Just in time for Christmas, a new video documentary about the most important industrial facility in the region has been completed and is available to the public.

The documentary, “Charlestown Powder Plant: 1940-1992,” celebrates the history of the 10,000-acre government facility which in 1940 turned Charlestown into a boom town and dominated the local employment landscape for 52 years.

“There is hardly a person in the entire region that didn’t have a family member or knew somebody who worked at the plant,” said David Hackel, a former plant worker who is now an informal historian of ammunition facilities across the country. “At the peak in 1941, more than 27,500 people were employed just to build the first plant, the Indiana Ordinance Works.”

The video is a joint effort between Charlestown Public Library and Natural Concepts Inc., a local museum-consulting firm headed by Troy McCormick. It follows an earlier historical project on the plant funded by the Indiana Committee for the Humanities.

“We had originally done a history of the ammo plant in the 1980s and, in a sense, I’ve been working on it for 18 years,” said Charlestown Library Director Tamsey Meurer. “We and Bob Gallman at the Clark’s Grant Historical Association had talked about updating our presentation for a while.

“When I hit Troy with the idea maybe a year ago, he just ran with it. This brings it all up to date.”

The Indiana Ordinance Works, built and operated by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. was soon joined by the Hoosier Ordinance Plant to the south which employed another 7,500 workers and was operated by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

The DuPont plant manufactured smokeless powder which, loaded into bags made at the Goodyear operation, was assembled and packed in varying sizes for use in army field and large naval artillery.

The hallmark product was a 16-inch diameter bag of powder that when loaded six-deep in the breech of a battleship’s big gun could propel a 2,750-pound bullet as far as 25 miles.

The plant’s history through World War II, Korea and Vietnam, made the entire project special, according to McCormick, producer of the video.

“With 2005 being the 60th anniversary of the end of WW II, this was a great year for working on this particular project,” McCormick said.

McCormick conducted first-person interviews with past employees of plant contractors, including DuPont, GoodYear, Olin Mathieson and ICI Americas. He also drew on archival photos, technical manufacturing manuals, panoramic construction photos and rare video footage of the load, assemble, and pack lines.

“It was really great, really fabulous,” Meurer said. “He used a lot of our materials and they are transferring us more as they close things out. Our collection now is probably second only to Dupont’s.”

Three bonus features are included with the video: original footage of the Hoosier Ordnance Plant’s Load Line 2 in operation, a military promotional video on the loading of stick propellant charges and a look at the steps involved in creating the large, 16-inch Navy charge.

The video history comes at a time when the old government facility is being decontaminated and transferred to public use. About 6,000 acres are now being developed as the River Ridge Commerce Center, one of the most significant commercial/industrial complexes in the region. The remainder has already established, and will expand, Charlestown State Park.

Meurer said copies of the video, in both VHS tape and DVD format, are in circulation at each of the library’s branches and will also be available for sale to the public for $20. A portion of sales proceeds will help fund additional research projects sponsored by the library.

In addition to the library, the video will also be available at the Falls of the Ohio gift shop, the Howard Steamboat Museum, Schimpff’s Confectionery, the Clark/Floyd Counties Visitor Center and online at www.charlestownpowderplant.com



For more ...

WHAT: Video documentary “Charlestown Powder Plant 1940-1992”

WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Clark/Floyd Counties Visitor Center, 305 Southern Indiana Ave., Jeffersonville

• Charlestown Public Library, 51 Clark Road

• Howard Steamboat Museum, 1101 E. Market, Jeffersonville

• Falls of the Ohio gift shop, 201 W. Riverside Drive, Jeffersonville

• Schimpff’s Confectionery, 347 Spring St., Jeffersonville

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