The Most Damnable Invention
The Most Damnable Invention
Dynamite is a high explosive that derives its power from a chemical called nitroglycerin and which used diatomaceous earth as its absorbent. Dynamite was invented by Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel in 1866 and was then patented in 1867. Dynamite has a wide range of uses; from building demolitions to warfare and death. It was that last characteristic of dynamite that worried Nobel the most.
Initially, Nobel thought that the invention of dynamite would end the possibility of future wars and possible foes would see the destructive force of dynamite and it would serve as enough of a deterrent to the point that wars would be outlawed in favor of common sense. This would not be the reality of the invention as warring countries sought new and more effective ways in which to vanquish their enemies to such a degree that the destructive forces of dynamite would be forever linked to Alfred Nobel.
Nobel sought to change his epitaph from the minister of death as one French newspaper put it when confusing the death of his brother with his own. Nobel formed the Nobel Peace Prize in order to encourage peaceful and useful contributions to the human race in a personal attempt to be able to say that he too, was a force for good, despite the misuse by society, of his invention. But to say that the invention and use of dynamite has affected history, there is no doubt. In contemporary society however dynamite is used in a much more productive and peaceful way.
The inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, was born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm Sweden. Nobel gained his fortune, not only in the invention of dynamite but also through his income as a chemist, engineer as well as the owner of a major manufacturing plant. Nobel, devoted himself to the study of explosives and especially the sale and manufacturing of nitroglycerine which had incidentally, only been discovered a few years earlier in 1847 by Asanio Sobrero, a fellow attending student at the University of Torino.
Nobel would continue to be fascinated by explosions and continued to learn everything that he could about the science that surrounded it. In 1865, Nobel built the Alfred Nobel & Co. Factory near Hamburg, Germany. However, it was in this factory where dynamite claimed its first casualty. This fascination would lead to an explosion that would kill Nobel’s own brother Emil in 1864. But only two short years later, Nobel was credited with the invention of dynamite and was given a patent for it in 1867.
Nobel would establish factories in the United States, France and Germany as well as continue to spread his influence into his home country of Sweden. But it would be his invention of dynamite that he would be remembered for, at least while he was alive, as a force of death and destruction, an impediment to a peaceful world. And it was an association that he did not find entirely flattering. But for the time being, Nobel and the rest of the world, was forced to confront the new and threatening power of destruction that dynamite had while in the possession of the wrong people.
Nobel said of his invention: “My factories may make an end to war sooner than you congresses. The day when two armies corps can annihilate each other in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops. ” If only that prediction came to fruition, there would have been a lot less victims of man’s hate and desire for destruction which, for a time, was the primary use of dynamite. The use of dynamite, upon its inception, had a wide variety of uses as more and more people looked for ways in which it could benefit themselves.
After the invention of dynamite in 1867, dynamite, or as it was originally marketed as : Nobel’s Blasting Powder, rapidly gained popularity. It was marketed as a safe alternative to the explosiveness of gun powder while still being just as lethal if not more. Very quickly, Nobel could see the destructive force of his invention and kept a tight lid on his invention. However, United States business men, who were able to alter the chemical formula just enough so that they could get around the restrictions that Nobel’s patent once provided.
In America, the use of dynamite would be used in order top promote sinister motives that left the entire country suspicious of the invention and which helped to increase the backlash of public opinion towards Alfred Nobel. Dynamite consists of 75% nitroglycerin, 24% diatomaceous earth and a small mixture of sodium carbonate. These mixtures are formed into sticks and wrapped into paper. The fact that dynamite is by itself a very explosive substance as well as the fact that its chemical make up can be broken down very easily over time which compromises the stability of its form.
Over time, the dynamite will back into nitroglycerine which will then pool at the bottom of a storage area, thus creating a potentially damaging situation. The transportation of dynamite is very dangerous and can cause intentional or unintentional harm to a large number of victims in a wide area of space surrounding the explosion of the dynamite. In American History, there are two famous events where the use of dynamite made it possible for anarchists to promote their twisted ideology. The first was the 1888 Haymarket Square in Chicago Illinois.
