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1916 trolley disaster: The 46 who perished

 

1916 TROLLEY DISASTER: THE 46 WHO DIED

By Eric Moskowitz | Globe Staff

Name: Donato Acerbo

Age: Mid-20s

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Occupation: Laborer/construction

Lived in: North End

Acerbo grew up in the Abruzzo region of central Italy and arrived in Boston in the spring of 1914. When he died, he was wearing a blue fancy-weave serge suit with a green pencil stripe.

He was one of the last accident victims to be identified.

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Name: Vincenzo Bellante

Age: 28

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Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: North End

Relatively little is known about Bellante, a native of Riesi, in the Sicilian province of Caltanissetta. He found work as a machinist in Boston and was one of 17 employees of the Walworth Manufacturing Co. that were killed in the accident.

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Name: Sigrid Benson

Sigrid Benson

Age: 35

Occupation: Electrician

Lived in: Cambridge

A native of Sweden and an electrician at Condit Electrical Manufacturing Co., Benson was the “sole supporter of his aged mother,” as the Boston Herald put it. Though the official death record listed his first name as Sigrid and his age as 35, multiple papers identified him as Sigfried and listed his age as a few years older.

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Name: Wawyik Bodnar

Age: 49

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: West End

Bodnar lived in a tenement just a few doors down from fellow victim George Wencus. Less is known about Bodnar than almost any other victim; the newspapers wrote nothing about him other than to list him among the dead, and even then they spelled his first and last name several different ways. His official death record called him Wawyik Bodnar and identified him as a native of Austria.

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Name: Daniel Buckley

Age: 59

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Newton Upper Falls

A machinist at Walworth, Buckley was a lifelong Newton resident and son of Irish immigrants. Active in Democratic politics, he had once run for alderman. Before leaving for work in the morning on the day of the accident, he told his wife he planned to stay out late that night watching the election returns come in.

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Name: Antonio Campagnoni

Age: 51

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: North End

Another of the victims from Walworth Manufacturing, Campagnoni had come to Boston from central Italy in his mid-30s, with a wife and five young children. At the time of his death, property maps showed that Campagnoni owned the three-story tenement building where he lived, on a narrow street near Old North Church. His obituary called him “one of the unfortunates in the Summer Street accident.”

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Name: James R. Carey

James R. Carey

Age: Mid-40s

Occupation: Wireworker

Lived in: North Cambridge

Carey, who had four young children, was on his way home to celebrate his birthday with his family, according to newspaper accounts, though they differed as to whether it was his 44th or 45th. His 20th wedding anniversary was also coming up the following week. Just before the accident, Carey was standing inside the car, chatting with friend and colleague Iver Anderson, a father of five. Anderson sustained a bad gash to his head and temporarily blacked out, but survived.

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Name: Dugald B. Carruthers

Dugald B. Carruthers

Age: 70

Occupation: Woodworker

Lived in: Everett

The oldest victim, Carruthers was a widower with two grown daughters. A native of Scotland, he worked at J.W. Moore Machine Co. and had lived for more than two decades in Everett, where he was active in several fraternal organizations and was “very well known and highly respected. News of his death cast a shadow of gloom over the entire city,” a Globe account said.

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Name: George R. Clark

Age: 58

Occupation: Mechanic/mechanical engineer

Lived in: Dorchester

A native of Walpole, N.H., Clark had a successful railroad career in the Midwest. He designed the country’s first big “mogul” engine and was chief mechanic for the Wabash Railroad and deputy superintendent for the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway — known as the Big Four — before coming back home to New England, where he had a high-ranking mechanical position at J.W. Moore Machine. The Dorchester Beacon called Clark “one of our best-known neighbors and residents.” His wife was president of the Dorchester Women’s Club. Because of a letter in his pocket, Clark was initially misidentified in the press as his son Joshua, an insurance executive.

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Name: William S. Coggin

Age: 21

Occupation: Clerk

Lived in: Salem

The son of a late Salem physician, Coggin had graduated from Harvard the previous winter, in 3½ years, and was a clerk in the wool trade that dominated Summer Street near Fort Point Channel, though he dreamed of running a farm. He was still living at home, commuting to Salem to care for his widowed mother. Boyish, with wire-rimmed glasses, he was described in a Harvard class memorial as widely popular and “the life of the party,” with “sterling qualities of character, warm-heartedness, general kindness and a merry nature.” He spent his final summer at a civilian military preparedness camp, anticipating joining the military if the country entered the war. “This service was not required of him, as he met the great call which ended his life in a terrible accident,” his classmates wrote.

