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Wired: 1920

Wired: 1920

"Interior Department, Bureau of Mines." Another circa 1920 view of research activities at the bureau's Washington offices. Harris & Ewing. View full size.


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Precious metal assay

This is what is happening here....

"The invention describes a method for determining the assay of gold alloy. It utilizes a dynamic electrochemical process. The specimen gold is wetted by a described electrolyte, and a small current anodizes the surface of the specimen for a metered period of time. A potential sensing device is then applied to the charged surface, and a potential decay is observed. The potential decay information is compared with empirical data and by interpolating said potential decay with the empirical data a determination of the karat quality of the gold alloy may be determined. This same method may be used for other precious metals, employing different electrolytes, empirical standards, and potentiometers."


Sheesh, why don't people wear eyeshades in the office anymore? So cool! Whatever happened to them? Kinda like hats? Always there and then one day just gone? Can we bring them back? Please?


With all the wires and big tank of water it looks like an electroplating experiment in process.


I'm a mechanical engineer and have been around research laboratories most of my life. It's fun trying to figure out what he's up to. I would guess the tub of water is a constant-temperature bath for the cylindrical vessels. It has a thermometer poked in it. The vessels have lids, with wire penetrations, for closure before submersion. The long rods and motors are probably for stirring the submerged vessel contents also through the lids. They might be combusting something in the vessels and then measuring the time-changing temperature with thermocouples. However, I don't see a thermocouple potentiometer. Maybe they're somehow using what look like resistor boxes on the researcher's desk. Research can be messy as this photo aptly demonstrates. With the water and electricity so intertwined, it looks like an acident waiting to happen.


"Don't you dare explode while the photog's here!"

Reminds me of one of my first jobs.

It was a kitchen where the only way to change the bulb in the light fixture was to actually stand IN the sink. If it blew during business hours, there was no turning the breaker off because that would plunge the dining room into darkness as well.

Yeah, I know, we have laws to prevent that sort of thing, but they're pretty meaningless in small towns where people are desperate for any job they can get to keep a roof over their heads.


That looks like a fire waiting to happen. It also sort of looks like PVC tubing in there. I wonder what the white pipes are made of? They are too thin and smooth to be covered in asbestos.

[Galvanized steel electrical conduit -- Crouse-Hinds "Condulet." - Dave]

Electricity. Water. Scared.

Where's OSHA when you really need them?


No tie-wraps? What a mess.

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