Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cause of Death - Benzol Poisoning

Anna M. Palcher LeCompte
born July 18, 1896 - died August 14, 1926

Several weeks ago I wrote about discovering the story of two sisters marrying two brothers. The post, Wedding Wednesday - Sister Wives, garnered quite a bit of interest. I knew the title alone would grab the attention of most readers.

In the post I share how a photograph of the sisters captured my attention immediately. Their lovely hats, demure expressions and quiet dignity fired my imagination.

With additional research the story about one of these sisters came to light. In this article we learn about the tragic death of Anna M. Palcher LeCompte. It goes on to state the cause of death being from benzol poisoning

Growing up I heard many stories of family and friends contracting diseases from various factories. In fact, I have an ancestor who died from a fatal fall in one of the factories.

Reading this story brings home the dangers workers faced each day.

Baltimore Sun - August 15, 1926

"4 Blood Operations Fail in Benzol Case

Mrs. Anna LeCompte Dies As Result of Inhaling Fumes.

Was Stricken July 20

Coroner Investigating To Determine Can Company's Responsibility.

Four blood transfusions failed to save the life of Mrs. Anna Lecompte, 30 years old, 2404 McElderry street, who died yesterday at the Mercy Hospital from benzol poisoning after she is said to have inhaled the fumes July 20 while working at the Continental Can Company, Bay View Junction.

According to Dr. A. W. Kelly, of the Mercy Hospital staff, Mrs. LeCompte was brought to the hospital in a automobile by other employees of the can company on the day of the poisoning. She apparently did not know she was ill but said she felt a trifle weak, according to Dr. Kelly.

Four Operations Performed.

A few days after entering the institution the first blood transfusion was made. Three more operations were performed, the last five days ago, Dr. Kelly said.

Thursday, the physician added, Mrs. LeCompte lapsed into unconsciousness, from which she never emerged. Benzol poisoning cases are rare, it was explained, and Mrs. LeCompte's death marks the first fatality this year.

Deaths Reported Last Year.

Last year several persons employed by can companies died from benzol poisoning.

Dr. Otto M. Reinhardt, coroner, is investigating the case to determine the responsibility of the can company in the woman's death."

Further reading about benzol poisoning:

Benzol Poisoning, Its Occurrence and Preventions - from Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering, volume 27, published from July 1 to December 31, 1922.

Naphtha and Benzol Poisoning - from Diseases of Occupation and Vocational Hygiene edited by George M Kober, M.D., LL.D and William C. Hanson, M.D., published 1916.


  1. So glad you wrote this. I think we tend to forget what our ancestors went through in the factories and just how dangerous it was. So sad that a life was cut so short.

  2. What a sad story! I'm always drawn to the causes of death that seem so foreign to us in this day and age. My great-grandfather took over the family painting business when his father passed from a risk of the profession - lead poisoning. Thanks for reminding us and educating us... just another reason that I love your posts!

  3. Cause of deaths can reveal not only our ancestor's environment but also give us a peak at their daily lifestyle. Although sad, this is a perfect example of work hazards. Thanks for this one.

  4. What a sad fate for such a lovely young woman!

  5. Wonderful post! So many different causes of death before the alphabet soup of regulators were established. Bless the newspapers - the articles add so much detail to the lives we study.

  6. Ironic that they say such cases are rare yet there were several the year before. My father worked in a hazardous environment and yes, we tend to forget the risks our ancestors faced at work.

  7. Thanks for posting the newspaper article with these fascinating details of her sad death. "Health & Safety" wasn't much thought of in the past - after all, a job was a job, and brought in needed money to the family. How sad for everyone in the family.