James W. Crossland

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Name: James W. Crossland

Age: 53

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: Medford

Crossland, who worked for the Commonwealth Ice and Cold Storage Co., was one of 10 Fish Pier employees to die in the accident. Originally from Leeds, England, he lived in Everett before moving to Medford shortly before his death. Multiple accounts said he and his wife, Mary, had a nephew who lived with them; the Globe said he was survived by “a wife and several adopted children.”

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Name: Norris B. Curtis

Norris B. Curtis

Age: About 30

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Somerville

A native of Maine, Curtis was working as a machinist at J.W. Moore and living with his aunt, Mrs. L.A. Gammon in Somerville. He “was like a son to her,” according to the Somerville Journal. Curtis was planning a wedding to Pauline Loelle of Jamaica Plain. His father, also named Norris, traveled to Boston from Maine to identify the body. His death record said he was 30, but the press identified him as 28 to 32. His 26-year-old fiancee would not marry for another 17 years.

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Name: Antonio Della Pelle

Age: 23

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: North End

Della Pelle’s body was the second to be recovered. Medical examiner George Magrath initially identified him through a bill receipt in his pocket and the initials on his belt buckle. He worked at Walworth Manufacturing and was riding home with friend, coworker, and fellow lodger Joseph Caranzio, who was rescued from the water. Caranzio was near the rear platform, and he called out to Della Pelle inside the car as the trolley went over. Originally from Penne, a town in Abruzzo known for beautiful historic brickwork, Della Pelle came to Boston via New York in 1913.

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Name: Orrin Fish

Age: Mid-40s

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Newtonville

Employed at R&S Machine Co., Fish was a father of six children, the youngest an infant. He grew up on an Andover farm but spent his adult life in Newton, where he worked previously as a streetcar conductor for the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway Co., “and had many friends gained in that work,” according to the Boston Journal.

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Name: Thomas W. Gannon

Age: About 40

Occupation: Gardener

Lived in: Jamaica Plain

Gannon surfaced in the water just seconds after the accident. He was brought ashore and rushed to the Relief Hospital at Haymarket Square, where he was declared dead. He was the last of the 45 initial victims to be identified at the morgue, through an engraved watch case, and his death certificate was the only one that lacked both a place of birth and an occupation. However, newspaper accounts indicated that he had worked as a gardener at a Jamaica Plain estate while living nearby.

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Name: William G. Higgins

Age: 32

Occupation: Salesman

Lived in: Roslindale

The son of Irish immigrants, Higgins was born in Brookline. He had run his own fish market in West Roxbury until earlier that year, when he left to join the Storey-Simmons Co. at Boston’s gleaming new Fish Pier. Higgins had been married three years earlier and left his wife, Margaret, and a 2-year-old daughter.

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Name: Horatio Jackson

Age: 46

Occupation: Cutter/“floor man,” Fish Pier

Lived in: Revere

The son of a sailor from Nova Scotia and a homemaker from England, Jackson — who went by Harry —- was born in Wales but came to the Boston area in infancy. He was working as a clerk when he married his wife, Catherine, a milliner, in Boston in 1895. He became a meat cutter but switched to fish, and at the time of the accident was working for F.J. O’Hara & Co. at the new Fish Pier. In addition to his wife, he left a 13-year-old daughter, Madolyn. “Mrs. Jackson is prostrated over her husband’s sudden death and is in the care of a physician,” the Globe reported.

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Name: Edward J. Livingston

Edward J. Livingston

Age: 49

Occupation: Foreman, Fish Pier

Lived in: Brighton

Of the 10 Fish Pier workers killed in the accident, Livingston was the best known in the industry, according to press accounts. A Gloucester native, he was manager of Gloucester Fresh Fish Co. before moving to Boston shortly before the accident to work as a foreman for Freeman & Cobb at the Fish Pier. He was also well known in fraternal circles in both cities as a member of the Elks, Odd Fellows, and Ancient Order of United Workmen. Though Livingston’s death record said he was 50, multiple public records indicate he was born in April 1867. He left two grown children and a wife of 29 years.

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Name: Biagio “Biggi” Macaluso

Age: 19

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: East Boston

Vincenzo Macaluso

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Name: Vincenzo “Jimmie” Macaluso

Age: 18

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: East Boston

The Macaluso brothers were two of the youngest victims, as well as one of two sets of brothers killed in the accident, along with the Riggios. A third brother, Rosario Macaluso, was supposed to ride home with them from Walworth Manufacturing but got caught in the back of the crowd boarding the trolley and had to wait for the next car. The Macalusos came from a small town in the mountains of Sicily. Their father, Francesco, came over about 1902 to save money and sent for his wife, Vincenza, and three boys in 1905. In Boston, they would go by John, Biggi, and Jimmie; they lived with their parents and two Boston-born younger sisters at 61 Charter St. in the North End, crowding into an apartment with several other relatives, before moving to East Boston. They lived in the same tenement building as Pasquale Iannessa, who would become a dear friend and survive the 1916 accident while riding home beside them.

