Texas City Disaster Photographs


Texas City disaster area, pre-explosion photographs, 1947

Texas City disaster area, post-explosion photographs, 1947

On  April 16, 1947, the Texas City disaster occurred when a French ship carrying fertilizer in Galveston Bay caught fire and exploded. The blast largely destroyed the nearby Monsanto Chemical Company and other petroleum refineries, homes, warehouses, ships, and buildings. At least 576 people died and 4,000 were injured.

The photographs above show what the waterfront looked like before and after the explosion.

3 thoughts on “Texas City Disaster Photographs

  1. Actually, the before photo above was taken after the disaster. It was a few years after they rebuilt the docks.

    There are other photos that show a wider view and you can still see the damage from the explosion. Compare both photos above, see the parking lot in the lower left corner and the roads in the after photo with all the damage?

    Now look at the top photo that you claim is the before photo. See the building in the lower left corner where a parking lot should be? The building didn’t get wiped out by the explosion and replaced with a parking lot full of cars.

    I realize that you are trying to show before and after photos, but to be clear about it, the before photo is actually after the explosion.

    • These images are part of the Texas City Disaster records, which were given to us by the daughter of a former employee of Monsanto executive. Since I did not process this collection, it’s hard for me to know if the donor had labeled the photographs pre-explosion. The photographs are not dated and have no markings on the back.

      To solve this mystery, I’m going to contact the Texas City Museum and see if they have enough information to date our pre-explosion photograph. Then, we can make the necessary corrections to the physical collection and the digital images.

      Thank you for spotting this.

      • I have done extensive research on the Disaster is the reason I brought it to your attention. I run a Texas City Disaster Website, which is considered the best one on the internet. It has been an ongoing hobby and I have so much I am still adding to it as I receive photos from survivors relatives who want the photos from their families preserved.

        http://www.local1259iaff.org/disaster1.html

        It is getting harder as the years go by to identify a lot of photos because so many do not have writing on the back. I have been trying my best over the years to gather as much info as possible for the Website to help preserve what happened.

        If you look at the photo wrc00110 you will see a broader view of wrc00108. So in wrc00110 you will see where the Grandcamp was moored when it exploded. You can see all the destruction still on that dock where the long warehouses stood. Plus the dock is blown away from the explosions.

        I actually grew up in Texas City and still live here. Being a firefighter now for the last 21 years is why I have been researching everything about the explosion for so many years now. I will also go to the Library and talk to them and do some more research on these photos.

        I have been particularly intrigued with wrc00115 which shows the barge Longhorn II with the two tangled trucks and Grandcamp bow on top of it. Throughout the years, folks have been saying that the trucks are fire trucks. I’ve recently acquired an 8×10 original photo of it. On the back it has ex – 74 – Texas City, Texas. It also mentions the truck on top of it, but doesn’t say either way.

        From another photo I have, I can see that on the door of one truck, it says (P)entycuff with Contractor below that and then the numbers 643, which could be part of his phone number. Also, I could not see the P, but do know that is what it is. It belonged to William D. Pentycuff, one of the Texas City firemen who lost his life that day on the dock.

        I recently ran across some more original photos and the Son of the man who took them said that the two trucks belonged to the First Responders (firemen). So now I am waiting for a return email to see if he knows this from what could be written on the back or was told about them from his Father who took the photos.

        From what I have researched so far, I believe the trucks are not fire trucks, but did belong to the first responders and they were parked on the dock when the explosion occurred, thus tangling them up with the Grandcamps bow section that blew apart.

        So over the years, the stories turned from, “Those trucks belonged to the firemen.” to “Those two trucks are fire trucks.”

        I do remember talking to a survivor years ago, who did mention that Pentycuff was a contractor. Back then though I didn’t put two and two together, until a few months ago when I received the one detailed pic and I could read the door and license plate.

        So Pentycuff and whoever owned the other truck most likely responded in them from their work as they were all volunteers and had to respond from wherever they were in their private vehicles.

        So much little things like this gets lost over the years. But it is fun to research it all and try to piece it back together.

        Thanks for your time, Mark

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