History of Industrial Explosives

The explosives industry was founded in this country during its very beginnings, when black powder was used to mine for minerals, break rock, clear fields and make roads. It is not an overstatement to say that this nation was built with the help of explosives. In the 1860s, Alfred Nobel, a Swede, invented dynamite and the blasting cap required to make it explode. He licensed it in the United States and the industrial revolution began.

With dynamite, mines could be dug deeper and more quickly, and uneconomical deposits thus became profitable. The extracted tonnage of copper, coal and iron ore increased a hundred fold. New industries began; some seem so basic today that is difficult to imagine that they were not always there.

Quarrying delivered materials such as limestone, cement and concrete which became common building products, replacing bricks and cobblestones. Harbors were deepened and widened, railways and roads pushed into the wilds and dams were built creating enough electricity to pave the way into the 20th Century. America found in dynamite, a new set of muscles to be applied to all forms of industry, including oil and gas exploration, power production, mineral mining and pipeline, tunnel and highway construction.

In the age between the closing of the Civil War and the end of World War II, no single engineering tool surpassed the achievement of dynamite. Over the last 50 years, this workhorse of industrial progress has been joined by even more efficient and safer products known as water gels and emulsions and much more economical and less sensitive bulk delivery systems.


There are a number of publications which detail the history of the development and use of commercial explosive products. The following books are provided as a basic reference for those interested in the history of the explosive industry in America.

The History of the Explosives Industry in America,
Arthur P. Van Gelder & Hugo Schlatter

Lammot DuPont and the American Explosives Industry 1850-1884
Norman Wilkinson

Contemporary History of Industrial Explosives in America
Joe Dannenberg

The First One Hundred Years
Robert Hopler