A forgotten chapter of Denver-area history, when an upstart biplane factory exploded, killing 11. A story of callous corporate negligence emerged from the ashes. This is the first singular narrative of the disaster ever written. Presented to the Englewood Historic Preservation Society and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Co-authored by Reed Underwood.Click here to watch a live presentation of this article, featuring additional commentary, new research, and a visit from a victim's descendant.
The first Alexander Eaglerock airplane in front of the factory.
The young man, home for summer from military school in Tennessee, and his tagalong eight-year-old brother, are digging through their grandparents' dusty attic. They find old portraits, steamer trunks, furniture thirty years out of fashion. Then, from a corner, the little one calls out to his brother that he’s found something. Beneath an old blanket, a strange device. On filigreed legs, it has a cabinet, a kerosene burner and wick, and a lens. In the cabinet, a box of translucent slides depicting images of the Holy Land. The older boy knows what it is. He runs downstairs to ask his grandfather for fuel. That Sunday night, in the balmy June heat of Keokuk, Iowa, they hang a white linen sheet from the storefront of the family shoe store. A crowd of a few dozen gather as the boys show images of the River Jordan, the Dead Sea, the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. They repeat their performance every weekend that summer, and by August the boys are charging local merchants to show advertising slides before the program.
^J. Don Alexander
^Don M. Alexander
The boys were J. Don Alexander, age 16, and his eight year old brother Don M. From this simple beginning grew a diverse commercial empire that led the field in film advertising, as well as holding mining interests, electrical mechanics, and a stab at the first coast to coast motel chain. Their film business, which effectively invented the notion of placing advertisements before movies, lasted into the 1960s.
v^Company advertisements, 1920s.
But the zenith of their fame and excitement came in the late 1920s, when the Alexander brothers were among the pioneers of commercial aviation. On the banks of Englewood’s Little Dry Creek, where a King Soopers stands today, hundreds of innovative Alexander Eaglerock biplanes rolled out of the little factory and soared around the world.
v^ The site then and now.
The genteel era that saw the Alexander Eaglerock airplane become among the most popular flying machines of the day ended for Englewood in disaster, with the charred bodies of young employees dragged from the factory, and with Alexander Industries fleeing in the middle of the night, never to return.
The Alexander brothers, J. Don and Don M., were born in St. Louis in 1885 and 1893, respectively. A biography of J. Don describes their father “an able businessman and a successful railroad executive.” The same biography describes their mother as a “retiring, artistic, sweet-natured sort, and she believed in rearing her sons in that sheltered atmosphere that mothers are wont to foster.” Details on Don M.’s early years are scarce, but J. Don is described as a child as “frail, underdeveloped and never in robust health,” and as “a hothouse plant” who “could not stand the rigorous life of an ordinary boy.” His father sent J. Don away to military school, where, allegedly as a result of being repeatedly hazed by older boys, he developed into a forthright and capable young man.
Family tragedy struck in J. Don’s 18th year, Don M.’s 10th, when their father suddenly died at the age of 42. J. Don, supported by his father’s insurance, moved to Spokane, Washington with his new wife Gertrude, to work as an installer in the newly electrified city. His brother remained at home. But by 1910, young Don M. had become “quite a handful,” and was “invited” to move to Spokane with his older brother, where he was given the task of raising chickens under the auspices of the nascent Alexander Poultry Company. Don M. later attended the School of Mines in Golden, and was selected as a Rhodes Scholar with a free ride to Oxford University, but was prevented from attending by the ongoing war in Europe.
v^ The Alexander Electrical Company in Spokane, Washington.
After taking a job as a cameraman with Pathe News, J. Don had the inspiration to reignite the cinema advertising scheme of his youth by producing commercials to play before films in local nickelodeons. He started the Alexander Film Company in 1919. It was a family operation at first, with J. Don running the camera and heading the sales, Don M. producing and Gertrude writing and directing the commercials themselves. The company struggled , showing first annual profits of only $2.50. But soon they were turning an ample enough profit that they were looking to expand. Their attention lighted on the growing town of Englewood, in Colorado.
