Keystone Box Factory Burned to the Ground
One of Slatington’s oldest industries, the Keystone Pencil Box Factory, located on Seventh Street, in the southern end of our town was burned to the ground last Friday evening, shortly after supper time by fire, the origin of which is thought to have been spontaneous combustion. The loss has been approximately figured to be about $50,000 with about $15,000 insurance.
The fire was discovered by D. W. Coffin, about 6.20, while passing at the time on a car. Coffin saw smoke coming from the slates on the roof and suspected fire and jumped off the moving car and started to investigate, He notified James Kern, a foreman in the factory, who resides across the street and the latter went to the engine room and blew the whistle until the steam was all exhausted.
Hose Company No. 1 responded first and the Vigilant Hose Company No. 2 arrived a few minutes later. By this time the fire had already made much headway inside and the flames were shooting out of the windows of the varnish room in the rear, where the fire was first discovered. The dry condition of the interior, the sawdust and loose lumber lying around proved easy meat for the flames and by the time the hose was connected and a stream turned on the whole interior was a seething mass, which also was breaking out of the roof and sides of the building.
The firemen were lso greatly handicapped on account of the low condition of the water in the reservoir and the breaking down of the steamer of Company No. 1. They worked valiantly however to get the flames under control, but it was soon seen that their task was in vain and that the building was doomed.
The building is a two-story frame one and within an hour afterward it was nothing but a heap of burning timber. After the roof fell in all the heavy machines on the second floor went through to the basement with a crash that sent the flames and sparks high in the air. The walls old and dry, did not last long and soon toppled in on the rest.
The firemen after saving some of the stock and lumber on the first floor, then directed their attention to the saving of the buildings close on either side. The building of the National School Slate Company, close by, Walp’s hotel and a number of residences on each side, were kept soaked with water by the firemen on account of the danger of sparks.
Shortly after the discover of the fire was made the fires in the engine room and boiler house, which adjoins, were pulled, but the flames spread to them and they were also totally destroyed.
The building itself was old and had been standing for nearly forty years, but the machinery in it was of improved patterns and valuable. There was also a large stock of pencil boxes on hand for the usually heavy demand in September at the opening of the school terms. It was one of the oldest industries in our borough and was owned by the following stockholders: Edward L. Kraus, who is said to be the largest, R. F. Muschlitz estate, Wm. A. Fritzinger and Emil Flusso. Mr. Kraus was in New York on a business trip and was apprised of the fire by telegram.
The industry when working on full time employed about 75 hands. During the work of the firemen, a short section of the hose, which has been in service about 17 years, bursted. After the fire Town Council met in a special session and immediately decided to purchase a new hose.
The continued blowing of the whistles attracted people from all over the borough and from Walnutport who crowded about the scene of the fire. The fire started in the varnish room, where shellac, alcohol and other combustibles were stored.
The insurance has not yet been adjusted.
Source:The Slatington News, 28 July 1911