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Name: Francesco Martella

Age: 37

Occupation: Mechanic

Lived in: North End

Martella, another Walworth employee, lived in a five-story walk-up across from St. Stephen’s Church. Relatively little is known about Martella, whose name was spelled half a dozen ways in news accounts. The 1910 Census indicates that he came from Italy in 1908; before he worked at Walworth, he was a street-crew laborer and was one of six boarders with a family of three in an apartment on Salem Street, all nine of them Italian. Martella and four of the other boarders had all left wives back home, common in that period, to earn money and establish a foothold in America.

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Name: Charles McCaffrey

Charles McCaffrey

Age: 43

Occupation: Fish handler

Lived in: Brighton

McCaffrey, who was born in Charlestown to a Canadian father and Irish mother, had worked as a milkman before becoming a fish cutter. He married Mary Bernard in 1897 and had a son 10 months later. At the time of his death, he was working for Storey-Simmons Co. at the Fish Pier. The Globe reported that he was a member of Carroll Court of the MCOF — the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters, a fraternal organization — and the Holy Name Society of St. Aidan’s Church in Brookline.

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Name: Stanislaw Palewski

Age: 26

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: West End

Palewski was another Walworth employee. None of the daily newspapers in Boston noted anything about him. His death certificate listed his birthplace with the vague entry “Russia Poland.” His story remains largely unknown, though the 1914 city directory in Lawrence included a Stanislaw Palewski, spelled the same way, working as a factory “operative.” In Boston, Palewski lived near the elevated tracks along Causeway Street.

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Name: Salvatore Pellizotto

Age: 26

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: North End

Pelliizotto came over from Sicily in his late teens, joining his father, Benedetto. By 1910 the whole family had reunited, living on Unity Terrace in the North End. Salvatore was working as a carpenter, and his sisters, 15 and 16, both worked in a candy factory. By 1916, Pellizotto was working for Walworth Manufacturing; in his pocket on the night of his death, he carried a card for the East Boston Court of Foresters, a fraternal organization. His father identified him at the morgue.

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Name: Francis E. Perkins

Age: 28

Occupation: Yacht builder

Lived in: Quincy

Perkins had the most rarefied background of anyone in the crowded streetcar, a Mayflower descendant raised in proper Philadelphia society. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Perkins moved to Boston to study at Harvard Law School, but dropped out for the romance of building boats on the South Boston waterfront. He was married and had no children. An older brother living in Cambridge identified his body and wired the news to their mother.

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Name: John W. Pickering

Age: 49

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Revere

A native of Prince Edward Island, he came to Massachusetts as a teenager in the 1880s and married in 1889. Early records list his occupation as pile driver and carpenter. By the time of the 1910 Census he and his wife, Eliza, owned a home in Revere and had four sons and a daughter, ranging in age from 3 to 21; they had also buried a child.

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Name: Thomas H. Price

Age: Early 50s

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: South End

One of two African-American victims of the accident, Price was born in Kentucky during the Civil War. The 1880 Census showed Price to be 18 and working as a laborer in Lexington, Ky. By 1900 he was boarding in Boston’s West End and working as a porter. In 1905, he married Emmaline Parker, a domestic worker who had also come up from the South; at the time, Price was working as a messenger. By 1916, Price was a window washer and handyman on the new Fish Pier, where he was popular up and down the pier, multiple newspapers noted.

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Name: Louis J. Richard

Age: 52

Occupation: Foreman

Lived in: Medford

Richard, a native of New Brunswick, was a veteran of the leather and shoe business who was working as a “boss carpenter” for Commonwealth Ice and Cold Storage Co. on the new Fish Pier, according to the Globe. Even before the accident, Richard and his wife, Justine, had suffered much tragedy. The 1910 Census showed that four of their seven children had died in childhood.

