World's Largest Black Powder Factory | Mooar (Powdertown), Iowa
At one time, the DuPont Powder Mills near Mooar (3 miles north of Keokuk) was the largest powder manufacturing operation in the entire world. All that remains of the old plant now are the ruins of that success. The railway where the trains ran and were loaded with powder has nearly disappeared, with only a few tracks laying scattered around the grounds.
The black powder that was manufactured here was shipped in large wooden crates that were made on site. The powder was then loaded on to trains and shipped around the world.
The plant was completed in 1890, and earned the nickname, “Powdertown” as it was created to provide the blasting powder for nearby coal mines, at the time over 400,000 kegs of powder were being used annually within a 165 mile radius of the factory site.
When the plant was functioning, workers had to stop at the front gate guardhouse before their shifts to be checked for metal in their shoes or matches in their pockets. The site was so volatile that precautions were a necesity, and these checks hoped to deter any explosions. These precautions didn’t always work however, as over a dozen men would lose their lives to explosions over the years.
The mill grew rapidly to become the largest powder mills in the world by 1901. The mills formed a complex institution around the town made up of the powder plants, a railway line to transport the powder, a wooden box factory, two company villages, and company residence. To run these operations, the town had over 1000 residents who created a booming town with all manner of businesses, a post office, a church, and a school.
Following the end of the World War II, the need for powder declined forcing the company to close shop in 1949. The company then destroyed about 67 of its own buildings and majority of the town people left. Today a few houses still stand and several buildings can be found at the original site of the town.