Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario


A friend who read Things that WERE Things sent me a note saying, “It’s fun to google vintage ads as the results range from ridiculous to hilarious to downright offensive.

He sent along a couple of his favorites. In response, I sent him one that I found while writing an assignment for the Mining Engineering Technician program a few years back.

And then I had a brilliant idea. I haven’t written very much lately about minerals and stuff. Why not recycle my paper as a blog post?

So, thanks, neigbhour, for the writing prompt!

Here’s the original assignment question:

Twelve (12) metals were in common use prior to the 18th Century. An additional 12 metals (including titanium) were discovered in the 18th Century. List 20 metals known to man prior to the beginning of the 19th century. Using pictures, describe and explain the use and importance of these metals then and now. Are any of the metals you listed currently being mined in Canada? If so, in which Province(s) or Territory (ies)? (20 points*)

To make this a more enjoyable experience for you, I’ll transcribe my answers into an image gallery.

And I’ll edit it heavily and take great liberties with the original. Because a.) it doesn’t really matter that you know from where in Canada these elements are mined, but more importantly, b.) the Mining Technology Course is still being offered. I don’t want to tempt current students to plagiarise. They can do their own research.



And remember, “… if it can’t be grown, it has to be mined.”

***   ***   ***

*This question was worth 20 marks out of 100. 

I worked my butt off on these assignments. I’d spend hours, and I mean HOURS, searching for just the right image to illustrate my writing. Sure, I could find a bazillion images of “diamond” say, but besides a good quality image, one with decent resolution, one without watermarks, I wanted one that “spoke” to me, one that would fit in with the overall mood of the writing.

After a particularly exhausting assignment, I did the math and realized the folly of my efforts. I dedicated 15 hours of my time to one question on one paper that was worth 0.0023% of my final grade. Not worth it!

But. Then again, it was good practice for blogging!



Categories: Mineral Collecting, Mining Heritage

Tags: , ,

35 replies

  1. Really interesting, and downright scary what used to be considered healthy… DDT????!!! Arsenic?? Lead?? I still have to scratch my head when I read on Facebook anything about Mercury being in retrograde… maybe it’s just me, but what, exactly, the flip is that?? I’m guessing cobalt for the lovely blue… do I get bonus points?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! It’s disconcerting to think that substances that we use today might one day be declared as dangerously toxic as DDT and the rest.

      Bonus points for knowing the correct mineral name for the blue and double points for being first!

      OK, Mercury retrograde: it occurs three times a year, thereabouts – it has to do with the path the planet Mercury makes as it traverses the night sky. As you watch it progress one night to the next, over a period of three months, it appears to slow down, stall, and then reverse – or go retrograde.

      All planets have a retrograde period in “real life.” In astrology, these periods have significance. I am most aware of Mercury retrograde because it occurs most often, having the shortest loop around the sun.

      During Mercury Retrograde periods, so the zodiac folks would warn you, Mercury, the guy in charge of transportation and communication, is going backward. This will influence your life, correspondingly. These periods are poor times to purchase cars or computers or to travel – at least it will be a poor time to expect anything of these things smoothly. You’ll loose your car keys, you’ll drop the toast, twice, on the way to the table, you’ll set out to go shopping and find the store is closed. That sort of thing.

      It’s not all bad – it’s supposedly a great time to finish up old projects, get those to-do lists cleared.

      It is also the time the people from your past will surface. This could be good. It could be not so good.

      That’s the theory, anyway. I use Mercury Retrograde as a great fallback excuse for any snafus.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed my education here tonight, Maggie. I’m passing this on to Moo. I knew a lot of this because of Moo, but some of that was so interesting — like beryl is emerald? — we have some blue beryl, totally out of emeralds 😛
    Vaseline glass will be Googled.
    Very familiar with the cobalt, not just cause you and Moo, but because I have a friend who LOVES it.
    Mercury retrograde starts December 3. Hopefully, we’ll be too happy-busy to notice! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! You’re back to talking about rocks. I learn so much!!

    Like Janis, I am horrified at the arsenic, lead, and DDT. Good for you?!! Really?!

    To be honest, I’m not that thrilled about the Pepto-Bismal either – low toxicity or not. Sadly, I don’t think we’ve quite learned the lesson that just because it’s a natural substance in nature that it’s good for us 😕

    … and Cobalt blue is one of my favourite colours. It’s a crappy car, but a great colour 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic! You should have gotten extra credit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d rather make pretty crystals out of bismuth, rather than drink the chalky pink stuff. I shake in my booties to think of all the stuff we now know to be toxic was used so regularly. Lead in face makeup, arsenic and DDT – and mercury in thermometers.


  6. Spending a disproportionate amount of time on something just because it challenges you is definitely not a waste of time. Blogging definitely fits into that category. Interesting stuff, Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The challenge, in the case of my mining school studies was the volume of work. The assignments of this sort were easy enough and I derived a great deal of satisfaction from the process. Problem was, I had dozens more assignments just like it, plus math and physics courses due all at the same time. So happy to have it all behind me.


  7. This was a really fun and unique post, Maggie. I made sure my wife read it because she likes all things mineral (for the healing energy of many of them), so I knew she’d appreciate your efforts here. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was cool, even though I don’t know anything about minerals or mining or even just rocks. Still…it was fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The DDT ad is tragic-hilarious (I also get that it wasn’t part of the assignment, but it makes me wonder what “tragic-hilarious” ads we’ll be embarrassed about in another 40 years.


  10. This was a fascinating stroll, Maggie. I’m amazed at how many times we have rushed to use/consume chemicals that we know so little about.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. DDT is good for me? Oh my. These images are disturbing, but kind of cool in a warped way. I appreciate you doing this, and relate to the hours you spent. Blogging is not for sissies.

    Liked by 1 person

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