Categories: Business and Industry, Civil War and Reconstruction, Enfield, Who Knew?

One-Legged Stools – Who Knew?

. . . that Hazard Powder Company employees sat on one-legged stools to keep them from falling asleep while working with dangerous materials?

Hazard Powder Company gunpowder barrel

Hazard Powder Company gunpowder barrel, Hazardville, Connecticut – Connecticut Historical Society

In the mid-nineteenth century, Colonel Augustus Hazard helped establish over 100 mills in an area of Enfield that later became known as Hazardville. His Hazard Powder Company supplied the gun powder that helped fight the Civil War, fuel the California gold rush, and clear a path for the country’s growing network of railway lines.

Working with gun powder was extremely dangerous work and the Hazard Company took numerous precautions to improve the safety of its operations. Workers labored in compartments sectioned off by large stone blast walls in order to limit the damage from any explosions. In addition, they were forbidden from bringing pipes and matches into the workplace and avoided working with iron and steel tools that might accidentally create sparks when struck. Lastly, the workers charged with keeping the powder wet during grinding worked on one-legged stools to keep them from falling asleep on the job.

Despite all of these precautions, explosions remained a regular part of gunpowder production. Over a roughly 80-year span, the Hazard Powder Company experienced more than 60 on-the-job fatalities. One explosion, in January of 1913, destroyed so much of the Hazard Company’s operation that company officials opted to relocate the business to Valley Falls, New York, rather than attempt to rebuild in Enfield.

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