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PLATINUM: ONE OF THE NOBLEST OF METALS"
BY RICHARD HOADLEY TINGLEY
OR centuries gold has stood for value. From the beginnings of history to the present time, with the exception of food, the glittering yellow metal has been more sought after than any commodity in the entire category of human desire. Wars have been fought for its possession; innumerable lives have been lost in its pursuit; honor has been sacrificed for it; and the lure is still as compelling as in the days of Solomon, Pizarro, or Bret Harte.
But platinum is worth more than five times as much as gold, although Solomon, Pizarro, and the California Fortyniners and Klondike-rushers knew it not. Indeed, nobody knew it, for its value was negligible until modern metallurgy and chemistry discovered its use fulness in the arts, till the war demonstrated it to be indispensable in the manufacture of modern munitions, and until fashion set its stamp of approval on this metal in competition with gold as a perfect setting for precious stones.
In the young days of the New World gold-crazed Spaniards, gold-crazed Portuguese, Hollanders, and Englishmen embarked on expedition after expedition in search of the "Golden One." Their heroism and hardihood almost beggars description. Tradition had it that, deep in the Andean mountains, was the "Golden City"-the seat of the opulent Peruvian Government of the Incas. Fantastic and romantic stories fanned the flame of the imaginative mind of the gold-crazed men who were ready and willing to believe anything of the incredible gold hoard of the famous mythical city-this El Dorado.
Although the "Golden City" was never found, the Spaniards obtained much gold, and they found platinum also. Not knowing what else to do with the latter,
Courtesy of Sr. Arcesio Penagos, of Buenaventura, Colombia
PLATINUM NUGGET FOUND IN THE CHOCO DISTRICT, COLOMBIA Natural size of the nugget; one of the largest ever found on this side of the Atlantic. It weighs about one and three-quarter pounds and is worth at to-day's prices about $1,890. A similar nugget weighing slightly more was stolen from the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1913, where it was on exhibition. It was never recovered and has probably been melted down and sold. The world's largest platinum nugget was found in the Ural Mountains and is said to have weighed eighteen pounds
they threw it away, calling it a nuisance. For centuries natives and aliens who have washed out the sands of the Atrato, the San Juan, and other Colombian and Peruvian rivers for gold have thrown back the platinum as worthless. They, too, called it a nuisance.
The modern picture thrown upon the screen shows bands of explorers in the valleys and beds of the same rivers where once the Spaniards sought in vain for the source of all gold; but they are searching for platinum now, and the gold which is always found in connection with its associate is of secondary consequence. Other remote parts of the earth also are being intensively searched for platinum-Alaska; the beds of the
rivers flowing into the Pacific in Oregon and northern California; in Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Tasmania, New South Wales, and Canada. But the laborious placer pan-washing methods of olden days have been supplanted and the precious metal is now mined by big steel dredges with immense buckets that scoop up the bottoms of the rivers known to contain platinum-virgin platinum nuggets that have been swept down from the "mother lode" that is "somewhere" up in the mountains. Unlike the case of gold, however, no "mother lode" of platinum has yet been found and worked.
What is it that started these big dredges at work digging up the bottoms of the Colombian and other rivers for platinum? It is this. The world's supply is threatened. Russia, up to the beginning of the war, furnished ninetyfive per cent of it from deposits in the beds of the rivers flowing down from the Ural Mountains. The war and the anarchy which followed closed this source of supply. Colombia came next as a producer of platinum, and big speculation turned its attention to this premier source.
A short generation has seen platinum emerge from the neglected class of metals of lesser value into the lime-light of prominence. One of the two "noblest of metals" it is now called by Dr. George F. Kunz, of Tiffany's, who is an authority on the subject. It has supplanted its consort, gold, on the throne of popularity in some respects because of its high intrinsic value as a metal. Gold, however, for the mere reason of its being the money standard of the
world will continue to dispute the aspirations of its new rival.and will do so successfully so long as gold and money are inseparably associated.
A hundred years ago platinum was worth but half the present price of silver. By the beginning of the present century the price had advanced by very slow degrees to $14 an ounce, and it is within the last decade that it has reached the level of its associate, gold, in price-$20.67 an ounce. Since that time, however, its price advance has been spectacular, mounting as high as $170 an ounce during the war. At the present time it is worth about $115.
