Powder mills were driven by a power source such as windmill, water mill or horse mill, and contained rollers for grinding or a pilon for pounding the ingredients of gunpowder together, as well as presses and tumbling barrels and sieves for compacting, granulating, drying, grading and packaging the powder. Powder mills were built with an eye towards mitigating the danger of explosion, usually with one or more walls built purposely weak so that the force of an accidental explosion could be directed towards an open field or a river.
In 1802, the DuPont family started their industrial enterprises in the United States by building the Eleutherian Mills on the Brandywine Creek in Delaware. This was the start of large-scale gunpowder production in America, supplanting what had been primarily a cottage industry.
The place where the finished powder was stored was called a powder magazine or powder house.
- Milton, MA's WorldHeritage page says that a powder mill established there in 1674, "may be the earliest in the colonies."
- American Powder Mills, Maynard, Massachusetts
- Austin Powder Company, Glenwillow, Ohio
- California Powder Works, Santa Cruz, California
- Eleutherian Mills (DuPont), Wilmington, Delaware
- Equitable Powder Company, East Alton, Illinois
- Frankford Powder-Mill, Frankford, Pennsylvania
- Great Western Powder Works, Kings Mills, Ohio
- Hazard Powder Company, Hazardville, Connecticut
- Laflin & Rand Powder Company, Newburgh, New York
- Miami Powder Company, Goes Station, Ohio
- Morristown Powder-Mill, Morristown, New Jersey [1776, Jacob Ford, Marker at rear of Acorn Hall property]
- Oriental Powder Company, Windham, Maine
- Grenelle Mill - France
- Ballincollig Royal Gunpowder Mills, Cork, Ireland
- Faversham explosives industry, Faversham, England
- Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, Essex, England
- Knight, Edward H.. "Powder-mill" Knight's new mechanical dictionary: a description of tools, instruments, machines, processes, and engineering: with indexical references to technical journals (1876-1880). vol. 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1883. 1781. Print.
- Braddock, John. A memoir on gunpowder: in which are discussed, the principles both of its manufacture and proof.. Madras: Printed at the Church Mission Press, 1829. Print.
- Rideal, Charles Frederick, and Freeman Morris. A century of success: the history of a great industry ; what it has accomplished ; a record of progress and sustained work : the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Powder Co., from its foundation to the present time. New York, N.Y.: Business America, 19111912. Print.