During the 1870’s and 1880’s. Chicago was a leading center for union activism as workers tried to organize and pool their collected influence. In 1886, labor unions were calling for a one day strike and a demonstration in Chicago. Their demands were for better working conditions and an eight hour work day. On May 1st, at the McCormick Center, two shootings and one death occurred during a riot. Three days later, a mass demonstration was organized on Haymarket Square. The mayor of Chicago sent an extra number of police which used excessive force and another riot broke out.
As a result, an explosion, packed with dynamite was thrown from somewhere in the crowd. The name of the offender was not known. What was known was the fact that seven police officers died and four offenders, self proclaimed anarchists, were tried and two were hung. The bigger picture that the use of dynamite produced a wider influence than first thought. The use of dynamite helped to bring the entire establishment against the ideas of the Progressives with regard to their desire to improve their working conditions.
Deep rooted fears that the country had regarding sinister elements were now proved to be correct in the minds of many Americans. However, the Haymarket Square Riot did help to organize the call among labor leaders to continue to fight the employers. Even though many of the Progressive leaders did not condone the use of violence, and even though it was not known for sure who was responsible for the throwing of the dynamite bomb, it was assumed that it was almost certainly, a member of the pro labor union forces.
“However, what was seen as excessive force by the police, seemed to almost condone the actions in the minds of the most radical labor leaders. ” As a result, the labor movement in Chicago and in New York specifically, gained momentum and within the next few decades, the Progressive Movement would see a surge in their influence, not only on the streets and in the factories, but also in Congress as well.
This was not entirely a result of the Haymarket Square but in Chicago, in 1894, the second largest labor strike occurred in the 19th century at the Pullman Car Company on the south side of Chicago. No dynamite was used in this demonstration but many of the workers used for their motivation, the events at Haymarket Square. The second is the 1920 bombing of the Wall Street Building in downtown Manhattan. There was a feeling of suspicion among the country at that time that was prompted by a unmistakable xenophobia.
Socialists groups had gained in converts and influence yet there has been no show of force until one day, in a New York City Post office, sixteen packages, addressed to prominent Senators and Congressmen and which contained: “ enough dynamite to blow a man’s head off” were discovered and which confirmed deeply suspicions feelings about the anarchists within the city and their desire for revolution, the same that had occurred in Russia only three years earlier. Neither events had the desired result of anarchy that the perpetrators had hoped for.
Nevertheless, it would not be long until another attempt was made to create panic to the financial and districts of America On a warm May late morning in 1920, a horse drawn wagon pulled up to the corner of Wall Street. It was a few minutes before lunch and people were getting ready to head out onto the May afternoon to eat their lunch. A large explosion occurred and the wagon was full of dynamite as well as thousands of sash weights that dug into the stone of the Wall Street buildings; the financial capital of the country.
Forty people were killed and the horse had become completely disintegrated. The stock market did not close that day however and the Dow continued to rise as one of the most exciting decades the stock market had ever seen to date was officially under way. But the destructive potential of dynamite has not been restricted only to the United States and only in the distant past. In Ireland, with bombings occurring almost weekly in the 1970’s and 1980’s the deathly potential of dynamite came to the front door of the United Kingdom.
There has been civil unrest in Ireland for hundreds of years as Ireland fought to gain their independence from England. When Ireland gained her independence in 1921, twenty six out of a total of thirty two counties were made their own country, independent from England. The Protestant minority, which had centralized herself in the six most Northern counties of Ireland and not wanting to lose the little influence that they had by being outnumbered and overpowered by the Catholic majority, voted to keep their allegiance to England.
And a Northern Ireland, with their own currency and independent from the lower twenty six counties, remained separate. This has been fought over since 1921 but came to a head in the 1970’s and 1980’s as increased pressure to unite Ireland was coming from the political wing of Ireland Sinn Fein and their leader Gerry Adams and Martin McGinness. In the same way that Middle Eastern terrorists use violent means in order to further their cause, Sinn Fein did the same as well.
It is estimated that since the Bloody Sunday Massacre on January 30, 1972 until present day, more than three thousand people, with the vast majority being innocent civilians, have been killed through bombings by the IRA and Sinn Fein and in response by the Ulster Unionists who are associated to Northern Ireland and the continuation of a separate Ireland. These terrorists would use as their weapon of choice for these bombings, dynamite.
