New London Texas Gas Explosion of 1937

In 1937 the rural New London Texas school district was considered one of the wealthiest independent school districts in the United States. However, the wealth and the beautiful and modern school building could not withstand a gas explosion that occurred on this day in 1937.

An undetected gas leak in the school had been occurring for several weeks prior to the explosion. Complaints by students and teachers of headaches suggested that the environment was compromised, but because gas in its natural state is odorless, there was nothing to indicate that the leaking gas could be a cause. Unfortunately, it was not until a spark from a sanding machine in one of the classrooms lit the gas and caused an explosion so fierce that it could be heard four miles away, did the leak become evident. The school was ripped apart by the explosion, hurtling concrete slabs several feet into the air. An estimated 293 people died in the explosion.

Reaction to the gas leak spurred the Texas legislature to pass legislation requiring the addition of a Malodorant Agent into natural gas, giving it a distinctive odor so that leaks can be easily detected.

Details of the loss of life and the destruction of property are detailed on the website ” New London Texas School Explosion (http://www.newlondonschool.org ) dedicated to the disaster.

For more information, visit these additional websites:

The New London Texas School Explosion

45th Texas Legislature (1937) House Bill 1017

The London, Texas, School Disaster

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/s_4744