From the archives: Hartford Steam Boiler’s “Chamber of Horrors”

Did you know that Hartford Steam Boiler’s founder, Jeremiah Merwin Allen, actually made it a point to visit the scenes of boiler explosions whenever he could? He encouraged HSB inspectors to do the same – and for them to report on the disaster – even if the boiler was not an insured’s.

Significant boiler fragments from the scenes were then sent to the home office to be studied. While this helped HSB learn more about the causes of boiler explosions and how to mitigate them, the accumulated explosion “mementos” soon cluttered the already crowded office, and the company was compelled to move to a larger space. In 1873, HSB moved to the second floor of the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company Building in Hartford, Connecticut, which after 1895 was known as the Aetna Life Building.

There Allen set up what he called his Museum of Steam Boiler Exhibits, but which the clerks in the home office irreverently called the “Chamber of Horrors.” In 1877, some of these relics formed the nucleus of the Hartford Steam Boiler exhibit at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. The exhibit, incidentally, attracted a large number of visitors and was awarded a bronze medal.


© 2014 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this article.

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