18.  Tales of Destruction...The Empty Nitro Can

A nitroglycerin can is made from exactly three square feet of sheet copper and weighs three pounds empty.  The capacity of the most commonly used can is slightly more than ten quarts.  Unfortunately for many victims, when empty, with a uniform residual coating of nitroglycerin inside, these cans become one of the most effective close proximity fragmentation grenades ever devised.  If it were not for their bulk( 6-1/4" x 6-1/4" x 15-1/4") they surely would have been adopted by the armed forces.

The nitroglycerin can shown at left is one of the authentic "angel cans" sold by The Otto Cupler Torpedo Company.  The nitroglycerin residue has been neutralized with "nitro killer".  Beware of cans offered at flea markets and elsewhere - they may be deadly.

McLaurin tells this gory story, "The summer of 1878 was a busy season in the northern field.  Foster Brook Valley was the hey-day of activity, with hundreds of wells drilling and well-shooters very much in evidence.  Among the most expert men in the employ of the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company was J. Bartlett, of Bradford.  He went to Red Rock, an ephemeral oil-town six miles north-east of Bradford, to torpedo a well in rear of the McClure House, the principal hostelry.  Although Bartlett's recklessness was the source of uneasiness, he had never met with an accident and was considered extremely fortunate.  It was a rule to explode the cans that had held the glycerine after the shot.  Bartlett torpedoed the well, piled wood around the empty cans and set it on fire.  He and a party of friends waited at the hotel for the cans to explode.  The fire had burned low and Bartlett proceeded to investigate.  He lifted a can and turned it over, to see if it contained any glycerine.  The act was followed by an explosion that shook every house in the town and shattered numberless windows.  Bartlett's companions were knocked senseless and the shooter was blown one-hundred feet.  When picked up by several men, who hurried to the scene, he presented a horrible sight.  His clothing was torn to ribbons and his body riddled by pieces of tin.  The right arm was off close to the shoulder and the right leg was a pulp.  He was removed to a boarding-house and died in great agony three hours after."

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