This is a 5,900-word essay that traces the fascinating development of the explosives industry in the United States. Beginning with the dangerous and short-lived experiments with pure nitroglycerin, it recounts Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite and the wild scramble that saw countless varieties of potent explosives flooding a nineteenth century market that couldn't get enough of the stuff. The article emphasizes the enormous and largely unseen influence that explosives have had on the modern world. Fluidly written and scrupulously researched, this piece offers many insights into this intriguing corner of history.
About the Author
Popular historian Jack Kelly is the author of "Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics" (Basic Books).