University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections

Texas City, 1947 Disaster Photographs

Descriptive Summary

Creator: [Unidentified Creator]
Title: Texas City, 1947 Disaster Photographs
Dates: April 16-21, 1947
Abstract: These 21 snapshots were taken in Texas City, TX, between April 16 & 21, 1947. They capture results of the terrible accidental explosion that occurred at the ship channel docks. The photographer is unknown.
Identification: 1969-035
Quantity: 1 box; .5 linear feet
Repository: Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

Historical Note

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.


Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Texas City Disaster" (accessed September 19, 2006).

Scope and Contents

This set of 21 photographs was taken by an unknown individual between April 16 & 21 - immediately after the 1947 explosion in Texas City. At some point the photos were taken from a small album. We have the notes concerning each photo made on the facing album pages but no additional information. Please see the "Historical Note," above, for more information about the deadly explosion.


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use Restrictions

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, locating 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.

Index Terms

Terms are either Library of Congress Subject Headings or taken from local sources.


Texas City Disaster
Texas City (Tex.)
Texas City (Tex.) Fire, 1947.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Texas City, 1947 Disaster Photographs, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

Processed by

K. Fox, 1998

Detailed Description


box folder
1 1 Motor convoy for Texas City
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2 Police Headquarters. This is the main section of town - about 1.5 miles from explosion.
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3 Houses one mile from explosion
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4 Houses one mile from explosion
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5 Houses one mile from explosion
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6 Road heading into explosion area - one mile from area of the first explosion.
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7 Parking area one half mile from explosion area. Car at left of picture damaged by first explosion.
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8 Oil tanks afire third day after explosion - one mile to the left of fires.
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9 Parking lot 1/4 mile from explosion to right of picture. Cars covered with sea water and mud.
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10 Freight cars 1/4 mile from explosion. These were to be loaded onto freight barge.
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11 Warehouse destroyed. Located between no.1 and 2 slips. Ship in each slip explodex (sic). First ship exploded in no. 1 slip to left of picture.
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12 Barge 100 feet long that was in no.1 slip. This barge lifted out of water and landed 100 feet inland. Damaged part of barge in picture is fire truck thrown there by second explosion. No. 1 slip is behind (sic) barge.
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13 Fuel tank 200(?) yards inland from no. 1 slip.
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14 Five story building beside no. 1 slip with photographer standing by slip. Boxcars that were on tracts (sic) I picture were blown to pieces.
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15 This is no. 1 slip with barge in the background. This photo was taken three days after explosion showing four bodies floating in slip at this time.
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16 >Area between two slips and 200 yards inland. Cement structure at upper (sic) left of picture is grain elevator.
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17 Small crane in center of picture was destroyed (sic) by second explosion. No. 2 slip is behind photographer.
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18 No. 2 slip. No. 1 slip is behind boxcars.
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19 No. 2 slip with ship destroyed by second explosion. Yes! That is me taking moveing (sic) pictures of the destruction (sic).
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20 Aerial shot of Texas City.
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21 Aerial shot of Texas City.
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