Lou's Place in Cyberspace


My Father once told me a story about a time when he was a child of five and how the town of Lyndhurst came under bombardment. He said there were bombs going off all around the town and his mother took her children, running to a neighbors wood frame house. The house he lived in was brick, and he recalled his mother saying the bombs would make the brick house fall but the wood frame house was safer. As I grew older there, it was common knowledge to the boys of the town that you could get "GUNCOTTON" out in the meadows from an old ammunition dump that blew up many years before. When I was about ten, me, a cousin, and a  friend ventured out into the meadows, crossing creeks using old railroad ties and planks for bridges. Several creeks had to be crossed before the tide came in or the plank crossings would be covered with water (which happened once forcing us to cross the planks while water washed over the surface. A very frightening  experience since I did not know how to swim and the creeks were 8-10 feet wide.) At the site I recall their being red bricks lying everywhere. There were crumbled walls and I recall an office area where there were woman's shoes, pocketbooks, and other clothing lying about. We were able to scrape the gun cotton (very explosive) from the ground and would bring it home in a bushel basket to dry out. We would construct various explosive devices of just make a pile and ignite it. Considering the explosive nature of gun cotton, we were fortunate we didn't kill ourselves. At one time I had about 6-8 "Prince Albert" tobacco cans filled with the stuff stored in an unused NORGE refrigerator that was in my grandfathers garage at 616 Third Ave. Enough explosives to have leveled the garage if it had exploded. The luck of children! Presently near the Panasonic building in the Meadowlands Office Park, is the remaining stump of the smokestack that was our guide point as we went out to the ammo dump many years ago.

 The smokestack to the boiler house was our guide to the site since the high meadow reeds blocked everything from our view. We just kept moving towards that old smokestack which was about 1/4 mile from Kingsland Road.

Years later the New Jersey Turnpike was put through, then the meadow swamp became "THE MEADOWLANDS" with the introduction of the GIANTS STADIUM complex and the rest is history.

Here are the facts to the story which began with my Dad and his family running to a wood frame house in 1917 as the town of LYNDHURST came under bombardment from an exploding munitions factory. With the advent of the WEB, I found the true story of what had happened there.

On Jan. 11, 1917, Some 1, 275,000 artillery shells destined for Russia exploded after a fire was started at a munitions plant at the Canadian Car and Foundry plant in Kingsland, N.J. It was the work of German saboteurs. 

This act followed the success of the destruction of Black Tom Island, in the Hudson River at Jersey City, opposite New York, a year earlier.  German saboteurs decided to strike the Canadian Car and Foundry Company at Kingsland. The company had been contracted by the Russians to manufacture artillery shells. The company executives decided not to take any chances with security for their plant. They constructed a six-foot fence around the plant and hired security guards to conduct 24-hour patrols around the perimeter and to screen each worker as they entered the plant. 

The group of saboteurs operated under the direction of Frederick Hinsch. Hinsch recruited a German national Curt Thummel, who changed his name to Charles Thorne. Hinsch instructed Thorne to obtain employment at the Kingsland site. Thorne was hired as assistant employment manager. In this position he facilitated the hiring of several operatives sent by Hinsch to infiltrate the factory. One of the men hired was Theodore Wozniak. They achieved their goal and the plant was totally destroyed in a huge long explosion.

All that remains of the munitions factory is the smokestack jutting out of the swamp near an office parking lot in the present day MEADOWLANDS OFFICE COMPLEX. It was from around this location we were able to gather gun cotton, lying just below the marsh mud surface in the mid 1950's.


Period photos showing the types of shells and damage done by the explosion

Report on Kingsland explosion- Click here