During the late 1800s and early 1900s, gunpowder manufacturing was a prominent industry in our area. In fact, Haskell was first settled as a company town, supporting workers at the Laflin & Rand Powder Company (it was likely named after Laflin-Rand’s then-president, Jonathan Amory Haskell). Later, the company was purchased by DuPont and it continued to be a major producer of smokeless gunpowder for the United States military during both World Wars.
Manufacturing gunpowder was dangerous work, and the plant suffered several large explosions during its years of operation, including June 1898, October 1911, March 1914, October 1915, July 1916 and January 1917.
These two postcards from the collection of Richard Townsend show the powder works before the October 31, 1911 explosion and after.
Below: a postcard postmarked November 23, 1909:
Below: a postcard titled “The Blow-Up, Oct. 31st, ’11” 
An article from the Paterson Morning Call described the aftermath of the October 31, 1911 explosion:
Habitues of Jimmy Downes’ saloon, at Haskells, were gathered around the pool table, last evening, when the table reared up on its hind legs and commenced to throw pool balls all over the room. The bottle on the back bar fell to the floor with a crash and Jimmy Downes, ever mindful of the comfort of his guests, yelled: “Look out, boys, the powder works has blown up!” There was a second and then a third explosion, and when the pool players and Jimmy had arisen from the floor it was discovered that the ballistite plant of the Dupont Powder works had been wiped off the map and that $60,000 damage had been done in the destruction of three buildings. (Paterson Morning Call, November 1, 1911. Click to view full article.)
For further interest, check out local historian Hans Segboer’s website showing a collection of several postcards and photos of the Haskell location of DuPont Powder Works.
If you have any information, questions or corrections to share with us about this topic, please contact Library Director Mary Martin at 973-839-4434, stop by the library or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.