This set of 21 photographs was taken between April 16 and 21, immediately after the 1947 explosion in Texas City. At some point the photos were removed from a small album. We have the notes concerning each photo made on the facing album pages but no additional information.
Open for research.
Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.
0.25 Linear Feet
Charles Tellus Townsend was a local police officer who captured photographs of the aftermath of the Texas City Disaster in 1947.
One of the worst disasters in Texas history occurred on April 16, 1947, when the ship SS Grandcamp exploded at 9:12 A.M. at the docks in Texas City. The French-owned vessel, carrying explosive ammonium nitrate caught fire early in the morning, and while attempts were being made to extinguish the fire, the ship exploded. The entire dock area was destroyed, along with the nearby Monsanto Chemical Company, other smaller companies, grain warehouses, and numerous oil and chemical storage tanks. Smaller explosions and fires were ignited, by flying debris, along the industrial area and also throughout the city. Fragments of iron, parts of the ship's cargo, and dock equipment were hurled into businesses, houses, and public buildings. A fifteen-foot tidal wave caused by the force swept the dock area. The concussion of the explosion, felt as far away as Port Arthur, damaged or destroyed at least 1,000 residences and buildings throughout Texas City. The ship SS High Flyer, in dock for repairs and also carrying ammonium nitrate, was ignited by the first explosion; it was towed 100 feet from the docks before it exploded about sixteen hours later, at 1:10 A.M. on April 17. The first explosion had killed twenty-six Texas City firemen and destroyed all of the city's fire-fighting equipment, including four trucks, leaving the city helpless in the wake of the second explosion. Probably the exact number of people killed will never be known, although the ship's anchor monument records 576 persons known dead, 398 of whom were identified, and 178 listed as missing.
Texas City 1947 Disaster Photographs digital collection
K. Fox, 1998
Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository