Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Halafax Explosives Co., Est. April 1935.

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Explosives Plant To Be Built In Mint Canyon Soon

Construction work on Southern California's first major explosives plant, a $100,000 plant in Mint Canyon, was well under way today, according to officers of the corporation. Thirty men are employed in the erection of 13 units, all of them with corrugated iron covering. The plant is the most important industrial announcement since the Hughes-Mitchell plant.

The site in Mint Canyon, just back of the Baker ranch, is the sole area in los Angeles county that an explosives manufacturing plant can now be located, because of the requirements for isolation and safety, it was explained.

The Halafax Explosives Company, which is erecting the plant, is a recently formed closed corporation, it was learned. Chief officer of the firm is Melville Dozier Jr. of Los Angeles, former state flood control engineer, former manager of the state reclamation board, and former construction engineer of the Southern Pacific railroad. Other officers are Laud D. Byers, of Glendale; Charles A. Neville, of San Francisco, both vice presidents, and Ray Wilbern, secretary, of Los Angeles.

Byers is the inventor of a new modern method of powder manufacturing, developed over a period of seven years and approved after exacting tests in all lines of work, it was learned. Plans for formation of the company have been worked out quietly during the past several months, it was learned.

Financial backing for the new concern is being provided by E.P. Halliburton, well-known Los Angeles and Oklahoma oil man, who commutes by private tri-motored plane between the coast and the middle western state.

Employment will be provided for about 20 men when the plant is completed and ready to start production about February 1, it was stated. Each building will have an embankment around it, similar to oil tanks on large tank farms.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam. The same story, with minor editing differences, appeared in the Verdugo Hills Record-Ledger on the same day (courtesy of Don Ray).

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New Enterprise.

Up in the hills back of Saugus is a little canyon that makes a natural amphitheater beside which the Hollywood Bowl is a piker. This canyon is only a few acres in extent, but curves in such a way that little hint of its presence can be detected from the highway. Yet in this little place is being constructed one of the best and safest powder factories in the United States.

Many years ago, James Jeffries secured the ground, and planned for a factory. Machinery was put in and some goods turned out. This was just at the close of the World War, and the signing of the Armistice put a bad crimp in the explosive business.

Less than a year ago, the Halifax Explosive Company was organized to manufacture a new type of explosive. This has all the strength of the usual type of explosive, with an added safety element, which makes it unusually safe to handle. It is called "Halafax" and the manufacturer claims exclusive features in no "bleeding" or separation of ingredients in storage, besides it does not cause any ill effects in handling.

The factory is in process of construction, and contrary to the usual powder factory type, all the buildings are well separated, so there is no possibility of a general blow up, in case of an accident. Great bulkheads are constructed across the canyon, in front of each place of manufacture or storage, even the testing grounds and rooms being built in such a way that the effect of any explosion would be minimized, and held to the actual building in which the trouble takes place.

At the entrance to the Canyon is the office and laboratory, in the latter, the chemicals used being combined by approved formulas and then taken to the test room for mixing. This has a small mixing machine, run by a motor on the outside of the building, which has three reinforced concrete walls, and one very light one, which would blow out in case of accident, without damage to amount to very much.

Leading around the bowl of the canyon is a truck road, by which the materials will be transported first to the warehouses now being built. Here the different proportions are sent to the mixers and factory in progressive fashion, the little electric truck finally winding up at the big magazine. The latest improved machinery is being put in, the little truck mentioned, being constructed to run through and it is easy to see, with the various developments that are being made, the new factory and grounds will be worth seeing. Loyd S. Byers is vice president of the Halafax Company, with Kenneth McCarty as assistant and chemist.

The completion of the factory is set for April 1, 1935, and it represents an investment of about $100,000. The capacity is planned for 15 tons of explosive per day.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.

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New Explosive Manufacturing Plant Opened in California

Southern California's first explosives plant opened to the public the week of April 22. At that time Engineers and users of explosives were afforded one of the rare opportunities of inspecting in its entirety a complete powder manufacturing plant.

The new plant just completed by the Halafax Explosives Co., near Saugus, California, is now ready to produce a full line of explosives. These range from low strength, free running, to the higher nitroglycerin equivalents. The plant represents an investment of close to one-quarter of a million dollars. Financed by western capital and directed by western executives, the Halafax Explosives Co. is in every way a California institution.

Halafax powders are declared by the manufacturers to be the most outstanding advance in explosive chemistry in the history of American industry. By reason of the fact that the explosive is a departure from any previous type insofar as its field application is concerned, preliminary design of the factory units brought to light many problems. As a result, the Halafax factory contains many plant methods and equipment new to the industry.

Prior to plant erection, five years were spent in testing Halafax explosives. Most of 1933 was taken up with exhaustive tests in Mexico. Final field and engineering determinations were made in 1934 in the contracting, mining and quarrying industries in California. Halafax powders are declared to be insensitive to sudden changes of temperature, virtually unaffected by freezing and by extreme heat.

In common with the gravity system used in other powder factories, the raw material for Halafax powders is delivered to a warehouse and storage quarters located at a point higher than that of any process unit in the plant. From separate material storage to dry batch, thence to explosive mix, shell pack, and on to final pack house, through successive stages, the product is carried by gravity until it is delivered at the lowest point in the plant, the site of the magazine.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.

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Halafax Explosives

In a new quarter of a million dollar plant near Saugus, California, the Halafax Explosives Co. is manufacturing the newest of commercial blasting agents — Halafax Explosives.

