New Digital Collection Honors Centennial of Great Salem Fire, June 25, 1914

Neg # 32787

Start of the conflagration - the Korn Leather Factory, Boston Street

On June 25, 1914, a fire alarm sounded at 1:37 p.m.  An explosion had occurred at the Korn Leather Factory on Boston Street in Blubber Hollow, the leather district in Salem, Massachusetts.  Chemicals used to create the tip finish, a varnish used to shine patent leather, exploded causing a catastrophic fire to spread through the city.  Although some of the tanneries were sprinklered, the wooden structures could not withstand the heat created by the fire and much of the leather district was destroyed.  When the alarm sounded, only nine firemen were on duty; they responded as quickly as they could with a variety of firefighting equipment – steamer engines, hose wagons, and a ladder truck.  A series of additional alarms sounded, bringing the entire department of Salem firefighters to the site of the blaze along with all the remaining firefighting equipment, leaving the rest of the city unprotected.

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