Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/822

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placed at a safe distance. On pressing the key so as to send the electricity through the wires, both fuse and dynamite were fired simultaneously, and the camera slide fell so quickly after the mule's head vanished, that a good photograph was taken of the creature, standing headless, before its body had had time to fall. Shocking to the mule; but entertaining and instructive to the class of military students which assembled to witness the experiment. More shocking, perhaps, is a device reported from the Southwest, called "the torpedo-chicken." It looks like a chicken, and sits like one on the roost among live fowl. But when, at about midnight, the hand of the chicken-thief of the region grasps it, a catch is thrown out of place, a powerful spring moves, a hammer strikes a percussion cap, there is an explosion, and about four ounces of bird-shot are thrown in every direction. The finale is said to be that a dusky figure is seen running or limping down the alley, and a husky voice is heard: "Fo' de Lawd! but what has de white folks got hold of now?" The scientific accuracy of this description will be appreciated, when the reader learns that it is from the "Detroit Free Press." Evidently, here is a hint to inventors: what a variety of burglar-alarms, thief-catchers, and other detective devices may be developed! The account circulated a year or two ago, of the newly invented trunk, fitted with pockets of nitro-glycerine at the corners, which might operate by way of reward of merit for any super-active baggage-smasher, is but a forerunner.

One would suppose that the various forms of ordnance would be managed with peculiar skill and care, yet they give rise to many disasters. A workman intrusted with packing seventy-five thousand percussion-caps in boxes handled them roughly; they exploded, and he was killed. Another, who was charging a rocket in the ordnance fulminate-room at a navy-yard, was killed, his companions severely hurt, and the inner walls of the building demolished by a premature discharge. Several men were badly hurt by a like disaster, in the course of loading cartridges with fulminate, at the factory of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, in New Haven. A bomb-shell was sent among a quantity of old iron to a foundry in Brooklyn to be melted; but it was loaded, and within a few minutes after it was thrown into the furnace there was a disastrous explosion. The saddest case of the kind narrated during the summer is that in which Lieutenants Edes and Spalding lost their lives at Newport. They were sent to plant a torpedo, and full instructions were given them as to the precautions needful; but, through some error or neglect on their part, the electrical circuit was prematurely closed, and the torpedo fired while they were yet in their boat above it.

Not half of the casualties reported during the season have been mentioned, nor has anything boon said of the numerous fatalities from bursting of kerosene lamps and cans, of leaky gas-pipes, steam-boilers, revolving stones, inflammable dust, and other things not intended as ex-