The uses of platinum are innumerable. It is valuable in making sulphuric acid nd is an essential in the manufacture
of explosives-indeed, modern warfare would be impossible without a certain amount of this metal in making guns, nitrogen, pyrometers, and other war material. This is why Uncle Sam found it necessary to call upon his patriotic citizens during the war to turn in their platinum jewelry and other ornaments -a call to which enthusiastic response was made. Lightning-rod tips are made of platinum, and for the coloring of pottery and in the manufacture of certain photographic papers and for the preservation of standards of measurements it is the only metal usable and reliable. In the archives of France there is a carefully guarded standard meter preserved in a bar of platinum. A meter is just one-ten-millionth part of the earth's
quadrant measured at the equator, and its determination was made with the greatest of care by Don Antonio de Ulloa in Ecuador early in the eighteenth century. The meter, according to this standard, is that universally adopted. It matters not, so the story goes, that it has long since been found out that Señor de Ulloa made a mistake in his calculations-his meter stands, just the
Platinum may be made into the hardest or the most ductile of metals. Combined with ten or twenty per cent of iridium it is the hardest. It is said that one cubic inch of platinum can be drawn to such fineness that a single web of the wire would extend twice around the earth! Platinum is one of the heaviest things in nature, being passed only by iridium, with which that metal is always associated, and by tungsten and molybdenum. Associated with platinum are nearly always found palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium, all precious metals, although the volume of platinum always predominates.
Platinum jewelry began to make its appearance about twenty-five or thirty years ago, when it was discovered that the color and luster of a diamond were materially improved when set in this white metal. As such settings grew in popular favor and as jewelers and refiners learned the art of handling platinum and of hardening it by an alloy of iridium, its use began to spread into the broader field of jewelry of all kinds and designs and into the manufacture of small ornaments and trinkets.
Platinum jewelry carries on its face a guaranty of genuineness and that it has been hand-wrought in that it cannot readily be cast, like gold. This gives it a mark of distinction, and there is no known metal which imparts the appearance of quality as well as platinum. It carries the stamp of "class" on its face. Platinum jewelry will retain its chaste and virgin look indefinitely and it does not oxidize or discolor, like gold, which will tarnish in time. With the proper admixture of iridium platinum forms a metal of such intense hardness and toughness that gossamer webs, scarcely visible to the naked eye, can be drawn from it and subjected to rough usage without serious injury. For this reason the most intricate designs may be carried out in jewelry by the use of an astonishingly small amount of platinum, which fact largely overcomes its high cost per weight.
The statement has frequently been made that the use of platinum in jewelry is a fad-a fad because it is high in price-and it has been pointed out that so long as it was cheap the beau monde had little use for it. This statement is vehemently denied by most jewelers. Almost with one voice they declare that the platinum fashion is here on its merits and not because the metal is rare or expensive, strongly asserting that it will stay and increase in popularity. One jeweler was heard to
say when discussing the relative merits of the two "noble" metals: "Recall the parade of nurses in their spotless white gowns and hats as they marched down Fifth Avenue when the war was on; then visualize, if you can, the effect had all these women been gowned and hatted in yellow, and you will have the difference between platinum and gold."
Among other uses to which platinum has been put in the past, it has served as a basis for money. It has also figured conspicuously as a base for counterfeit gold coins of various denominations and values in many lands. This was at times when the price was below that of the yellow metal. Some of these counterfeit coins are still extant in' museums. A hundred years ago rubles of platinum were coined and circulated in Russia, but when the intrinsic worth of the metal in the ruble became more valuable than the face value of the coin itself these pieces were gradually retired to the melting-pot.
In view of the varied uses to which platinum now lends itself, it is to be
wondered at that the chemists and metallurgists of Europe were so slow in appreciating its value, for it was not until the eighteenth century that it seems to have attracted any attention. This was when de Ulloa visited what is now Colombia. Ages ago, SO the archæologists tell us, the aborigines of South America-the Incas and their predecessors-worked the metal into ornaments for their priests and kings. In the Museum of Natural History in New York there is a collection of platinum jewels and ornaments taken from tombs in Ecuador supposed to be not less than two thousand years old. But the art of working the metal was lost and not rediscovered till three hundred years after Pizarro's time, and another hundred years elapsed before it was recognized as having unusual qualities, and not until the World War descended upon us did scientists become fully acquainted with it.
What is the future of this remarkable metal? Nobody has any exact knowledge of what is going on inside the do
main of Lenine and Trotsky. may, and there may not, be large quantities of platinum stored in that country awaiting a favorable opportunity to strengthen its position with the outside world by using it as a trading base; in deed, it has been recently stated on a semblance of authority that Soviet Rus sia is about to begin again the coinage of platinum rubles and to adopt that metal as its money standard. The fact remains, however, that the world produces to-day but about twenty per cent of the platinum of pre-war times, and it is pointed out that under the best of conditions Russia cannot again enter the field in a large way for several years -indeed, it was well known even before the war that the existing Ural deposits were becoming depleted.
So long as fashion demands platinum and until some adequate substitute is discovered for its use in the arts a supply must be found "somewhere," and the situation clearly points to Colombiaknown before the war to be the second largest producer, now the largest.
THE ST. LAWRENCE VALLEY
HE wealth of the Indies was the objective of Columbus and the early explorers in their search for a westward passage to the Orient.