^ The brothers in Spokane.
By 1923, the brothers were seeking a continentally central location for their burgeoning film business, and found it on the grounds of the old Tuileries Amusement Park in Englewood. The site had it all – a gorgeous old Mission-style dance hall that could be used as a soundstage, a meandering creek on sprawling grounds that made for bucolic backdrops, and easy access to big city amenities in a small-town setting.
^The new digs in Englewood.
Englewood was a farming center with a population of about 5,000 and climbing, and was gradually becoming a suburb of encroaching Denver sprawl.
Soon the brothers were in business at 3385 South Broadway in Englewood, producing one-minute films for a slew of clients nationwide. The films consisted of two parts – a 30-second playlet, a scenario with a brief storyline, designed to act as a general-purpose lead-in for the second half, specifically tailored to a business clients.
v^ Scenes from the movie studio.
A crew of 60 salesmen roamed the country, making their pitches to banks, car dealers, department stores, and many more. In 1924, a year after the move to Englewood, J. Don had a brainstorm – why not have his salesmen fly to their appointments? The country was flush with cheap war surplus biplanes, and the arrival of an airplane in a small town instantly drew excited crowds. The plan was that the Alexander brothers would buy up a fleet of planes and lease them to their sales crew.
J. Don sent his sales manager, Justin McInaney, to the Nicholas-Beazley company of Missouri to learn to fly and bring home an airplane. While McInaney was away, the Alexanders bought up the four remaining biplanes of the short-lived Longren company, and had them shipped unassembled to Englewood.
A few months later, McInaney brought home not only an airplane, a 1920 Laird Swallow, but also six of Nicholas-Beazley’s staff to work for the Alexanders. When McInaney landed the Swallow at Lowry Field in May of 1925, J. Don took one look at the little plane and realized his men could build one themselves.
The Alexanders never ended up selling a single plane to any of their film salesmen, but the Swallow became J. Don’s personal flagship. The Longrens were pressed into service at a now long-gone airfield at Hampden and Monaco, about four miles east of the plant, where all of the Alexanders’ planes would take off in the hands of their new owners. The Swallow, with a 90-horsepower engine, felt underpowered in the thin Colorado air, though not nearly as scrawny as the half-ton Longren airplanes, each powered by a mere 60-horsepower engine.
^J. Don's flagship.
^The airfield at Hampden and Monaco.
Dan Noonan, previously of Nicholas Beazley, was assigned to build the company’s first plane. Noonan was no aeronautical engineer – he had only modified the wings of old war surplus Jennies for Nicholas-Beazley – but as the most experienced man on the crew, J. Don insisted he lead the charge of designing a new airframe.
The plane Noonan designed was a sort of Frankenstein composed of parts from the Longrens and other locally-obtained parts. The plane was named Eaglerock, the rock part coming from the nearby Rocky Mountains, and the Eagle part in honor of an eagle that had become an unofficial mascot of the company after injuring its wing on the trolley wires that lined Broadway.
^J. Don, foreground, with company management around the first Eaglerock.
On September 18, 1925, the first Alexander airplane was complete and ready to fly. It was rolled onto the lawn, where most of Englewood turned out to witness its christening. J. Don’s wife Gertrude stepped up to break a champagne bottle on the nose of the ship, but succeeded only in bashing dents in the fragile aluminum nose cone. Workers removed the cone, and she finally busted the bottle across the plane’s exposed propeller shaft.
That night, the plane was towed to the Hampden airfield. Joe Hammer, snagged from Nicholas-Beazley, was the first pilot. The big beast lumbered down the runway, circled the field, and came back in for a landing hissing steam from the overheating engine. For the rest of the week, different engines and propellers were fitted to the plane, but nothing overcame the fact that the plane was overweight and underpowered. Still, J. Don had booked a slot to show his new creation at the Detroit Airshow, and loaded his family and baggage aboard, only to have the plane unable to leave the ground.
