History of black powder

The black powder industry was an extremely profitable as black powder was crucial to the development of settlements and railways through the power of dynamite. The dynamite was used to clear land, as well as for military purposes. The first powder factory in Quebec was established in Windsor, Eastern Townships, in 1864.

Within the town of Windsor, there was a separate “black powder town” created to house factory workers and also to provide them with the services of a general store. To promote the idea that the business was completely safe, the head of the factory also lived on site. Sixty employees worked there.

Their salary almost doubled the average wage due to the dangerous working conditions. The possibility of a black powder explosion was so feared that it was not allowed to transport the black powder by train. The employees were searched each morning before they started their shifts to make sure that no one had any matches or small pieces of metal in their pockets, as these could set off an explosion.

In fact, employees’ pants were made with no pockets later, in order to cut down on the time it took to do the morning search. Besides, all machinery was made of wood. Employees at the black powder factory were looked upon by those in the town as being dangerous because of their affiliation with the explosive powder.

The factory itself was spread out through about eighty buildings, so if one building exploded due to an accident, the others would be protected. Due to these measures, the largest explosion at the factory only killed four people. Anyway, the black powder factory in Windsor closed down in 1924 due to that explosion.

The town had been fighting for its closure for years, and this accident was just a final step. Nevertheless, the factory was crucial to the economy of Windsor, which suffered after 1924.

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