American Radium Association 1916

American Radium Association 1916

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American Radium Association 1916

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Beautifully engraved certificate from the American Radium Association issued in 1916. This historic document has an ornate border around it with a vignette of a women sewing. This item is hand signed by the Company’s Vice President and Secretary and is over 86 years old.
Certificate Vignette As early as 1904, with the increasing interest in cancer therapy, the demand for radium started to grow. Once more Joachimsthal was in the limelight, but this time radium was the star product while uranium remained an element with limited uses. The radium industry started in France under the aegis of the Curies, who refused to take out any patents, believing that to do so would be contrary to scientific ethics, especially because of the medical applications. They were not rewarded for their altruism, because international development of the new industry was characterized by extreme greed for profits and brutal competition. By 1906 radium was, due to its extremely low concentration in the ore and the many chemical steps necessary for its extraction, by far the most precious substance in the world. Its price had reached 750 000 golden francs per gram, about 10 million present day dollars. It was produced from Bohemian ore in two French factories, which enjoyed a short lived monopoly. In 1907 the Imperial Austrian government placed an embargo on the export of uranium ore and its by-products, and proceeded to build a radium factory in Joachimsthal next to the factory producing coloured uranium compounds. The Austrians expected to create a monopoly of their own, but thanks to the existing small uranium mines in Cornwall and Portugal, as well as American ore from Colorado, the French were able to stay in the radium industry. However, the First World War disrupted the industry in both countries shortly after a new producer, the United States, entered the market in 1913. By then, a total of about 20 grams of radium had been produced in France and Austria. The US industry was thus able to take over the monopoly. It was based on exploitation of the large Colorado deposits of carnotite, a low grade uranium and vanadium ore easy to process for radium. The extraction took place in Pennsylvania in a refinery belonging to the Standard Chemical Company of Pittsburgh. It put on the market about 200 grams of radium and 600 tonnes of uranium in various compounds between 1913 and 1926. The price of radium decreased from US$160 000 to US$120 000 per gram. About half this radium went to hospitals and the rest was used in luminous paint for dials. The American radium-uranium industry retained the monopoly for almost ten years before it reverted to Europe, this time to Belgium. In 1915 a prospector had discovered at Shinkolobwe in the Belgian Congo a deposit of pitchblende and other uranium minerals of a higher grade than had ever been found before anywhere in the world, and higher than any found since. The discovery was kept secret by the Belgian mining trust Union Minière du Haut Katanga which mined the rich resources of copper and cobalt in the region. After the First World War ended a factory was built at Olen near Antwerp, and the secrecy was lifted at the end of 1922 with the announcement of the production of the first gram of radium from the plant using the African pitchblende.

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