The problem was already well-known to 19-year-old Al Mooney, a self-taught aircraft engineer who had graduated only a year prior from South High School. Though J. Don had hired Al to build wing ribs, the young man knew full well that the heavy Longren clamps used to hold the fuselage together would keep the Eaglerock forever grounded.
Al was heartbroken at the failure of the first plane, and drew up his own design sitting at his kitchen table. He presented the design to J. Don, who reversed Al and Dan’s roles, with Dan assigned to build the airplane designed by his teenage underling.
The plane was finished in January of 1926, and Al accompanied the plane out to the Hampden airfield. The day was so cold J. Don didn’t bother to attend. The teenager’s plane soared into the sky, however, and Al rushed to a phone and howled for J. Don to step outside and watch the graceful flyover of the new ship as it headed toward the factory on Broadway. J. Don, ecstatic, leapt into his Pierce Arrow and barreled down Hampden to the airfield, arriving before the plane returned. He threw his arms around Al Mooney, and thrust a pocketful of congratulatory cigars into the young man’s hands.
^J. Don Alexander.
Soon the Alexander Industries building went full-bore toward airplane manufacturing. New structures went up all over the grounds, to be used for different elements of airplane building.
^The film studio pressed into service as an aircraft manufacturing plant.
^A later model Eaglerock.
^Alexander aircraft staff. The building that would explode and kill several people in this photo is in the background.
Eaglerocks went on sale with a variety of options. Most planes could be had for a little more than $2,000. An early plane went to Sid Grauman, owner of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, who had the ship decked out with a paint job featuring a mean-looking snake. Film star Mary Pickford christened it with a quart of milk across the propeller.
^Mary Pickford christens Sid Grauman's Eaglerock.
Sales exploded through 1926, and Denver hotels housed customers waiting for the completion of their planes. Alexander struggled with the backlog. In December of 1926, J. Don was approached by young Charles Lindbergh, who only six months later would be the first to fly from New York to Paris. Lucky Lindy sought a special-order plane to exacting specifications, and wanted it delivered in only two months. Furthermore, the 25-year-old flyer wanted Alexander Industries to help sponsor his perilous feat. J. Don turned him away, too overwhelmed by the backlog of orders to deal with Lindbergh’s request. Lindbergh, of course, went on to have his Spirit of St. Louis built by the Ryan company of California, though he maintained a friendship with Alexanders’ designers, and visited Englewood again after his famous flight.
Lindbergh’s triumph fueled an explosion in civil aviation, and Eaglerocks were hot commodities. Cloyd Clevenger, a 29-year-old flying instructor, joined the staff. He hosted flying lessons by radio show on KOA, and taught a Rocky Mountain News reporter to fly. He took prospective buyers on air tours of Englewood’s new subdivisions stretching to the south, and blanketed Denver with handbills for the Fritz Lang film Metropolis.
Alexander Eaglerocks began making their way around the country and the world. Will Rogers flew one to speaking engagements. The first airborne wedding was aboard an Eaglerock. A department store in Fort Wayne, Indiana flew orders to little towns and farms in an Eaglerock. A plane equipped with skis was pressed into service hunting wolves and coyotes in Wisconsin, and featured in National Geographic. Planes made their way to Canada, Mexico, South America, and China.
In the midst of the post-Lindbergh boom, the federal government decided in the summer of 1927 that airplanes for the first time had to be inspected for safety and registered. With a few modifications to engines, structural integrity, and flying surfaces, the Eaglerock passed inspection.
By September of 1927, a year and a half after Al Mooney’s bird first flew, the Denver Post was printing rumors that the Alexanders were looking to move out of Englewood. The move was driven in part by space limitations at the Englewood plant, but also by fear that Denver would soon annex Englewood, and bring higher taxes and increased adherence to fire and building codes that would cause great expense for the factory’s loose collection of hastily-built sheds and barns.
