Archive for June, 2012

I was so involved cramming for a mathematics placement test, I forgot to post my photos of Death Valley’s Harmony Borax Works ruins.  Better late than never…

In 1883,  Chinese laborers were recruited from San Francisco and hauled out to the middle of scorching nowhere to the Harmony Borax Works, seduced by $1.30 a day wages (minus food and lodging, such as it was).  I can’t help wondering how much money the men actually cleared.

The work was straightforward and physically grueling:  scrape borax-containing “cottonball” off the desert floor, haul ore carts full of it up an incline, dump the contents into huge vats of boiling spring water, add the carbonated soda that would separate the suspended borax solution from the crud, pour the borax water into cooling tanks filled with metal rods, and chop the crystallized borax off the rods into bags.  These would be loaded and hauled off by twenty-mule teams across 165 miles of desert.  Work stopped when the desert air temperature reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Not for worker safety, of course; borax refuses to crystallize at those temperatures).

I think these brake pads are layers of canvas

Hmmm…dumping borax ore into boiling water in broiling desert heat.                                        Still think your job’s tough? 🙂

More money was made from borax in Death Valley than gold,
but Harmony Borax Works only lasted five years


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