Angelo (left) and Diego Riggio

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Name: Angelo Riggio

Age: 20

Occupation: Carpenter

Lived in: North End

Name: Diego Riggio

Age: 28

Occupation: Mason

Lived in: North End

The Riggio brothers came from Sicily. Diego arrived via New York in 1912, and his younger brother Angelo a year later. Records show that by 1916 they were living with their sister and brother-in-law, Anna and Giuseppe Vassallo, at the far end of Hanover Street. On the night of the accident, the recovered bodies were first taken to the North End waterfront, then carried in hearses down Hanover Street to Scollay Square, then on to the morgue in the West End. Many newspapers carried the poignant tale of how Anna had been waiting anxiously for her brothers to come home, and learned of their deaths from a police officer as the hearses passed by.

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Name: Vincenzo Rusci

Age: 27

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: East Boston

Like fellow victim Antonio Della Pelle, Rusci came from Penne, a town in Abruzzo, and worked in South Boston at the Walworth Manufacturing plant. Passenger records show that he sailed to New York from Naples at least three times — twice as a teenager with his father, Raffaele, in 1906 and 1908, and then again on the SS Duca Degli Abruzzi just five months before his death. His older brother Antonio also worked at Walworth and spent decades there.

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Name: Joseph Scribner

Joseph Scribner

Age: 18

Occupation: Clerk

Lived in: Malden

At 18 years, 10 months, and 2 days old, Scribner was the second youngest victim, four months older than Vincenzo Macaluso. He worked at Condit Electrical Manufacturing, where the Globe identified him as an electrician, though his death record called him a clerk. He was the son of a police officer who worked for the parks system.

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Name: William J. Shannon

Age: 24

Occupation: Fish merchant

Lived in: East Boston

Shannon, one of 10 victims from the Fish Pier, was talking to friends Arthur Smith and Edward Livingston when the car went over; only Smith survived. One of the few Boston-born passengers on the trolley, Shannon grew up in East Boston and South Boston, the older of two boys born to a teamster from Nova Scotia and a clerk-turned-homemaker from Lowell. News accounts called him a fish packer, but his death certificate called him a fish merchant. He left a wife, Elizabeth.

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Name: Kempton Singer

Kempton Singer

Age: 24

Occupation: Fireman (stoking fires)

Lived in: Winchester

Kempton Singer was a fireman for the electric company, meaning he stoked fires at a power plant, not that he put them out. After two straight weeks of working overtime, the 24-year-old Nova Scotia native was eager to get home in time for supper in Winchester, where he had fallen in love with the daughter of the family he boarded with, and was engaged to be married. “Singer was a talented violinist, and it was with swollen and reddened eyes his fiancee eyed the instrument in the parlor of her home yesterday,” the Herald reported.

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Name: Ira Steadman

Age: 36

Occupation: Teamster

Lived in: Dorchester

Steadman and his wife, Jessie, both came from Nova Scotia and married in Boston in 1902. He was a teamster — driving horse-drawn trucks — who got a job as an iceman at Commonwealth Ice and Cold Storage Co. at the Fish Pier, which opened in 1914. At the time of the accident, the Steadmans had five young children — two others had died in infancy — and one more on the way. When she gave birth to a boy the following week, Jessie Steadman named him Ira, after the father he would never know. Another son, Walter, grew up to become a Boston firefighter, rising to lieutenant.

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Name: Henry F. Thomas

Henry F. Thomas

Age: 44

Occupation: Clerk

Lived in: Wellesley

The dapper, mustachioed Thomas grew up in an affluent part of Fall River, where his father’s occupation was listed in the 1900 Census as “capitalist.” A coal dealer with Stetson Coal, Thomas and his wife, Helen, had just built a new home in Wellesley Farms a few months before the accident, moving from Dorchester. On the night of his death, she had just undergone surgery for appendicitis. “His wife is so ill in the Forest Hills hospital that she has not been told of his death,” the Boston Journal reported, two days after the accident.

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Name: Heronim Tyszsko

Age: 26

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Chelsea

Scant details are available about Tyszsko, an unmarried immigrant whose death certificate is vague, listing his place of birth as “Russia Poland.” He appeared in two Boston-area city directories, boarding on Billerica Street in the West End in 1914 and living in Chelsea in 1916. An emigrant whose name appeared to be Heronim “Tisko” and would have been the right age (16) sailed from Bremen, Germany, to New York City in 1906 aboard the SS Trave, with $4 in his pocket.

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Name: Austin E. Verge

Austin E. Verge

Age: 23

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Somerville

A native of Nova Scotia, Verge was coming home from his first day on the job at Walworth Manufacturing when he was killed in the accident. Like many other young men and women from the Maritimes in that era, Verge went back and forth to New England in search of economic opportunity. He had previously worked a stint for the Boston Elevated, apparently as a security guard. Earlier in the year, Verge had befriended a Mainer named Carl Kenney in a lumber camp; after Kenney found work at Walworth and lodging in Somerville, he secured a job for his friend and a room in the same house. They were standing together inside the car, near the front, when it went over; Verge died and Kenney survived. In his pocket, Verge carried an ID card from an accident insurance company in Maine.