With much of it being illegally shipped by Omar Kadafe, who was sympathetic about Ireland’s plight of uniting their country and approved of its measures to achieve its goal, sent thousands of pounds of nitroglycerine as well as other materials that are used to make dynamite. Hundreds of sticks of dynamite along with a large arsenal of guns and other forms of weaponry accompanied each shipment.
The targets for these bombings would usually be social settings: restaurants and pubs where it was assured that dozens of unsuspecting patrons would meet their deaths. However, the result of hundreds of these bombings throughout Ireland has actually resulted in the opposite desired effect. The IRA and Sinn Fein are considered to be on the fringe of society and the rightness of their cause, as seen through the hunger strike of Bobby Sands, an MP, has been lost.
And even though Britain’s influence within Northern Ireland has decreased in the past years and peace agreement after peace agreement has been ignored by both sides, it becomes increasingly unlikely that there will ever be a united Ireland in the immediate or distant future. This is because it is now seen that recons illation by either side will, in effect, make the deaths of the thousands of victims on both sides, now be considered null and void. In this effect, the use of dynamite greatly decreased the likelihood that a true and lasting peace would ever come to Ireland.
If dynamite has never been invented, there still would have been troubles in Ireland among the Catholics and Protestants and between Unionists and the IRA but the number of deaths, and therefore, the number of hurdles that would need to be overcome in order to obtain a lasting peace, would have been a mere shadow of the reality that is now facing Ireland’s peace process today. In this respect, every lover of peace and brotherhood, not only in Ireland but throughout the world, has come to regret the day that dynamite had been invented.
It served as an unmistakable impediment for that portion of the world. However, there have been found some positive uses of dynamite. In the United States today, the uses of dynamite are as such: “Coal mining 67%, non metal mining 14% metal mining, 10% construction 7% and miscellaneous 3%. ” At the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, coal was the country’s primary source for fuel. In order to get the coal out of the earth, dynamite blasting was required. As a result, more dynamite meant easier travel by way of ship and train which used as their chief form of fuel: coal.
The shipping industry as well as the railroad which served as the number one form of cross country transportation and was second in use only to the mass transit system of the major cities, used coal as their use of fuel. Without dynamite, coal still could and was retrieved from the ground but at a snail’s pace compared to the rate that it extracted from the earth today. This has wide ranging implications and is one use of dynamite which was to the benefit of the masses.
In this way, the correct and responsible use of dynamite was used to better the lives of millions of people over the decades. The importance of dynamite on the world stage has diminished from its zenith in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Dynamite has now been replaced by safer alternatives but is still used in coal mining. And with America’s push away from Middle eastern independence through their oil supply, many people are pointing to the abundance of American coal. In that respect, the importance of dynamite on the world stage might return.
For the most part, contemporary societies have come to share the vision that Alfred Nobel had for his invention. However, as long as people seek to further their ideas in violent measures, dynamite still serves an attractive tool in that motive. Nuclear Weapons, bigger guns and other forms of chemical warfare have replaced the use dynamite in war. Nobel was too unrealistic about the depravity of man to think that dynamite’s destructive potential would be abandoned in favor of more peaceful measures.
But with every invention that increases an army’s ability to kill, it is said that this will now outlaw war. But that has yet to happen. However, since dynamite is no longer seen as the most effective tool in warfare, its uses can now be concentrated more on its useful abilities and continue to aid in the welfare of man; Nobel’s original intent. WORKS CITED Birney, E. The Effectiveness of Dynamite. www. nchi. mlm. nih. gov. Sanger Centre Cambridge February 21, 2006 Burns, Ric The History of New York.
New York: PBS Video. 1999 Bown, Stephen, The Most Damnable Invention. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2005 Commanger, Henry Steele. Documents of American History. New York: Century Publishers. 1947 Perry, John. Endgame in Ireland. New York: PBS Video. 2001 Elistone, Mary. The Haymarket Square Riot. Chicago: University of Chicago Law Review. 1993 Marcazee, Joseph. The Use of Dynamite in History. New York: The American Journal of American History. 1999. nobelprize. org/Alfred_nobel