Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/243
A POWDER-MILL EXPLOSION.
As there is no Unconditional in subjective thought, so there is no Absolute in objective reality. There is no absolute system of coordinates in space to which the positions of bodies and their changes can be referred; and there is neither an absolute measure of quantity, nor an absolute standard of quality. There is no physical constant.
I PROPOSE to have a talk about an explosion of a powder-mill. It has never been my hap to see one described, and it has seemed to me that an account of an occurrence of this sort, which does not come under common observation, might not be uninteresting.
While explosions are not the final cause of powder-works—that is, while they are not built expressly for the purpose of exploding—yet they are located with reference to it. It was the fortune of this writer to reside for a number of years within a few miles of the powder manufactories of the Messrs. Dupont, of Delaware, and so had opportunities of observing the thing of which he speaks. These works will probably be a fair example of others.
These powder-mills, perhaps the most extensive in the country, are about three miles above the city of Wilmington, on the banks of the Brandywine River. The position was selected, some fifty or more years ago, by the father of the present proprietors. It is one of the most beautiful in this whole land. The river flows through an exquisite valley, where at every step some new beauty of wood and hill enchants the eyes.
The powder-works are placed at wide intervals for perhaps a half mile along the banks. They are so secluded and hidden that they are never seen or known to be there by an ordinary or uninformed traveler. Should you be riding along one of the hilly and beautiful roads near the mills, you would not only find nothing to suggest their proximity, but could only by inquiry discover the roads that lead to them.
The elder Dupont, father of the late illustrious Admiral Dupont, was a man of remarkable energy and business ability. In nothing did he show his character and foresight more than in the selection of the location of these mills. During the administration, or after it, of President Jefferson, Dupont came to this country from his native France with the purpose of establishing a manufactory of gunpowder in some favorable location. He found his way to Virginia, and made the acquaintance. of Jefferson, who cordially welcomed him to the hospitalities of Monticello.