In a firearms twist on what came first, the chicken or the egg, it turns out that, in early America, it was the egg–or, as we know it, gunpowder.
American powder manufacture antedated gun manufacture. A powder mill at Milton, Massachusetts, near Boston, was probably the first. By the beginning of the Revolution, colonists had amassed, by manufacture or capture, 40 tons of black powder. Half went to nearby Cambridge, where it was wasted before George Washington took control of the Revolutionary Army. By the end of 1775, the colonists had no powder left. Scrambling to arm themselves, they built new mills and by war’s end had accumulated 1,000 tons. By 1800, American powder mills were producing 750 tons annually.—Wayne van Zwoll, from the chapter “The Days of White Smoke” in his book Modern Sporting Rifle Cartridges (Stoeger Publishing, 1998)
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