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MAXAM Foundation
The industrial production of explosives

MAXAM Foundation - House of the Explosive - The industrial production of explosives

On October 12th 1872 dynamite production began in Galdácano (Spain). This was the first day of activity of Sociedad Anónima Española de la Pólvora Dinamita. Privilegios Alfred Nobel, the company created in Spain from its inventor’s patent and which in 1896, together with a further eight companies, formed Unión Española de Explosivos (Spanish Union of Explosives).

The scale models sent by the MAXAM subsidiary in Portugal help us to understand how a dynamite production plant was laid out. The final result of this process was a mass that had to be wrapped in paraffin paper, something that was done by hand by women (as shown by a team arrived at the MUMI from Bolivia), who were known as “cartucheras” (cartridgers), making the chemical industry one of the first to begin integrating women into our society’s labour force.

Dynamite factories produced nitroglycerine as well as some of its components such as nitric acid. In the House of the Explosive we can see two facilities with this purpose, one dating from the late 19th century and Belgian in origin, which was located in the Sociedad Anónima La Manjoya factory and a later, more modern one (Biazzi process) dating from 1935 and originally from Switzerland.

Nitroglycerine applied to gunpowder resulted in smokeless gunpowder, mainly intended for the manufacture of hunting cartridges (an activity that MAXAM embarked on in 1899) as well as for military use (the first manufacture for the Spanish Navy was in 1911). In the manufacturing process of smokeless gunpowder, ether was a basic product and produced from sulphuric acid and alcohol in a 140-degree process in the small factory –dating from the early 20th century– that can be viewed in this part of the exhibition.

A ballistic pendulum was also on hand to check the energy output (which had to go several thousand meters per second to be able to break the rock) of the manufactured explosive products.

Another factory installation also represented at the MUMI is the plumbing, manufactured from sheet metal or metal blocks and later given uses such as forming part of the floors of nitration plants, storage and weighing of nitroglycerine or dynamite mixing and cartridge-filling areas.


Last update 2021.06.21
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