Friday, February 17, 2012

Gunpowder Labels

DuPont might be best known for creating a synthetic parallel universe of our natural material world. The company replaced silk with nylon, glass with Lucite, rubber with neoprene, and stone with Corian. So synonymous is the company with chemicals, that substances such as Lycra, Teflon, and Kevlar have become household names. But when founder Eleuthère Irénée du Pont established the company in 1802, its sole business was the manufacture of gunpowder.

By the war of 1812, DuPont was the largest supplier of black powder to the U.S. government. During the Civil War, the company provided almost half of the powder used by the Union forces. As explosives technology advanced, the company became a leader in dynamite production and smokeless powder. (More detail here.)

Around the time of WWI, DuPont diversified into chemicals, and by the 1990s moved completely away from the blasting business. What remained with the company, however, was an amazing archive of powder labels. It now resides at the Hagley Museum and Library along with the rest of the corporate archives. Everything from duck shooting to mine blasting is represented and in addition to the DuPont brand, there are labels of acquired mills, and a collection of foreign labels as well. There are even a few original sketches.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific range of images! I wonder if there's someone who knows a lot about printmaking history, who could identify the source images of any of those illustrations? For instance, the insane buffalo looks like he derives from a Thomas Bewick wood engraving. JG


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