dave thrust his hand into the animal's mouth, and grasping
his lower jaw managed to keep him from barking. It took all of Dave's
strength to hold that dog, but he knew that it meant life or death, for
if the dog should escape he would betray their hiding-place.

The Indians, finding no sign of life in the dugout except the barking
dogs that Dave had shut in, came closer and closer. Half a dozen of them
got up on the top of the dugout, and the others bunched themselves in
close to the entrance, preparatory to rushing the place.

But Dave had not succeeded in extinguishing the last spark of the fire
that he had started under the bunks, so, coincidentally with the Indians
arranging themselves about the cavern, the twelve kegs of gunpowder went
into action.

Dave could not imagine what had happened. He thought that possibly the
Indians had captured the gunpowder and exploded it purposely, but he did
not dare to emerge from his hiding.

There was an interval of silence. There were no more war-whoops, and he
concluded that the Indians had departed. They had, but not exactly in
the manner that Dave imagined.

The parent and Uncle Joe, returning on the edge of evening, were
dumbfounded at finding only a great hole in the ground where the
dwelling had been. Dave's father wrung his hands and bemoaned the loss
of his boy, while Uncle Joe consoled him with the usual I-told-you-so
that he ought not to have kept the gunpowder in the place.

They began a diligent search for any souvenirs of Dave that might have
happened to return to Mother Earth. After they had gathered up about a
wagon-load of the disintegrated Indians, Uncle Joe suggested that they
must be on the wrong scent.

At this puzzling juncture, Dave, hearing the voices of his father and
Uncle Joe, cautiously emerged from his hiding. When he came in sight,
Uncle Joe said, "There's Dave now! There's your boy!" His father looked
blankly at him for a moment. Though the vision looked like Dave he could
not trust it. He said, "No, it can't be my boy! It can't be my boy!"

But it was; and Dave is still with us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes

Printer inaccuracies were silently corrected.

Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

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