Death Lurked on a Camden Street

Philadelphia Inquirer – January 7, 1898



Policemen Stood Near, But No One Warned the Pedestrian of His Danger – The Broken Wire Had Been Shooting Out Sparks for Half an Hour.

Deadly electric wires claimed a victim in Camden last evening. Harry J. Schaefer, a silk spinner, 22 years old. of 608 Vine street, in that city, was shocked to death by a live wire on Tenth street above Market about 6 o’clock. Schaefer was crossing Tenth street, laughing and talking with a friend named Long, when his foot came in contact with the wire. He fell to the ground and cried:

“Won’t some one hold me up?”


These were the unfortunate man’s last words. As he writhed in agony. his hands clutched a tangle of copper wire, part of the debris from the recent storm. The current ran through his body and shot from his burning hands in sparks and flashes of blue flame. Long and several other spectators standing on the corner were afraid to risk death in an effort to release Schaefer.

Finally some one secured a hatchet and, mounting a chair, severed the wire through which the deadly current was passing. Immediately Schaefer’s convulsive movements ceased and a policeman, who put a lantern near his face, found he was dead. The body was removed to the young man’s home.

The dead man’s hands were burned to the bone and a ghastly streak on lone side of his face showed where the live wire had touched the flesh. The bottoms of his shoes were burned through, the deadly current having passed through the full length of the body.


According to the statement of Policeman McClong, who was an eye witness of the tragedy, Schaefer’s death could have been avoided. He says the wire extended from a pole on Tenth street to the south side of Federal, and it parted about half an hour before Schaefer’s death. Federal and Market streets run together at Tenth, and the broken wire fell across the Market street trolley wire. There are no guard wires on Camden’s trolley system, consequently the fallen wire received the trolley current and sparks shot from it, making a display that soon drew a crowd.

Policeman Anderson went to the Camden electric light works and reported the dangerous wire. The current was shut off the Market street circuit, but the subsequent fatality seems to show that the broken wire was attached to the Cooper street circuit.


A trolley car soon came along on the Market street line. The motor man put on his rubber gloves, removed the wire from the trolley and threw it up Tenth street. It laid there, and in a few minutes Schaefer came down Tenth street, and stepped on It before he could be warned of his danger.

Two officials of the Camden Electric Lighting Company arrived on the scene shortly after the accident, and claimed that Schaefer was killed by the current from guy wire that had fallen across the trolley wire. This is denied by representatives of the Camden Horse Railroad Company, who say that it was undoubtedly an electric light wire. Coroner Hopper will hold an inquest.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.