1890 - Dupont Powder Works Explosion
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 7. - The shock of the explosion at Wilmington this afternoon was plainly felt in many sections of this city. To those indoors it resembled the rumbling of distant thunder or the moving of heavy furniture, and the rattling window frames caused many people to rush to their doors and windows. The shock was also felt at Millville, N.J.; Chester, Penn., and other points, thirty to thirty-five miles distant.
The Dupont Powder Works were established in 1802 by Elenthere Irene Dupont de Nemours, a distinguished Frenchman who came to this country in 1799 to escape Jacobin persecution. Thomas Jefferson was anxious that the works should be located in Virginia, but the Frenchman finally selected the scene of to-day's explosion as being the best adapted for the business. De Nemours continued to condut the works until his death from cholera in 1834, when his sons, Alfred Victor and Gen. Henry Dupont, the latter of whom died last year, succeeded hom in the direction of the business. Henry Dupont became the chief director of the establishment in 1850.
The works furnished the sole supply of powder for the American Army in the war of 1812, having then a capacity of 2,000 pounds a day. At the present time they have a capacity of over 50,000 pounds daily. In addition to the three sets of mills which are kept busy on the Brandywine night and day, nine smaller mills have been established at points in Pennsylvania and New-Jersey during the past forty years. The gunpowder produced at the Brandywine Mills has been an important factor in every American war since the Revolution and also in several European conflicts. The Dupont Powder Company owns about 2,000 acres of land about its works, and the estate of the late Gen. Henry Dupont comprises as much more.
In 1854 three wagon loads of powder belonging to the Duponts, which was being conveyed through the streets of Wilmington, exploded, blowing the drivers and horses to atoms and killing several passers-by. On Aug. 22, 1857, an explosion occurred at the Brandywine works in which several workmen were killed. Alexis Dupont, a member of the firm, mounted the roof of a building filled with powder, and was sweeping burning brands from it when the powder within became ignited and Alexis was blown up with the building, no portion of his body being found. The manufacture of smokeless powder had but recently been begun at the Brandywine works.
The New York Times
New York, New York
October 8, 1890
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