Now known as Ensign-Bickford Industries, Inc., the company traces its origins to 1836, when Simsbury's Richard Bacon formed a partnership with an English firm to manufacture a product called a safety fuse.
Invented by Englishman William Bickford, the safety fuse was used to detonate blackpowder in mining operations. The name of the new company was Bacon, Bickford, Eales & Company.
Until 1851, manufacture of the safety fuse took place in nearby East Weatogue. Following a fire that destroyed the factory later that year, Joseph Toy acquired control, moved operations to this site and changed the name to Toy, Bickford & Company. After Toy's death, his son-in-law Ralph Ensign formed a new partnership under the name Ensign, Bickford & Company.
The company expanded from fuse and blasting products for agriculture and mining, to develop a range of such products for use in World Wars I and II.
Community minded, the company built housing for its employees, helped establish municipal water and electricity services and provided the Hopmeadow area with fire protection until 1944. It continues to maintain an important presence in town.
Today the Ensign-Bickford Industries, Inc. compound is shared between one of its subsidiaries, Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense, and a former joint
venture partner, Dyno Nobel.