A Demonstration with “Bang!”


The above is:

A) A very adult beverage

B) Site of Revolutionary War battle

C) A river important as a power source for early US industry

If you nodded at both B and C you are correct.

My first acquaintance with the name was as one of the early encounters – losses – of the Colonists during the Revolutionary War. The battle along the waterway occurred September 11, 1777.

Twenty-five years later, 1801, a family arrived from France – fleeing the aftermath of that revolution – and set up businesses. Along the Brandywine River they found multiple places to take advantage of the rapid fall of the river, construct dams, and use waterpower for factories.

While one brother constructed a cotton mill, the other brother assessed the need of the United States and used his expertise to begin the manufacture of a different product — black powder. This business prospered and during the next century many small to moderate size stone buildings were constructed for the different steps in the process. Many of these employed the “safety device” of one weak wall and a weak roof to direct any accidental explosion toward the river and away from nearby structures. Workers lived in homes and dormitories on the property. The owner built his own house a little higher on the hill.

Manufacturing at this location ended in 1923. Today tourists are welcomed and guided through the main house, the “first office” (built after 35 years of business), and other portions of the grounds. Foundations are all that remain of many of the buildings but others have been maintained and restored – some with a new purpose. They even give a “bang-up” demonstration of black powder, the primary product of this factory for over a century.

Preparing for device for demonstration of black powder quality.
Preparing device for demonstration of black powder quality.

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