Numerous cities bid for the Alexander plant, but Colorado Springs won out. On December 6, 1927, the brothers officially announced that the company would move south in July. The Springs had convinced a local landowner to donate a horse racetrack and grounds for the site of the new factory, where the track would be used as a private airfield right out the front door.
^ The proposed layout for the Springs plant.
Just before noon on April 20th, 1928, the Alexander Airplane factory was humming with activity, men and women hard at work preparing the day’s orders.
In a cement block building on the south end of the property called a the dope shed, workers applied a highly volatile liquid form of silver nitrate, called "dope," to airplane wings to waterproof them. In a back room, seamstresses sewed wing fabric.
A metal fan, malfunctioning, flashed off sparks that arced through the air into a open pan of silver nitrate dope. The liquid caught alight, and an explosion ripped through the fume-filled room.
^The dope shed.
^Not long after the explosion.
The Denver Post from that day reported: “With the first explosion, flames shot fifty feet out of the building... Living torches came staggering out... Rescuers rushed into the inferno to emerge moments later dragging seared bodies of men and women who had fallen in the fiery blast. Pieces of flesh dropped from some of the charred bodies as they were dragged out of the blazing building.” Jack Nordstrom, 15 years old, crawled out alive but with “not a particle of living skin left on his body.”
People, their clothes and flesh alight, fled the building and jumped into a nearby swimming pond left over from the amusement park days.
R. George Woods, a deputy sheriff, was at the Englewood fire station “when he saw a cloud of smoke rise over the Alexander plant. Two minutes later the alarm came in, he said, and at about the same instant flames burst into the air over the plant.”
Two more explosions followed as more flammable chemicals were ignited inside the dope shed and the motor plant. The only way out of the back room where the seamstresses worked on the wings was through the burning dope room.
F.S. Tast, employed at an auto dealer across the street, saw the explosion and came running to help. The Post reports that “thru a window on the north side he saw a woman, her hair burned off, her face and arms horribly burned. Her arms encircled the bars across the window. She seemed to be unconscious. The bars had prevented her from escaping the flames. Tast procured a pole and attempted to pry off the bars and a heavy screen tacked on the outside of the window, he said, but before he could get to the body, it had fallen back inside the building and was hidden from view by the flames.”
The 22-year-old Assistant Foreman Carl Moseley was near the exit when the flames erupted. Instead of fleeing, he ran deeper into the building to help three men get out. The Rocky Mountain News interviewed him in the hospital, with Moseley saying “There was that first blast, then another, and maybe another. Then, oh God, it was awful.” Moseley died moments after the interview. So did one of the men he tried to save.
The fire department arrived with the buildings an inferno and a scene of utter horror. Some victims, their clothes saturated with flaming dope, ran in circles, blinded. Some were so shocked they sprinted down Broadway and had to be tackled by onlookers.
William Wright, fire department sergeant, told the Morning Post, “When we drove up the first thing I saw was two men leading another man out...The last man, with most of the flesh burned from his arms in big chunks and his face a mass of blood and blisters, sat down in the road and screamed so you could hear him for blocks. ‘I’m dying, I’m dying--for God’s sake why don’t someone do something for me,’ he kept calling.”
The firemen deployed their hoses against the flames, and began to control the fire so that more bodies could be brought out. On the north side of the building they broke through the outer wall in a desperate attempt to rescue the trapped seamstresses. They found all the women dead inside, including Carriebelle Wesse, Ella Tayor, and Effie Harkins, whose two orphaned children would become staples of subsequent newspaper coverage.
The Post notes that “While the ambulances were en route, private automobiles were commandeered and the injured were loaded into them. The Denver General hospital was swamped. Other victims were routed to the Presbyterian Hospital.” The bodies began to appear in the city morgue, but identification was difficult as their “features were blackened and charred beyond recognition.” Effie Harkins was only identified by a piece of leather shoe that still clung to her foot. Ambulance crews were unable to discern burned corpses from debris. One stretcher crew hauled off a burned mass that turned out to be a barrel of glue.
