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The Hazard Powder Company (1836-1913)

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by arcticap, May 21, 2020.

  1. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    A few short articles about the Hazard Powder Company in an effort to help understand why there's only one US black powder maker still in business today.
    Of course, black powder has largely been replaced by smokeless powder & guns which reduced demand for it
    But the US still imports a lot of it to fulfill current demand.
    The article also provides some interesting details about how the plant was built and operated.

    The Hazard Powder Co. was one of the three largest powder companies at the time of the civil war when it was producing 12.5 tons of powder per day.
    Despite the explosions that did occur, the Hazardville operation was unusually safe with only 67 deaths during nearly eight decades of operation.

    What happened before the sale to Dupont is worth quoting:

    "In 1872, just prior to du Pont's purchase of the Hazard Powder Company, du Pont, the Hazard Powder Company, and Laflin and Rand formed the "Gunpowder Trade Association of the United States" to restore health to the industry. Health was restored by purchasing and closing smaller companies, discouraging new companies from starting, and fixing prices. On July 2, 1890, President Harrison signed the anti-monopoly Sherman Act, but it was some years before this had any impact on the gunpowder industry. Finally in 1907 a government suit was brought against du Pont. Four years later the court found du Pont guilty of violating the Sherman Act. As a result the explosives business was divided into three firms: Hercules Powder, Atlas Powder, and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. The Hazard mills were transferred to Hercules on December 15, 1912. Less than a month later, on January 14, 1913 a huge explosion heavily damaged the plant and killed two workers. The damage was so extensive that the mill was permanently closed and the equipment moved to Valley Falls, New York." --->>> https://www.enfieldhistoricalsociety.org/EHSpowder.html

    There's details about the 2nd explosion that leveled the plant from another article which I will quote:
    PostcardHazardvilleCTPowderMillWreckageCA1906.jpg

    "In a twist of fate, the rebranded Hazard Powder Company had only been operating under its new name – the Hercules Powder Company – for a few months when the worst accident in its history forced it to close its doors for good. On January 14, 1913, a series of four massive explosions ripped through the heart of the gunpowder mill, killing two men and injuring dozens of others. Even though the mill buildings were specially designed to mitigate the force of accidental explosions, the blasts that occurred that day were too strong for them to handle, blowing out massive stone walls and damaging the buildings and machinery beyond repair. Nearby homes, churches, and even the town post office had their windows blown out and also endured severe damage from the shock waves. The blasts were so enormous that residents in Hartford and Willimantic – over twenty-five miles away – reported hearing booms and observing their doors and windows rattling." --->>> https://todayincthistory.com/2019/01/14/january-14-tragedy-at-the-hazardville-gunpowder-mill/

    Additional overview and photos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazard_Powder_Company
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
  2. TheOutlawKid

    TheOutlawKid Member

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    Thank you for this post! Always love learning about old powder mills, especially that of Hercules powder. I read somewhere that Hercules brand powder was very very good and used red alder for their charcoal which i modeled my home made powder out of as i have had amazing results in less fouling and higher speeds by using red alder charcoal.
     
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  3. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    My understanding of blackpowder production, especially the final grinding to grade, is that explosions were simply a fact of life. Plant layout was configured to reduce the volume of powder present at the grinder, and the number of people in proximity.

    It's foreign to us today (because we deceive ourselves), but rules of thumb for expected labourer deaths per unit were not unusual. Certainly the large civil engineering projects of the 19th-early 20th centuries had a built-in reasonable expectation of the number of deaths. Pressure caisson excavation was particularly brutal.

    Our self-deceptive "Safety First" vernacular has hidden this from us of late, but we haven't actually eliminated the trade-off, just reduced the ratio.

