Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Black Tom Explosion
The Black Tom Explosion occurred on July 30, 1916, killing four people and creating extensive damage to Ellis Island and Jersey City, as well as forcing the closure of the torch of the Statue of Liberty to the public.
Black Tom prior to the blast
Black Tom Island, according to legend, was the home of a dark-skinned fisherman named Tom at one time; however, by 1880, it was already the site of a railroad depot, connected to the mainland by a short bridge. By 1916, landfill had turned the island into part of the mainland, and the site had become the location of an enormous munitions depot. Explosives, intended for the Allied side in World War I, were shipped there and stored before heading overseas to England or France. The company running the site provided little security and stockpiled munitions rather closely together; also, ships were sometimes tied up illegally closely to the stockpile of munitions.
German saboteurs allegedly blew up the munitions arsenal on Black Tom Island in the New York Harbor; however, there were few eyewitnesses of the beginning of the explosion. The blast produced heavy damage but few casualties. Shrapnel lodged in the Statue of Liberty. The act of sabotage was one of many in an effort to disrupt U.S. war supplies to Europe during World War I.
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