Nov. 17, 1927: Behind this picture lies a tragic story. How that story ends is a mystery, one you may be able to help solve. These five children, dressed in their Sunday clothes, are siblings. Can you see a certain sadness in the eyes? A sense of shock? The picture was published in the Pittsburgh Press under the headline, “Blast leaves five tots motherless.”
Mary Cangelier was washing her family’s laundry when one of the world’s largest gas storage tanks exploded just a few blocks away, on Reedsdale Street on the city’s North Side. Nearby buildings collapsed into heaps of debris; pieces of the steel tank rained down on the city’s streets. The blast shattered thousands of windows, including those in the Cangelier home; one jagged piece of glass cut into Mary’s leg with such force that it severed an artery. The 28-year-old mother bled to death.
(Watch this video to learn more about the gas tank disaster.)
The explosion killed 28 people. Most were workers on or near the gas tank and were either blown to pieces or were crushed by falling debris. A few days after the explosion, a Press photographer was summoned to take a picture of Mary’s five children. They are, from left, Lena, 11; John, 9; Angelo, 7; Rose, 4; and Frances, 13.
And what happened to the Cangelier children? We’d like to know. If you have any information about the explosion or the family, please contact us and we’ll share it on the Digs.
(Pittsburgh Press photo)