The National Archives at Philadelphia

Allegheny Arsenal


Originally designed by Benjamin Latrobe, the Allegheny Arsenal was a fixture in the economic and social life of nineteenth century Pittsburgh. Located in Lawrenceville, the arsenal spanned over thirty-eight hilly acres. Built in 1814, the arsenal supplied and communicated with the west from a key location.

The Allegheny Arsenal also developed an important relationship to the Lawrenceville community. During the Civil War, boys and girls little older than 10 worked there filling cartridges, making harnesses, and handling live gunpowder. Inadequate or unenforced safety standards meant that workers and supervisors carelessly handled live gunpowder, and often spilt or swept gunpowder onto the ground and into the roads extending outward from the Arsenal.

These practices, and other factors, contributed to a pair of explosions on September 17, 1862 the same day as the Battle of Antietam. Just as the battle shook western Maryland; the disaster at the Allegheny Arsenal likewise rocked the Lawrenceville community. Over 70 people died in the explosion. This exhibit recovers the largely forgotten story and investigates the reasons for it.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
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Courtesy of the Library of Congress
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Courtesy of the Library of Congress
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