Black Tom explosion on July 30, 1916 made Lady Liberty’s torch off-limits after WWI

Published: 19 October 2023

By @fasc1nate
via X (formerly known as Twitter)


This photo shows the Statue of Liberty seen from the torch.

A photo of the Statue of Liberty’s torch on display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 1876. The statue was completed in 1884 and shipped from France to the United States in pieces, arriving on July 17, 1885. It was then reassembled on Bedloe’s Island and dedicated on October 28, 1886.

The torch has been closed to the public since 1916 when it was damaged in an explosion caused by German spies.

The event is known as the Black Tom explosion on July 30, 1916. At that time, the United States had not yet joined World War 1, but they were selling weapons to the Allied powers. Germany sent saboteurs to destroy production lines and supplies.

Around 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of TNT were stored on a barge on the night of the explosion.

Guards noticed small fires and left, fearing an explosion.

At 2:08 a.m., the first and biggest explosion occurred. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, equivalent to 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter scale.

The blast was felt in Philadelphia and shattered windows in Times Square. The explosion caused $20,000,000 in damages and claimed four lives.

This incident helped turn public opinion against Germany, eventually leading the United States to join World War 1 on April 16, 1917.

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