July 7, 1909: Water Tank Collapses, Man Runs for His Life

0707 Defective towerJuly 7, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. A Defective Water Tower. “A water tank at Vermilion, S. D., which had for some time been known to be weak, fell a few weeks ago and the photograph of this shows very plainly the point of weakness. The tank was 20 feet in diameter and 16 feet high and rested upon a tower 100 feet high. The tower legs had been constructed of 12 x 12 timbers and there were eight 10 x 12 batter posts supporting and strengthening them. Each of the legs rested upon a stone foundation. The timbers forming the legs were all spliced at about the same distance from the ground one-half way up. This formed a series of weak points all at about the same elevation and apparently not sufficiently stiffened by bracing. The tank usually contained at least 12 feet depth of water, or about 100 tons, and for some time previous the supports had been noticed to be bulging at the point of splicing. As seen by the illustration, all of the legs or posts broke at this point; so readily, in fact, that the whole structure folded up like a jack-knife and the tank with its contents of water fell almost directly onto the center of the foundation. The tank itself remained intact until striking the ground, when it burst and was completely shattered.”

Reference: “A Defective Water Tower.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer. 27:1 (July 7, 1909): 7.

Commentary: Notice the fellow running for his life in the lower right corner. When I started this blog and I began my search for interesting water stories from the past, this became one of my favorites if only for the amazing photograph. Given the rudimentary nature of photography at this time, it is incredible that this photo was captured.

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One thought on “July 7, 1909: Water Tank Collapses, Man Runs for His Life

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