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084 Area S 84The Area S Bungalow Section of Nitro, West Virginia, August 19, 1918. The town was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I.

What’s in a Name: The Definition of a ‘Boom’ Town 

By Eric Douglas
via the West Virginia Public Broadcasting web site

There’s a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia where some locals say living there is a "blast."

As part of our occasional series, "What’s in a Name," we take a look at the history and folklore of the names of Appalachian places. The town in question, Nitro, West Virginia, grew out of the explosives industry and was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I. Ken Thompson volunteers at the World War I museum in the city of Nitro.

According to Thompson, Nitro was established in 1917 by the federal government to manufacture nitrocellulose, a highly flammable compound formed by bringing cellulose from trees or plants into contact with it to nitric acid. It is also known as “guncotton,” because of its explosive characteristics.

“It was to support the war effort for WWI," he explained. "A lot of people were under the impression it was nitroglycerin. It was not. It was nitrocellulose. That was added to the other components to make the gunpowder smokeless."

It took the federal government about 11 months to build the town from 1917 to 1918, and approximately 100,000 people representing 41 nations participated.

Nitro's construction coincided with one of the coldest winters in recorded history, Thompson said.

One of the town's builders would go on to become famous: Clark Gable.

Read the entire article and listen to audio on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting web site here:

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