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Early 1900’s blasting cap tin lids shadow box

One of a Kind Blasting Cap Shadow Box 

Collection of old blasting cap tin lids found at an abandoned mine at Mariposa, Ca. Early gold mining town. Artist made a shadow box out of recycled wood to showcase them inside.

Earliest examples of blasting caps are made in California, the lettering on the lid is embossed typically with stars, XXX, San Francisco Maltese Cross (insignia of the fire service in America), maned standing lion (courage). California XXX Blasting Caps Tin San Francisco. standard size (100 count) round/square tin.

Triplex (no.3) blasting cap tin circa 1900-1920.

Triplex (no.3) blasting cap tin circa 1900-1920

Maned lion tin circa 1906-1920.

Early Blasting Caps Tins

Blasting caps are a form/type of detonator, used to trigger an explosive charge in a larger, more difficult to ignite, explosive, such as dynamite, TNT or the like. Detachable in nature and stored separately, blasting caps were developed as a means of ensuring the main explosive could be stored and transported safely, without the risk of spontaneous explosion. Over the centuries many kinds of detonators have been developed, with a variety of igniting mechanisms.

Their history can be traced back to the demonstration of the first detonator in 1745, the discovery of the extremely volatile chemical nitroglycerine, in 1847, and the subsequent perfection of the stabilization of the chemical into a safe-to-handle, detonating explosive, by Swedish physicist, Alfred Nobel in 1865. Nobel’s fuse-type blasting cap remained virtually unchanged for years and provided the base model for all future variations. The precursor to the modern electric blasting cap was first assembled in Massachusetts in 1875, and further developed in the 1880s.

The advent of the blasting cap made the widespread use of high explosives possible, effectively changing the landscape of America. A staple of the mining, railroad and construction industries, they indirectly fueled the development and growth of many industries that were the lifeblood and backbone of the nation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.They were essential to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, resulting in a 30 - 45% increase in daily progress. 

To support the construction of the railroad and other mining endeavors in the West through Civil War shortages, two Powder Works companies were established in California in the 1860s: the Giant Powder Company in 1867 and the California Powder Works in 1864. They first produced black powder, then dynamite once Nobel’s safer, more stable version of nitroglycerine became available. The well-known firms, DuPont and Atlas, eventually acquired and consolidated the modern iterations of these companies, gaining access to their innovative products, while having more control over demand and pricing.

  • Title:Early Blasting Cap Tins
  • Manufacturer: California Cap Company
  • Date: Early 1900's 
  • Geography: San Francisco, California
  • Culture: American
  • Medium: wood, tin lids
  • Dimensions:
  • Classification: work & industry: Mining