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.
Antimony was used in kohl, or eyeliner.
In the Victorian era, arsenic was used as a face whitener; it was taken internally or applied topically. I daresay I’d blanch at the prospect of ingesting arsenic.
Beryl – the ore of beryllium which has uses in aerospace and nuclear weaponry technology. I prefer to look at the pretty crystals. This is the clear habit, also known as Goshenite. You are likely more familiar with the green variety – aka emerald.
Bismuth has unusually low toxicity for a heavy metal. It has been used as a replacement for lead due to toxicity concerns.
You most likely know chromium as the alloy in stainless steel. In our household, we know chromium as the element that was the big attraction at Reiner’s last place of work, before he was laid off. Mega tons of the stuff, but no road, and no agreement on how to fund/access the deposit.
Bonus points for those who know the name of this mineral that colours the glass blue.
A memento to honour the passing of my dear Joeyboy – a copper trinket. Copper continues to be used in the same applications as those of the early 19th century. Copper is also used for currency, although the Canadian penny has been phased out.
A wee gold crystal. Speaking of recycling: With current bullion prices as high as they are, a new niche industry of “mining” obsolete computer components for the gold content in the circuit boards has started.
When we were kids, if Dad felt that we were spending too much time in front of the boob tube, he sent us out to the sandbox. He gave us an empty pill bottle and a magnet and told us to fill the bottle with iron filings, “mined” from the sand. His strategy worked. For maybe ten minutes.
This is one of the ads that my friend shared with me. Apparently, even though the company was aware that employees on the line were suffering from exposure to lead, they continued not only to manufacture paints that included lead, they targeted kids in their advertising campaigns.
And now a brief Public Service Announcement that Mercury is Retrograde. You know the drill. Expect glitches and delays and old flames to surface.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane [shudder] This wasn’t part of my assignment, but is one of my friend’s two favourite vintage ads.
Spain Mine Molybdenite – or “moly.” For about a century after its isolation (1781), molybdenum had no industrial use, owing to its relative scarcity, difficulty extracting the pure metal, and the immaturity of appropriate metallurgical techniques. Now the metal is used as an alloy of steel and as a lubricant.
My favourite use for the metal nickel? Cheesy tourist photos at Sudbury.
This is sperrylite. a platinum arsenide from the type locality near the aforementioned Sudbury, Ontario.
Busy Cobalt Train Station ca 1920 – the carts are laden with silver bullion.
Tellurium is mined in Ontario. Judging from this snippet from Wikipedia, I assume vampires avoid this metal. Humans exposed to as little as 0.01 mg/m3 or less in air exude a foul garlic-like odor known as “tellurium breath”.
Cassiterite is the ore of tin, and one of my favourites. The devil to get a decent photo though, with its highly lustrous faces.
Tungsten is mined in the Northwest Territories. I considered part-time employment there when I was a student, but it didn’t happen.
Before it was “discovered”, uranium was once used as a pigment in glassware. These perfume decanters are examples of “vaseline glass” as it’s known in the collectible trade.
And remember, “… if it can’t be grown, it has to be mined.”
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*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: if it can't be grown it has to be mined, minerals, vintage ads