Powder Keg Harley-Davidson History: Ignites American Heart & Heritage
Article by Dana Vice featured in Ridin' On Motorcycle Magazine
Our Family here at Powder Keg Harley-Davidson in Mason, Ohio would like to tell you a story about dedication, hard work and commitment. We aren’t just your average motorcycle shop; we are a destination dealership that celebrates the strength and value of the American workforce that lies in the hearts of every family member here at Powder Keg Harley-Davidson. Our hard work is our livelihood, and we strive every day to faithfully represent a true American-built company that is recognized globally for its world-class motorcycles.
Why did we choose the name “Powder Keg” for our dealership? We chose the Powder Keg name to represent our own dedication and loyalty inspired by generations of American workers at the Peters Cartridge Company, located just a few minutes ride from our dealership. The Peters Cartridge Company is known in the local area as the original “powder factory,” and just as Harley®, this company was part of the true original American workforce. The Peters Cartridge Company helped to build both the foundation and protection for our country through the dedicated production of American made products, even when the job to produce these goods was inevitably dangerous.
Their heritage begins in the early 1700’s when a mill pond dam was built to operate two grain mills on the banks of the Little Miami River. Shortly thereafter, the mills welcomed the addition of an iron foundry that used metal castings to manufacture cut nails for building trades. During the Revolutionary War the company began production of musket and cannon balls for Washington’s army, giving its very own contribution to the beginning of the United States of America.
The tradition of producing arms didn’t cease there, in 1846, Benjamin Carlton and the Austin brothers formed the Austin & Carlton Powder Company to produce gunpowder, but in 1855, Joseph W. King purchased the mill and expanded it as the Miami Powder Company. King added a steam power plant and other innovative changes, which allowed the Miami Powder Company to produce thousands of kegs of rifle powder and blasting powder during the first year of operation. The manufacturing of gunpowder and blasting powder significantly increased during the Civil War into the tens of thousands of barrels, and this mass production later allowed Mr. King to establish his very own small American empire known as Kings Mills, Ohio. Here the employees could settle, build houses and raise families with the same hard-working values and traditions.
King passed down the company to his son-in-law, Gershom Moore Peters, who in 1887 renamed it the Peters Cartridge Company. With new machinery innovations, this establishment was able to produce thousands of cartridges per hour. Although there was the occasional accident, the company’s production thrived until a devastating day on July 15, 1890 when a train car collided with two full load cars backed with 800 powder kegs and caused a deafening explosion that could be heard for miles. Thousands of cartridges ignited, and a total of 1600 powder kegs exploded in chain reaction, killing twelve people and creating a fire that destroyed nearly everything around it.
The accident left the Peters Cartridge Company in a catastrophic position, but with the steadfast support of the workforce, they were able to successfully rebuild. The company was again thriving and fully operational by the onset of World War I, and profits gained from World Powers financed the construction of safer, reinforced concrete buildings. Remington Arms purchased the facility in 1934, and for ten years produced military arms for the United States well into World War II.
Other companies including Columbia Records and Seagram’s Distillery briefly occupied the building, but it was fully abandoned by 1949. On October 10, 1985, the facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Finally after years of vacancy (besides the occasional report of paranormal activity and hauntings!), the site was renovated into what we know today as Cartridge Brewing, a local brewery and residential location. Trust us, it’s worth the ride to see into the past, and perhaps a little beyond the present.
Since 1903 Harley-Davidson has produced genuine motorcycles with the force of the true American backbone and dedication. That’s us here at Powder Keg Harley-Davidson. Our hardworking American heritage celebrates the historical past, passionately lives in the present, and continues to build a strong secure future.