The flames were mostly contained by about 1 p.m. By the end of the first day the death toll sat at 4. By press time on the 22nd the number had risen to 9. All told 11 people perished as a result of the explosion, and dozens more were injured.
Don M. was flying up from Colorado Springs in a company plane at the time of the fire. He arrived on the scene in the midst of the cleanup, still in his flightsuit and goggles.
^Don M. Alexander, left, confronted by District Attorney Joel Stone.
Arriving alongside him was Arapahoe County District Attorney Joel Stone. Before the flames had even fully been extinguished, Stone called for the impaneling of a coroner’s jury. The six-man jury was sworn in that afternoon at a nearby mortuary, standing over the first four bodies pulled from the ruins.
Before we look into Stone’s hearings, let’s learn about some of the victims.
Ella Taylor, of 3256 South Sherman Street, was one of the first bodies to be pulled from the ruins. The 19-year-old lived at home with her parents, two sisters, and three brothers. She had planned to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in the fall. 2,000 people attended her funeral at Englewood Baptist Church. An Eaglerock made a slow circle overhead. Reverend Joshua Gravett was quoted as saying, “Jesus knew what Ella never knew - the wrath of God. That holocaust that swept Ella to the Lord shall call us to higher devotion. There’s pain, but there’s peace in the midst of fire.”
^Ella Taylor, 19
Effie Harkins, of 3256 South Sherman Street, originally from Cortez, provided for her 72-year-old mother Mary as well as her two daughters, 8-year-old Mildred and 6-year-old Naomi. The girls were orphaned by their 32-year-old mother’s death, as their father Will had abandoned them years earlier.
^Effie Harkins, 32
Gertrude Jarrett, of 1500 South Logan Street, had two grown daughters and a 14-year-old son, John, who attended Englewood High School. Her husband had died suddenly the previous Christmas Eve. She limped from a broken ankle that was still healing. During the fire, she tried to climb out the window of the sewing room, but when supervisor Francis Sterling tried to pull her through, the flesh of her arms came off in his hands. Her death would end up being the basis for the charges the company’s management would later face.
Carriebelle Wesse, 20 years old, lived with her sister and brother-in-law at 3055 South Acoma Street. She had moved to Englewood from Montrose only six weeks before the fire, hoping to save up money to travel. Her corpse was found beneath a crumbled cement wall.
^Carriebelle Wesse, 20
Carl Moseley, 22 years old, lived with his family at 3319 South Grant Street His family had arrived the previous fall from Kentucky. His brother Seth was injured in the blast, and his sister Ora, a stenographer, had watched the scene unfold from the administration office. Many witnesses recalled him repeatedly charging back into the burning building to search for more people.
^Carl Moseley, 22
Jack Nordstrom, of 2005 South Gilpin Street, was the youngest victim at age 15. He lived long enough to tell a reporter that he had tried to escape, but found the dope shed's inswinging doors swarmed with people. His mother collapsed when she found his body at Denver General hospital.
^Jack Nordstrom, 15.
Albert McGary was a 24 year old who lived at 1440 South Clarkson Street He had only worked at the plant for two weeks, and had moved to Englewood from Vincennes, Indiana.
^Albert McGary, 24
Robert Holmes, 31 years old, lived at 3269 South Sherman Street. He left behind a widow, and his body was sent home to Hennessey, Oklahoma.
^Robert Holmes, 31
Jessie Perry, 37 years old, lived at 4465 South Bannock Street with her husband Emery, who was injured in the explosion.
^Jessie Perry, 37
Little is known about 25-year-old George Rawe. He lived at the Irvington Hotel, and other tenants there remembered that he used to play love songs on the piano in the lobby.
^George Rawe, 25.