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Name: William H. Wallace

Age: 19

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: Cambridge

Just 19, Wallace was the second oldest of seven children, raised in Cambridge, Somerville, and Quincy. His father was a lead glazier who came from Alabama; his mother was a Cambridge native. When Wallace was 14, he lost a 2-year-old sister to diphtheria. He was one of at least five employees of J.W. Moore Machine to perish.

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Name: George M. Walton

George M. Walton

Age: 36

Occupation: Fish business

Lived in: Jamaica Plain

Born in Dublin, Walton spent the first 30 years of his life there, working as a grocer. He sailed to Boston in January 1911, listing Frank O’Hara of Winchester as his contact in the Boston area — proprietor of F.J. O’Hara & Co., one of the most prominent firms in the Boston fish business. O’Hara would lose two employees in the accident, Walton and Horatio Jackson. Walton left a wife and three young children, according to the Globe.

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Name: Roy A. Watt

Age: 25

Occupation: Pattern maker

Lived in: Cambridge

A native of Nova Scotia and the son of a sea captain, Watt was a pattern maker for J.W. Moore Machine Co., an East First Street workshop that manufactured special-order machinery for industrial businesses. He was still living with his parents in Cape Breton during the 1911 Canadian Census. His body was claimed by his older brother.

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Name: George Wencus

George Wencus

Age: About 25

Occupation: Machinist

Lived in: West End

Much was written about Wencus’s physical description — as the first body to surface — and about his pocket watch, the hands of which froze at the time of the accident, 5:26. Less is known about his life. He came from what is today Lithuania but was part of the Russian Empire during his childhood. According to the Boston Post, he lived with his brother, his sister, and her husband in the West End.

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Name: Luther Williams

Age: 46

Occupation: Janitor

Lived in: South End/Roxbury

The Virginia native was one of two African-American victims of the streetcar accident. In the 1880 Census, he was listed as Luke Williams, one of seven children of Andrew and Clarissa Williams, in a Southeastern Virginia county that no longer exists. Little is known about Williams in adulthood except that he was single and worked as a janitor, though the medical examiner found three receipts in his pockets for classified ads in the Globe, as well as an old letter with a Hampton, Va., address.

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Name: Elsie H. Wood

Age: 19

Occupation: Stenographer

Lived in: Roxbury

Wood was both the only woman killed in the accident and the only victim whose body was not recovered within hours. Her boss at Condit Electrical Manufacturing posted a $100 reward for whoever found her body. In the language of the day, Wood was “a beautiful girl of the blonde type” in “a dark blue coat with a fur neck piece” (Boston Journal) and the “pretty girl with the fur collar” (Boston American). Wood’s childhood had a whiff of Victorian controversy. Her 1897 Boston birth record listed no father — only a mother, Annie, a Scottish immigrant. The 1900 Census labeled 3-year-old Elsie “illegitimate”; records indicate that her mother, a widow in her 40s with three older children, may not have expected to become pregnant with Elsie.

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Name: Veckenty Zabrocke

Age: 35-40

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: Roxbury

Zabrocke was one of at least 17 victims who worked at the sprawling Walworth Manufacturing plant. That Zabrocke’s death certificate did not include his parents’ names and put a range for his age indicates that the spelling of his name may have been a phonetic guess. He was likely the same person as the “Vincenty Zabrocki” listed as a shoemaker in the 1912 Lynn City Directory and the “Vincently Zabrocki” who sailed to Boston from Liverpool in 1911, at age 29. That Zabrocki was an ethnic Pole who had a vision problem in his right eye, and planned to stay initially with a cousin in South Boston.

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Name: Giuseppe Zuffante

Age: 26-27

Occupation: Laborer

Lived in: North End

Zuffante was a slender young man from Sicily, 5 foot 6 and barely 130 pounds, who was in the process of becoming a United States citizen. He was previously listed as a grocer in some documents, though his death certificate identified him generically as a laborer. A Boston American reporter witnessed Zuffante’s adolescent cousin, Salvatore, pleading amid the crowd outside the morgue to be admitted to identify Giuseppe. “Joseph, he didn’t come home. He has a wife and she has a little baby, and so she couldn’t come,” said Salvatore, eyes rimmed with tears. “But we tell her Joseph is sick. And all the time we see in the paper that he is dead. He must be in there.”