In the 26 August 1871 edition of the Cecil Whig, an article was included on the nearby black powder manufacturing facilities owned and operated by the DuPont Family. The article, taken from a book about American manufacturing and machinery provides an interesting perspective on the already well established DuPont Powder Works. From the 26 August 1871 edition of the Cecil Whig:

“We take the following description of the DuPont Gunpowder Works from Bishop’s History of American Manufacturers:

Eleuthere Irene DuPont was the founder of the immense works distinguished as the “Brandywine Powder Works,” near Wilmington, Delaware. He was a native of France, and emigrated to the United States in the fall of 1799, landing at Newport, Rhode Island, January 1st, 1800. Having noticed the poor quality of Gunpowder then made in America, he resolved to engage in its manufacture, of which he had some knowledge, having been a pupil of the celebrated French chemist, Lavoiser, who had charge of the “Bureau de Poudres et Saltpetres ” under the French Government.

After some time spent in selecting a location, Mr. DuPont established himself on the Brandywine Creek, about four miles above the City of Wilmington, in the State of Delaware, where he prosecuted the business with such success, at the time of his decease, at the United States Hotel in Philadelphia, in 1834, his establishment was the most extensive of its kind in this country, as it now is probably in the world.

Since the decease of its founder, the business has been managed by his sons and grandsons, who maintain the old firm-style of D. I. Dupont de Nemours & Co. The works of the firm comprise five complete manufacturies; four of them on the Brandywine, and one in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, where blasting powder for colliers’ use is largely made.

The original works, on the Brandywine, commenced operation in 1802, and have a capacity for producing five thousand pounds of sporting powder per day.

The middle, or Hagley works, commenced in 1812, comprises two complete sets of works, in one enclosure, under a fall of twenty-two feet—so arranged that both can work on the same description of powder; or, if required, one set can manufacture one kind of powder, and the other set another kind; the two combined having a capacity of twenty-five thousand pounds of blasting powder per day.

The lower works, commenced in 1746, are under a fall of twenty feet, and have a capacity of five thousand pounds of sporting powder per day.

The Saltpeter refinery, with laboratory attached, is two hundred and fifty-eight feet, by ninety-six feet, with ample application for supplying all the nitre required for the fabrication of powder, and also considerable quantities for such purposes as require an article chemically pure. In proximity to the refinery are large warehouses for the storage of saltpeter.

The charring houses, for the preparation of charcoal—three in number—are capable of furnishing all the coal required for the mills, the wood being stored and seasoned in extensive buildings adjacent.

The firm having two shipping points—one on the river Delaware, with the magazines, and a wharf at which large vessels can lie; the other on the Christiana creek, with ample wharfage for coasters, and for landing coal, wood, etc.

A passenger railway has been established between the city of Wilmington and the property of the Messers. DuPont. Attached to the powder works are extensive machine and millwright shops, where all repairs are made, and the most of the machinery is built; also a saw-mill, plaining-mill, carpenter and blacksmith shops, and capacious buildings for the manufacture of wooden and metalic kegs and barrels, and of powder canisters.

Railroad tracks are laid through the powder works, and the bulk of the transportation of the powder, in its various stages of manufacture is done on cars drawn by horses or mules, of which the firm have about eighty.

Besides the powder mills, the firm own over two thousand acres of land, that stretches for a distance of three miles on both sides of the stream; and on this property there are three woolen mills, a cotton mill, a Merchants’ and grist mill, and a population of nearly four thousand persons. The farms attached to the works are in a high state of cultivation, and the roads are macadamized for ease of transportation. The buildings on the estate are mostly of stone, and very substantial, and the machinery is of the best and most costly character.

The high reputation so long maintained for the Brandywine powder is due to the care bestowed on its manufacture, and to the constant personal supervision of the owners. The consumption of saltpeter, the principal ingredient in the manufacture, has been in a single year, including the Luzerne county mills, over seven millions of pounds, the bulk of which was imported from Calcutta. The machinery in operation for the manufacture of gun powder is driven by three steam engines and forty-seven water wheels, the greater part of which are Turbines.

The manufacture embraces all descriptions of powder, viz.: Mammoth, Cannon, Mortar, Musket and Rifle, for army and navy ordnance service; Diamond grain, Eagle, and the various grades of Canister and Sporting powders: Shipping, Blasting, Mining and Fuse powders.

The production of the mills is principally consumed in the United States, the firm having agencies and magazines at all the most important points, with a principal depot for the Pacific States at San Francisco, and agencies in South America, in the East and West Indies.

To illustrate the progress which has been in the manufacture of powder in the United States, it is only necessary to recall the fact that during the Crimean war the Allies, to enable them to prosecute the siege of Sebastopol, were obliged to procure large supplies of gunpowder in the L United States (one-half of which was furnished by the Brandywine Powder mills,) and that the American powder compared favorably with the best they could procure in Europe.”

Access to the digital newspaper collection of the Cecil County Historical Society is free to members and is included in the $5 library fee for non-members. While we are currently closed, please visit www.cecilhistory.org for news and updates.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.