Ross Scott, age unknown, lived at the Monroe Hotel. There are no known photos of him. His body was sent home to Agra, Kansas.
The Coroner’s Jury, overseen by District Attorney Stone and deputy county coroner Albert Tiedt, was in session by the afternoon of the blast. Stone told reporters that he believed the blast was the result of “the most flagrant case of criminal negligence I have ever seen.” It was quickly learned that the dope shop was not covered by the company’s insurance policy, as no underwriter would insure it.
^ The Coroner's Jury.
Over the next several days of testimony, a story emerged of mounting danger and concern regarding the dope shed.
State factory inspector Moses Alexander, no relation to the brothers, testified that he had inspected the buildings the previous December, and found them inadequately ventilated and without proper exits. He said he issued an order to the company to fix the issues, but no action was ever taken.
Assistant superintendent Earnest Robinson told the jury he had forbidden his wife from taking a job in the dope shed, saying he worried a fire would kill her if the thick fumes didn’t first.
A chemist testified that the company was using an outdated - but much cheaper - form of silver nitrate dope that had a flashpoint of only 140 degrees, and that it could combust merely from being exposed to sunlight. Newer forms in use in industrial applications had flashpoints of 300 degrees.
Francis Sterling, the 27-year-old floor supervisor who had attempted to save Gertrude Jarrett, testified that he once saw a doped wing catch fire from being sandpapered. Another time he saw a wing go up in flames after a cigarette butt bounced off it.
James Chelf, who worked in the fuselage department, testified that everything in the dope room was saturated in nitrate dope. He said that workers’ overalls were never washed, and were so stiff with dope that they could almost stand up on their own, which explained the speed with which the victims were engulfed and incinerated. Chelf recalled an earlier deadly fire at the plant, in January of 1927, in which he tried in vain to rescue two young men who were killed after they dropped a barrel of linoil which exploded in the basement. Chelf recalled that J. Don docked him an hour’s pay for the rescue attempt.
Jessie Perry gave a statement as she lay dying in a bed at Denver General Hospital that she and other seamstresses in the sewing room had pleaded with management for a fire exit from the sewing room. She said she was told to deal with it until the company moved to Colorado Springs. She and several other seamstresses then held an after-hours fire drill of their own, to see if they could climb through the windows. It was found that while the younger girls could make it, the larger and older women could not.
The most damning testimony came from Englewood city officials. Tense and angry witness was borne by Englewood fire chief William Hamlin, who testified that he and his whole department knew the Alexander campus was a firetrap, particularly the dope shed. Hamlin said he toured the dope shed the year before, and found the air thick with fumes and only one window open.
Don M. told Hamlin at the time that the windows and doors were only opened when the outside temperature exceeded 80 degrees, in order to keep the dope flowing properly. Hamlin said he had issued stern warnings to the Alexanders in each of the previous years that their factory was dangerously unsafe. He said the Alexanders had a policy that employees were only to call the fire department if their own internal firefighting efforts failed, and that on the morning of the fire, he and his crew were already en route to the fire before a single call had come in from the plant itself.
^Some of the men who testified to the Coroner's Jury.
Hamlin said that after the 1927 fire, his department had drafted a resolution that he presented to city council to force the Alexanders to update their plant, but the resolution died in a committee.
James McCord, a former city councilman, testified that the fire department’s resolution died because the Alexanders threatened to move out of Englewood if it were enacted. In fact, the council passed a resolution exempting the Alexander factory from any further fire safety efforts. McCord admitted that the exemption as passed was written verbatim by the Alexanders themselves. The resolution read in part that the factory sported a full sprinkler system and fire exits, and that regular fire drills were held - none of which was true.
McCord said that City Council had been led on a tour of the plant by Don M. to demonstrate the factory’s safety, but that they had not seen every building and were not familiar with Colorado fire code requirements. Hamlin said that after the fire department’s ordinance failed, J. Don brought a box of cigars to the firehouse to try to bury the hatchet.
