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Title:To test by fire: The assayer in the American mining West, 1848-1920
Author(s):Spude, Robert Lester
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Spence, Clark C.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
History of Science
Abstract:Western history texts note that the assayer was essential to the discovery of new mining strikes. In his furnace he tested the prospector's ore, which if assayed high in gold or silver, caused a lively stir in the Western mining camp.
This study examines this role of assaying in the mining world. Their economic and social roles are explained here as is their involvement in late nineteenth century metallurgical discoveries, especially the cyanide process.
Assay shops were found in every major Western mining camp, where the important gold, silver, copper, and lead discoveries were made during the period 1848 to 1920. From the dry desert camps of Arizona to the arctic gold fields of Alaska, assayers moved from camp to camp, sharing in its boom--the moments of glory, then, the eventual decline. Within the geographic area are included British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, areas in reality part of the Western mining experience.
The time period 1848 to 1920 covers the obvious discovery of gold in California to the last mining rushes of the 1910s, in Nevada and the desert Southwest. When bonanza discoveries ceased and as mining was transformed from speculation to long-term operations, the role of the assay office shifted too. As the mining camp mania and speculation declined the demand for custom assay shops declined as well, but that coincided with the increased need for precise sampling and assaying in industry, which caused an even greater need for assayers (industrial chemists) who went to work for mining corporations.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Spude, Robert Lester
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI8924946
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI8924946

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