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History Center to host "History's Mysteries: The Allegheny Arsenal Explosion"


Last updated 10/25/2022 at 11:41am

On Halloween weekend, the Senator John Heinz History Center – the Smithsonian’s home in Pittsburgh – will host a book talk, “History’s Mysteries: The Allegheny Arsenal Explosion,” with History Center President and CEO Andy Masich and authors Tom Powers and James Wudarczyk of the Lawrenceville Historical Society, Friday, Oct. 28, from 6:30-8 p.m.

The event will commemorate the 160th anniversary of the mysterious explosion that tragically claimed 78 civilian lives. Located in Lawrenceville, the Arsenal employed more than 1,100 workers who helped manufacture harnesses, assemble small weapons, and fill musket cartridges for the Union Army. But on Sept. 17, 1862, something went wrong as workers carried out their daily routine.

A series of massive explosions erupted near the Arsenal’s primary laboratory, destroying the building and surrounding structures and killing 78 civilians instantly, mostly young women and girls. To this day, the cause of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion remains undetermined.

As part of the History Center’s book talk, Masich, Powers, and Wudarczyk will reveal new findings – including maps, photographs, and illustrations featured in the book – and try to unpack the ultimate Pittsburgh mystery that has puzzled generations.

Masich will also discuss the whereabouts and new details of Civil War-era cannonballs recently found at the site of the Arsenal.

A book signing will follow the discussion.

The event is held in partnership with the Lawrenceville Historical Society.

Tickets will be available in advance or at the door, $5 for general admission, and free for History Center members. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets include access to History Center exhibitions before the event, including the History Center’s flagship exhibition Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation, featuring a section on the Allegheny Arsenal and the Civil War.


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