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 Early Industry - Phosphates
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Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
25 Posts

Posted - 03/24/2020 :  1:18:00 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
According to a vague list I wrote once, one of my reference books must have said phosphates was an industry in the area I'd like to model. Knowing very little about phosphates, I have set out to research a bit online and see what I can learn about it, and it turns out, there is QUITE an industry behind phosphates. Here is a wonderful overview from the Smithsonian:

http://www.scientificlib.com/en/Chemistry/Literature/EduardFarber/HistoryOfPhosphorus.html

It's very interesting the ovens to make super-phosphates in the early days. Victorian England went cazy over the super-phosphate discovery. In the mid-1800's the British Royal Navy was even sent out on expeditions to find islands with rich bird dropping deposits. Peruvian guano was once especially prized and even counterfeited. Strange to think one could make a fortune selling fake Peruvian guano... I really was born in the wrong century. But I digress.

So, I couldn't find anything online regarding phosphates in northern Arkansas or southern Missouri. I will need to do more research, especially to discover whether the phosphates were collected from droppings or bone, or mined from ore. Unfortunately, the book I gleaned that tidbit in my notes from doesn't have an index and like a dummy, I didn't write page numbers on my notes. Doh!

However, I found some really interesting sites on the history of phosphate mining in South Carolina, and also several sites documenting the industry in Florida.

Phosphate ore mining in South Carolina began around 1867. The ore was primarily taken from the riverbanks of the Ashley river near Charleston and continued into the 20th century.

This link has some excellent photos:
http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/hyphosphatesindustryLowcountry2SM.pdf

http://ashleyriverhistoriccorridor.org/history/industry/

Florida is still among the leading phosphate producers in the world. Central Florida has a deposit so rich the area was named for it. Bone Valley. Here's a site with some poor quality but still interesting photos:
https://phosphatemininghistory.net/

And a few random photo previews I found with an image search. Unfortunately, the site they are from doesn't work properly.







Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
25 Posts

Posted - 03/24/2020 :  1:24:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Forgot to post the photo previews!

This is an ore washer from what I presume to be a medium sized facility. Ore was picked up as pebbles from riverbeds in the early days, as well as dug for by hand. Next came mule drawn scrapers before graduating to dragline buckets and open pit mining.



After washing the ore was laid out to dry. Some firms had drying sheds, apparently. Makes sense in Florida where it rains most days.



Edited by - Faire to Midland on 03/24/2020 1:44:50 PM
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Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
25 Posts

Posted - 03/24/2020 :  1:38:19 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

This is the ore washer in the background of the drying shed photo. Looks like a bigger operation than the washer in the other photo, or perhaps a later era? Photos are not dated, so I'm not sure.

Phosphate washer in pit #9 of Cummer Lumber Company - Newberry, Florida. Obviously a large operation.


Ore washer from pit #3 also in Newberry, FL


Another ore washer. This looks like a later era.

Edited by - Faire to Midland on 03/24/2020 1:56:48 PM
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Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
25 Posts

Posted - 03/29/2020 :  12:31:16 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Found a really comprehensive book from the era on google books:

The Phosphates of America: Where and how They Occur; how They are Mined; and What They Cost
By Francis Wyatt, 1891


https://books.google.com/books?id=NP0JAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA186&dq=phosphate+production&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwivvobpur7oAhUKV80KHfXsDpk4wgMQ6AEwBXoECAgQAg#v=onepage&q=phosphate%20production&f=false

Lots of pictures, and lots of information. I'm no chemist so much of it is way over my head, but it's nice to get a bit of an idea about complimentary processes.
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jbvb
Fireman

USA
6357 Posts

Posted - 03/29/2020 :  11:12:52 AM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I visited family then in the Lakeland, FL area a number of times in the late 1990s. Lots of dusty CSX diesel and car photos, and one sequence of a dragline on the move. But I haven't scanned the slides yet.
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Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
25 Posts

Posted - 03/30/2020 :  01:56:12 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
OK, stuff's getting real now. I'm starting to feel like a real researcher, not just a web surfer.

Perusing Google Books has borne much fruit in learning about this industry in the Ozarks. Gleanings from a book found on Google Books gave me enough info to refine my search engine query enough to find this gem:

https://www.geology.arkansas.gov/docs/pdf/publication/bulletins/bulletin-15-hickory-vlly-phosphate-dep-ind-cnty.pdf

Answered a lot of my questions in one document! In a nutshell, it seems Independence county in Arkansas was the location of the phosphates. Discovered in 1895.

"In 1902, the Arkansas Phosphate Company began the mining of phosphate rock from deposits situated on Lafferty Creek near the junction of East and West Lafferty Creek four miles southwest of Cushman in Independence County. Superphosphate fertilizer was manufactured by this company in a small plant on Lafferty Creek until the plant burned in 1904 and mining operations were suspended. A new fertilizer plant was then built in North Little Rock in 1906 and the company name was changed to the Arkansas Fertilizer Company. Phosphate mining was resumed in the Lafferty Creek area in 1906 and the rock was shipped to the North Little Rock plant until 1912 when mining was finally abandoned because of the availability of the higher grade Tennessee rock."

So, that tells me a lot of what I was wondering about. Mostly I wondered if the fertilizer was made local to the mine. Turns out, yes. For a couple of years.

So the first book I referenced above taught me a bit about the products of phosphates. After studying it a bit I realized acid phosphates were the product the prototype would have been producing. Armed with that knowledge I searched and found another book: The Manufacture of Acid Phosphate by William Henry Waggaman.
https://books.google.com/books?id=filIHESB_qAC&pg=PA23&dq=the+manufacture+of+acid+phosphate&hl=en&ppis=_c&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiS_tbbrsHoAhXVKM0KHSI4BU4QuwUwAnoECAEQBw#v=onepage&q=the%20manufacture%20of%20acid%20phosphate&f=false

Quick read and very informative without being pedantic, unlike Wyatt's book.

From that book, I realized that to manufacture fertilizer from phosphate ore a supply of sulfuric acid approximately equal to the weight of the ore is required. That's a lot of acid. So question is, where did it come from? Was it made locally or brought in? Well, what's required to make sulfuric acid? I didn't know, so a search found this book too: The manufacture of Sulphuric Acid in the United States By Arthur Edward Wells and Donald E. Fogg.
https://books.google.com/books?id=EGfhLwBk12AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=manufacture+of+sulfuric+acid&hl=en&ppis=_c&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi8s6i-scHoAhXJQc0KHY_QBrYQ6AEwBnoECAIQAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Perusing the contents page, I immediately notice this book contains a list of sulfuric acid plants in the United States as of Jan 1, 1919! That's a little bit after the time period I'm interested in, but let's have a look anyway. Lo and behold, there it is on Page 16. Arkansas Fertilizer Co (remember that name?) has a acid plant in Little Rock AR! So for sure in 1919 anyway, the fertilizer plant was making its own acid. Is it too much to assume that was part of the original plant design? I wouldn't think so. They knew they needed tons of acid from the beginning. What this does not tell me, is whether the little plant on Lafferty Creek made its own acid. Reading more in Wells and Fogg's book: "The acid being used for fertilizers is nearly all chamber acid. In the South at most plants the plant for acidulating the phosphate rock is in close proximity to or is a part of the acid plant, and little transportation is involved, the acid being pumped directly from the chambers or storage tank to the acidulating tank."

This is getting interesting now!



Edited by - Faire to Midland on 03/30/2020 01:58:49 AM
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