On December 11, 1875 a horrible explosion occurred at the dock in Bremerhaven, Germany, leaving over 80 people dead and many more maimed and injured. The story of how this came to be starts with a man named Alexander Keith, Jr., also known by the alias William King Thomas.
Keith was born 1827 in Scotland and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia when he was a boy. As a young man he worked briefly for his uncle, Alexander Keith, who was a well-known and influential man in Halifax having served as mayor and owning a popular brewery, Alexander Keith’s. The brewery still operates to this day. When the Civil War broke out in the United States Keith saw an opportunity and aligned himself with the Confederacy although he seized every chance to take advantage of both the North and the South. He was a ruthless man and eventually ran off with a chambermaid and investments worth $1 million. His victims hired a detective to hunt him down, causing Keith to have to move further west until he eventually reached Highland, Illinois. Keith married and settled down for a short time until the law came calling in December of 1865. When he had the chance, he and his wife fled to Germany where they lived the high life. But, as it usually happens, money ran out and so Keith had to come up with a scheme to get more.