A story of powder that changed history.
Over the course of time, the Chinese, Hindus, Greeks, Arabs, English and
Germans have all claimed the honor of discovering black powder; however, no
decisive proof can be found to determine who actually made the first discovery.
There are early accounts of Chinese firecrackers, Roman Candles and Greek Fire
but; most commonly, the credit is given to Roger Bacon (mid 13th century) of
England or Berthold Schwartz (early 14th century) of Germany
as both monks left written records of their experiments. In their documents,
they proved that they had identified the explosive property of sulfur, carbon,
and potassium nitrate. It is highly probable that several countries
independently came up with the same conclusion at approximately the same time .
. . black powder.
Black powder was introduced to America about three hundred years ago in 1675
with the founding of Milton Mill near Boston, MA. As a general rule though, the
American powder was of lower quality. England still restricted the manufacturing
and accumulation of black powder among the colonists. It was not until the
American Revolution, when rebels discovered they had a very limited supply, that
small mills sprang up in the forests to aid the American cause.
After the war, the powder mills continued, but English powder, though more
expensive, was still a better quality. Nothing changed until DuPont decided that
the United States needed to improve its powder industry. The first DuPont powder
was produced in 1804 and they quickly became the leading American powder
producer. Laflin & Rand and the Hazard Powder company eventually joined the
production scene and together the three dominated the industry. An explosion, in
the early 1970s, destroyed the DuPont plant. The company decided to abandon the
black powder industry and sold their whole operation to Gearhart Owen.
Gunpowder today is essentially made with the same formula that they used in
the 19th century. After the three major ingredients (potassium nitrate, carbon
and sulfur) are pulverized, they are mixed with water and alcohol. They are
compressed into cakes and those cakes are later broken into smaller chunks and
granules by rollers. All equipment that comes in contact with the powder, or its
components, are made out of non-sparking material to prevent accidents.
The four most common granulations are Fg (which is the largest),
and FFFFg. The varying granules are separated by using different size vibrating
screens. The black powder is then packaged and ready for market.
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Firelands.Net, Homerville, Ohio.