Employees testified that the building’s two exterior doors opened inward, and every door was crowded with airplane wings and debris. They remembered only one small fire extinguisher in the building. They said the walls dripped with dope, and dope accumulated a half-inch thick on the wooden floor.
Neither of the Alexander brothers testified, both pleading their fifth amendment rights against self incrimination.
Work had resumed at the plant on Saturday. The company had erected large canvas tents in which to resume doping wings, but they were shut down by factory inspector Moses Alexander.
On Monday morning, Al Mooney, who two years prior had designed the first successful Eaglerock, called a company-wide meeting. He said that the public was only getting one side of the story, and called for a collection to be taken up to run ads in area newspapers pledging employee support of the company. He collected $300 from the crowd, and 266 employees ended up signing their name to a petition supporting the company. They were then docked 15 minutes pay for participating in the meeting.
An inspection by Arapahoe County Sheriff John Haynes found that the whole plant exhibited highly dangerous conditions, and DA Stone filed an injunction shutting down the factory for at least a month.
After a long and contentious company meeting that concluded after one in the morning, Don M. announced that the company would immediately flee Englewood and occupy their unfinished campus in Colorado Springs.
He ordered every employee roused at 3 that morning, and managed to assemble 75 moving trucks.
Tuesday was a frenzy of activity, as hundreds of people packed up the entire operation and made numerous trips back and forth to Colorado Springs.
v^ Moving day.
Upon arrival, the company set up administration offices in an abandoned church. The art department used a dance hall, and the film service department occupied a stable. The canvas tents were set up to complete the wing doping work.
J. Don, who had been at an air show in Detroit with his wife Gertrude, finally returned on Wednesday morning. They were thronged by reporters as they sped through the lobby of Union Station, but Don M. shuttled them to a waiting car.
On Wednesday afternoon, DA Stone announced the charges: voluntary manslaughter. Charged were J. Don, Don M, Ray Duncan, secretary treasurer, Clarence Hornaday, superintendent, and Benjamin Winton, foreman of the dope plant. All paid a $2,000 bond. The charge was based on the death of Jarrett, who had attempted to climb out a window but had fallen back into the flames.
^DA Stone informs J. Don of the manslaughter charges. Inset is of secretary treasurer Ray Duncan,
^Don M. is informed of the manslaughter charges.
On February 10, 1929, two weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin, Stone announced that he was dropping the manslaughter charges, and that the five accused would plead guilty to four counts of violating state factory laws. They were fined a cumulative total of $1,000 and given suspended 90-day jail sentences.
Charges were: failure to provide sufficient means of escape, failure to have doors that opened outward, failure to provide proper ventilation, and failure to provide proper sanitation.
DA Stone said: "In view of the Alexander company's attitude in taking care of the persons injured in the unfortunate explosion, which is not compulsory by law, I decided to dismiss the manslaughter charges providing they would pay fines. Their conviction on a manslaughter charge was extremely doubtful and a trial would have meant a large expense to the county."
The Englewood factory was abandoned. The dope shed was never rebuilt. The administration building reverted to its original owner, the estate of Jacob C. Jones, Englewood’s first mayor. It became Englewood City Hall, and later a Woolworth’s department store.
Alexander Industries blossomed in Colorado Springs, though the Depression would devastate aircraft sales. The last Alexander plane was built in 1932, only seven years after the first Eaglerock lumbered skyward.
The film business continued until the 1960s, and included a couple of feature films. The Alexander campus in the Springs was a major tourist attraction for many years, but today the site is absorbed into suburban sprawl.
J. Don died in 1955, Don M. in 1971. They were inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1970.
A handful of Eaglerocks survive, though most are from the Colorado Springs campus. One hangs from the ceiling in Councourse B at Denver International Airport. A rare Englewood-built Eaglerock is on display at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.
Today, there is not a single mark on the landscape in to remember the place where 11 people died gruesome, preventable deaths.