Jacksonville, TN Old Hickory Powder Plant Fire, Aug 1924

Big Powder Stock Destroyed By Fire; Cost $28,000,000

45,000,000 Pounds of Explosives and 50 Buildings Burn

Old Hickory Plant is Reduced to Ruins

Held Huge Reserve of War Munitions; No One is Injured.

Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 10.- Powder, machinery, and buildings valued at $28,000,000, war time prices, and at more than $2,000,000 at present valuation, were destroyed in a fire that swept clean a 40-acre tract in the heart of the Old Hickory powder plant at Jacksonville, Tenn., near here, this morning.

Approximately 45,000,000 pounds of gunpowder, stored by the United States government as a war reserve were consumed in the flames.

The cost of manufacturing this powder during the war, according to Maj. Oscar Krupp, United States ordnance officer in charge, was 50 cents a pound, making the total cost $22,500,000. The present market value of the powder is approximately 1 cent a pound, making the total values $450,000, Maj. Krupp said.

Reserve War Stock

The powder had been stored here by the United States government as a war reserve. One-half of it was to have been used in road building under the direction of the Department of Agriculture.

Fifty factory buildings, owned by the Nashville Industrial Corporation, most of which were rented by the government for storage of powder, were consumed. The factory machinery was the property of the government.

The fire was declared to be the greatest single loss suffered by the government since the world war, and was rated as one of the most destructive incidents in the history of government munitions plants. No one was severely injured.

At sundown this afternoon it was impossible to approach the area of the fire because of the intense heat. An estimate of the loss, therefore, was impossible. All estimates were made from a distance by government and private employees.

The government office and all surveillance records of powder and inventories were destroyed. Duplicates of the inventories, it is said, are on file in the War Department at Washington.

By 12:30 p.m. the conflagration had exhausted itself and left nothing but a white-hot tangle of debris.

No dangerous explosions occurred. Several thousands of small arms ammunition were ignited, but the bullets spent their force against the brick walls.

Half of Plant Saved.

Throughout the day firemen from the plant and the village fought the flames. At 10 a.m. two fire engines from the Nashville fire department were sent to the scene to aid in the work of fire fighting.

Women of the village, mostly wives and daughters of officials, volunteered for canteen service and worked all morning.

The origin of the fire is undetermined. All loss is covered by insurance. The area destroyed is exactly one-half of the entire plant. The flames for hours threatened the remainder of the plant, and the absence of high wind is believed responsible for saving it.

The flames originated in solvent recovery house No. 8, in the northeast end of the powder storage area, and leaped from building to building until finally they died out. The power house, considered the most valuable building of the plant, escaped the flames by a scant 20 yards.

The Washington Post, Washington, DC 11 Aug 1924