    ETA: Hazard Powder Co has got to be the best name possible! That's right up there with Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, Partners at Law.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
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  4. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    Because I live only 31 miles away from Hazardville, I've wondered where their charcoal came from.
    I have no idea what kind of trees that they actually used.
    But my wild guess would be that they used willow because I had read about the large number of willow trees that grew along the flood plain of the Connecticut River.
    The amount of powder that they produced for various wars was astronomical.
    And what else could willow trees be used for?
    AFAIK willow can be used to make good powder, and some have said that the military paper cartridge powder granulation in the old days was more like 4F than 3F,
    That would have also made the powder seem more potent.
    Looking it up, I found that red alder is native to the far west coast of the US & Canada which would have required trains or replantings. --->>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alnus_rubra
    Could they have changed the type of charcoal based on the time period or who was buying it?
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  5. TheOutlawKid

    TheOutlawKid Member

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    I read there was a mill on the west coast and that was the mill that used red alder...heres from wiki:

    The California Powder Works became the only manufacturer of Hercules powder. In 1877, J.W. Willard moved to Cleveland, Ohio to oversee the opening of a new California Powder Works plant there, dedicated to the manufacture of Hercules powder.[7] In 1881, the California Powder Works moved its Hercules powder manufacturing in California to a new site along the northeast shore of San Francisco Bay. The company town that grew up around the facility became known as "Hercules", later (1900) incorporated as Hercules, California.
     
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  6. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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  7. TheOutlawKid

    TheOutlawKid Member

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    Yep the alder i was mentioning was supposedly red alder. Dang i wish i remember where i read about it being red alder. I remember it mentioned that because the trees grew so fast and were very large and abundant..not to mention the great performance it gave the powder...it was decided that the red aldet should be used mainly whenever possible. Dang i wish i had the info with me to share. Its what got me ti try red alder in the first place since now and days you mainly hear about willow etc, rarely red alder. When i looked up the numbers on some folks that tried it...it seemed to have beat willows, not by much but still. So it was worth a try. And im glad i did. Well worth the trouble in procuring it
     
  8. MIOkie

    MIOkie Member

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    A fascinating topic...!

    I always have plenty of room to soak up more history.

    The opinion can be made that our Nation was explored, founded and defended with Black Powder. Somebody had to make the stuff.

    Happy Memorial Day, everyone...!
     
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  9. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    It's an interesting coincidence that by the time the Hazard plant was transferred to Hercules in Dec. 1912, Du Pont had finished constructing a new Goex plant in Moosic, PA which produced its first batch of powder that same year.

    That plant ended up closing in 1997.

    Moosic Pa: Abandoned Gunpowder Plant

    The ruins of the abandoned black powder plant in Moosic. Originally known as the Belin Works of the DuPont Company the complex first opened in 1912. Following an explosion on June 21, 1971 DuPont curtailed operations, selling the plant to Gearhart - Owen Company in 1972. Gearhart - Owen later became known as GOEX which continued to operate the Moosic facility until an explosion killed two workers on April 16, 1997. That incident was the last of a number of fatal accidents at the plant, on May 15, 1991, three workers were killed in an explosion at the sifting house. Undoubtedly there were other fatal accidents over the years. The complex has suffered several fires since its closing and now sits abandoned. --->>>MANY PHOTOS http://frank-dutton.blogspot.com/2014/10/moosic-pa-abandoned-gunpowder-plant.html

    After the 1997 explosion, Goex moved to Minden, Louisiana.

    THE GOEX STORY
    "In 1802, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours broke ground on his original black powder plant along the Brandywine River in Delaware. To meet the growing demand for black powder, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours began construction on the Belin Plant in Pennsylvania and produced the first batches of black powder in 1912. The Belin Plant supplied military black powder during World War I, World war II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

    In the early 1970’s, the Belin Plant became a part of GOEX. GOEX continued to supply black powder for Military and Industry and for a growing Sporting interest. In 1997, GOEX moved to Minden, Louisiana to continue the tradition of manufacturing fine quality black powder." --->>> https://goexpowder.com/company/about-us/
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
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  10. Dave T

    Dave T Member

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    arcticap,

    Thanks for posting all this. The history and background info is appreciated.

    Dave
     
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