In the past year Halafax Explosives have been introduced, tried and proven on countless jobs — in mines, pits, quarries, roads, streets and surface construction and in agriculture.

Because of accomplishments and because of economy, Halafax Explosives have become the most talked of explosives in the field, meeting the most rigid standards of western explosives engineers.

If you are interested in securing interesting and important facts about Halafax Explosives as well as details of their adaptability to your problems, write for a copy of the booklet "What is Halafax."

Halafax Explosives Co.

810 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, California. Phone TRinity 8528

116 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California. Phone GArfield 4759

Plant and Magazine: Saugus, California

Courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.

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Explosives Unit Active

Commenting on progress of the Halifax [sic, s/b Halafax] Explosives Company throughout the West since completion of the Saugus plant last April, C.A. Neville, vice-president of the company, yesterday stated that recent sales of explosives to leading western contractors aggregated 2,500,000 pounds.

The projects on which these explosives will be used include the Rosa project at Yakima, Wash.; Seminoe Dam and power plant, Parco, Wyo.; Shoshone tunnels, Cody, Wyo.; Imperial Dam, Southern California; All-American Canal, Imperial, Cal.; and Gene and intake pumping plants at San Bernardino and Riverside, Cal., Mr. Neville said.

The contractors participating in this large purchase were Morrison-Knudsen Company Inc., Utah Construction Company, Winston Brothers Company, George Pollock Company and William C. Crowell.

The Halifax plant, located at Saugus, was completed last April, at a cost of approximately $250,000 and is financed by western capital, directed by western executives and employs local labor, according to Mr. Neville.

The explosives are a departure from any previous type in so far as the field application is concerned.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.

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Tehachapi, Feb. 14. — Ernest Malano, Halifax Powder Company [sic] representative, and Charles Forester, Monolith Cement Company, quarry foreman, went to McKittrick Monday to do experimental work with powder for the Monolith Cement Company, at the gypsum quarry there.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.


The Bermite Powder Co., and Halafax Explosives Co. before it, manufactured explosives, flares and small munitions in Saugus, on a roughly 1,000-acre parcel just southeast of Bouquet Junction, from 1935 to 1987.

Apparently the first on the scene was Jim "The Boilermaker" Jeffries, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world from 1899-1905. Jeffries took the helm of the L.A. Powder Co., which incorporated in 1915, and in 1917 set up a Saugus plant on the future Bermite property to manfacture gunpowder, in hopes of supplying the allied forces in World War I. By 1920 Jeffries was also drilling oil wells on the property; the success of either venture is unclear.

The week of April 22, 1935, Halafax opened a $250,000 plant financed by E.P. Halliburton, an Oklahoma oil tycoon whose eponymous company would grow into one of the biggest multinational oilfield service providers.

According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (2004), in 1939, Patrick Lizza established Golden State Fireworks on adjacent property, while Halafax manufactured fireworks at its site from 1936 to 1942.

Halafax eventually defaulted on its property taxes, and Lizza's company, as Bermite Powder, acquired the ex-Halafax land from the county, apparently for the price of the unpaid taxes.

Per DTSC, "The Bermite Powder Company produced detonators, fuzes, boosters, coated magnesium, and stabilized red phosphorus from 1942 to 1967. In addition, between 1942 and 1953 they produced flares, photoflash bombs for battlefield illumination, and other explosives."

Bermite and the Saugus property played an important role in the needs of the U.S. military during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict. For example, the most widely used air-to-air missile in the West, Raytheon's AIM-9 Sidewinder, started production in 1953 at China Lake and used a Hercules/Bermite MK-36 solid-fuel rocket engine that would have been tested and manufactured at the Saugus plant.

Bermite was a major employer and contributed to the development of Newhall in 1939 with a row of 50 2-bedroom bungalows along Walnut Street for factory workers. During and after World War II it was also a major employer of women.

In the postwar period, Bermite's subsidiary, Golden State Fireworks, was testing and manufacturing fireworks on the property.

Whittaker Corp. purchased Bermite Powder Co. and took over the property in 1967, operating it through 1987 as a munitions manufacturing, testing and storage facility. Among Whittaker-Bermite's products were ammunition rounds; detonators, fuzes and boosters; flares and signal cartridges; glow plugs, tracers and pyrophoric pellets; igniters, ignition compositions and explosive bolts; power charges; rocket motors and gas generators; and missile main charges.

The munitions and fireworks operations left more than 275 known contaminants behind, some of which percolated into the groundwater below the property.

Starting in about 1986, the operations would be exposed to steadly harsher environmental scrutiny over the next several years. "In 1987, the facility ceased all of its manufacturing, testing and storage of ordnance and explosive items," according to DTSC. Within another two years, plans were made for the area to be developed into a 2,911-unit residential community to be called Porta Bella, which was approved by the City Council but didn't come to fruition.

Whittaker sold the Saugus property to an Arizona investor group in 1999, just before Whittaker was acquired in a hostile takeover. The property spent the first decade of the 21st Century tied up in litigation, one result of which is a long-term toxic chemical cleanup project managed by the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency.




James Jeffries 1910


James Jeffries vs. Jack Johnson 1910


Jeffries & Kipper 1907-1910


James Jeffries & L.A. Powder 1917


Jeffries Boxing Feature 1935


Jeffries Gumball Prize



Halafax (1935), Funded by Halliburton


Halafax Ad, April 1935


Halafax Ad, May 1935

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