Douglas Starch Works Explosion

Commemorating 100 years since the day that shook the city

On May 22, 1919, a small fire at the Douglas Starch Works created an explosion which impacted Eastern Iowa. Homes, schools and shops were damaged. Windows were shattered, and businesses slowed. Forty-four people lost their lives.

In the days and months that followed, the community showed resiliency and Douglas Starch Works rebuilt. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of this event in 2019, we remembered the explosion and celebrated the community's strength of rebuilding following difficult times through an interactive chalking project, working with community members to chalk the locations impacted by the explosion. Learn more below!

Sponsored in part by Travel Iowa, Wells Fargo, and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Special thank you to the City of Cedar Rapids, Ingredion, and the local businesses and organizations who have helped tell this story. Additional thanks to Ruth Sergel for inspiring this project through her book, See You in the Streets, which was published in our own corridor by the University of Iowa Press.

Explore the Impact of the Explosion

When the explosion boomed at the Douglas Starch Works plant, people around Cedar Rapids felt the blast.

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Learn More about Douglas & Company

George Bruce Douglas and his family played significant roles in the industrial development of Cedar Rapids.

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Discover the History of the Explosion

Learn how the Cedar Rapids area community rebuilt following the accident.

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Collaboration with the University of Iowa

A class from the University of Iowa History Department works with Brucemore to commemorate the Douglas Starch Works explosion.

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Experience the History

Watch videos discussing various elements of the Douglas Starch Works Explosion and Cedar Rapids’ history of rebuilding

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