Wombley’s Clapboard Factory
Where does the expression used in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions about the explosion at Wombley's Clapboard Factory come from.
We get this question a lot but don't know which of three possible answers is correct so we we would appreciate any public feedback on the validity of the following potential answers:
There was an actual Wombley Clapboard factory according to accounts taken from the deceased former proprietor of The Wilson House in Vermont, Bill W.'s birthplace. The proprietor said the factory was in the town of East Dorset. We don't know if it blew up or not.
The use of the name "Wombley" indicates that in all likelihood it was a made up name. At the time the book was written "Wombley Widgets" was a commonly used fictional business name used as an example name in business textbooks and similar situations. It is still used today, though less frequently.
The expression comes from a famous cartoon of the 1930's which has a lot of smaller cartoons within itself showing lots of individual disasters within the overall disaster. Might even be a Rube Goldburg cartoon.
What does appear to be factual:
The use of "Clapboard Factory" is likely derived from the more famous expression, "like an explosion in a shingle factory." This expression was used by art critic Julian Street to describe the painting, 'Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2' by Marcel Duchamp in his review of the 1913 Armory Show in New York.
Clapboard is a type of exterior siding used on buildings. Also known as "lap siding" it refers to horizontal boards each of which overlap the board below it. Clapboard was widely used in house construction at the time the book was written.
If the book were written today a similar expression with a fictional business might be "the explosion at Acme Dynamite."