Categories: Avon, Business and Industry, Emergence of Modern America, Immigration, Simsbury

Avon Industry: From Underground to Outerspace

Climax Fuse Company, 1899
Lunch time card game, Climax Fuse Company, 1899
– Avon Free Public Library and the Treasures of Connecticut Libraries

The Climax Fuse Company manufactured safety fuse, a type of fuse consisting of a tube of gunpowder surrounded by a water-proofed and varnished jute rope. Invented by William Bickford in 1836, the safety fuse quickly became the most reliable and safe method for igniting mining explosions.

The origins of the Climax Fuse Company date back to 1852 in Avon. It was then that Romeo Andrews established his fuse business, R. Andrews & Sons. After the company folded in 1870, one of Romeo’s sons, Albert Andrews, reformed it in 1880 and resumed production. During this time, H.S. Chapman of the Metallic Cap Company recognized the importance of quality fuses for mining and purchased an interest in Andrews’s factory. He named his new enterprise the Climax Fuse Company and made Albert Andrews its first president.

Growth, Disaster, and Diversification

Climax Fuse Company, 1908

Climax Fuse Company, 1908 – Avon Free Public Library and the Treasures of Connecticut Libraries

By 1886, just two years after its incorporation, the Climax Fuse Company had the capacity to produce over 100,000 feet of safety fuse per day. The company grew so fast that it exhausted local labor supplies. Soon immigrants from Poland, Russia, Italy, Germany, and other European nations arrived in Avon to assist in fuse manufacturing. The company even sent workers to New York to greet newly arriving immigrants and recruit them into the business.

On September 15, 1905, the Climax Fuse Company experienced a horrific explosion and fire attributed to a careless employee’s use of a hot iron meant for cleaning out debris from the machinery. Fifteen workers died in the fire—considered to be the worst in the industry’s history.

The company quickly rebuilt and remained a significant enough force in the industry to be included in a sales agreement with Toy, Bickford & Company. This agreement established quotas among the participants and divided-up the available fuse sales market. With this relationship in place, it was only a matter of time until the companies reached an agreement to merge Climax into the Ensign-Bickford Company.

Today, Ensign-Bickford is an aerospace and defense corporation headquartered in Simsbury. It is a leading producer of precision systems used in military demolition, vehicle protection, and tactical weapons construction.

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LEARN MORE

Places

“The Marian Hunter History Room.” The Avon Free Public Library, 2016. Link.

Documents

Saunders, G. A. Patent Number 372,491 - Machine for Testing the Water Proof Quality of Fuses for Blasting. 372,491. Avon, CT, issued November 1, 1887. Link.

Books

Ellsworth, John E. 100 Years: The Ensign-Bickford Company and the Safety Fuse Industry in America: A Record of One Hundred Years of Achievement, 1836-1936. Chicago, IL: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1936.
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