The Portuguese navigator Antonio Galvao in 1550, in the belief that no channelway existed between the Atlantic and Pacific, recommended that an isthmian canal be built-the precursor of the present Panama Canal.
Hernando de Soto in 1541, or possibly de Pineda in 1519, discovered the Mississippi; Jacques Cartier in 1534 discovered the St. Lawrence, and reported to his master, Francis I, "It is the greatest river that ever has been."
These two great rivers have their sources close to each other near the head of Lake Superior. The Mississippi flows southward through the Great Plains and empties into the Gulf of Mexico; the St. Lawrence, the broadest and deepest river on the continent, flows from its source by way of the Great Lakes, down the valley of the St. Law rence in a volume of a quarter million cubic feet each second, to the northern Atlantic, a distance of more than two thousand miles.
The Rocky Mountains to the west, the Laurentians to the north, and the Appalachian ranges from Alabama curving north and eastward to Nova Scotia, form the sides of a great trough which runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence by way of the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence Valley.
Robert Cavelier de La Salle, in quest of a passage to China in 1669, voyaged
BY GILBERT H. GILBERT
180 miles from Montreal up the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, thence across the lakes to the foot of Lake Michigan, and southward by the Ohio and Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, thus establishing the connection between the discoveries of De Soto in the South with the discoveries of Père Marquette, Joliet, des Groseilliers, Radisson, and the other explorers in the North, whose names are still preserved in the nomenclature of the localities and waters about the Great Lakes.
The discovery and establishment of water routes from the ocean by way of the Mississippi and by the St. Lawrence with the rich midland areas about the Great Lakes brought with them a recognition that the potential natural wealth of the vast territory tributary to the lakes was far greater and more real than the fabled riches of El Dorado or the Great Khan. Trading posts were established at the site of Duluth in 1678 by the Sieur de Luht, at the site of Detroit in 1701 by Cadillac, and throughout the region of the lakes and St. Lawrence by the contemporaries and successors of these pioneers.
To-day these regions are productive of greater wealth from manufactures, mines, and agriculture than any other region in the world.
The Panama Canal provides passageway to the East for vessels of the largest type, but the vastly greater trade and commerce of the tributary areas of the lakes still remains landlocked to vessels of a size that could profitably engage in ocean carriage. The tonnage passing
through the Panama Canal is not onetenth of the volume of tonnage passing in and out of the ports of the lakes and the St. Lawrence.
Of the white population of this hemisphere more than one-half inhabit New England and the States and provinces that border on or are tributary to the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence Valley. Two-thirds of the railway tonnage of North America is carried in this region. Iron, coal, and grain are the essential elements of the material predominance of a nation; eighty-five per cent of the iron, seventy per cent of the coal reserve, and seventy-five per cent of the grain are of the resources of this region, and copper, zinc, lead, timber, pork, and wool are of its main products.
The manufactures and distribution of the products of the United States have resulted in a commerce that excels the total international commerce of the rest of the world. The industries produced $63,000,000,000 of wealth in 1920, three times that of 1910 and five times that of 1900. The Nation's business has outrun its transportation facilities; the transport of an ever-increasing volume of products must be provided for if development is to continue.
Transportation is a link in the chain of costs from producer to consumer. It is an economic maxim that "The total cost is the cost of production plus the cost of transportation."
Judge Gary stated, in commenting on the business of United States Steel for 1921: "Railroad transportation, on the basis of existing rate conditions, a
THE WATER-FRONT AT MONTREAL-"THERE WAS A GREATER VOLUME OF GRAIN SHIPPED OUT OF MONTREAL LAST SEASON THAN THE COMBINED GRAIN SHIPMENTS OUT OF ALL OTHER ATLANTIC PORTS"
ages, in the case of subsidiary companies, forty per cent of the cost of producing steel." If the average cost of transport on the Nation's business of $63,000,000,000 in 1920 was forty per cent, the consumer would have paid more than $25,000,000,000 for transportation.
The commerce tributary to the lakes, under existing conditions, is under the economic handicap of long hauls and great transportation costs when competing for foreign or seaboard trade. The geographical situation of the lakes in the midland of the continent, the great extent of shore-line adapted to ports of accumulation for the vast agricultural and industrial production, and the depth of water in the lakes are a combination of natural conditions conformable to the most efficient employment of large freight vessels, the most economical known means of transportation. The greatest economies can be realized in navigation on through freights-that is, where bulk is not broken from the port of loading to destination.
These conditions cannot be realized in the commerce of the Great Lakes until the deep-water .way, the New Welland Canal, now being constructed by the Canadian Government between the upper lakes and Lake Ontario, is completed and the deep-water way down the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic is developed. This development in its simplest form consists in the deepening and widening of the six canals of the present St. Lawrence system. These canals are from one to fourteen miles in length; their combined length is less than forty-five miles.
The cost of ocean freights averages one-tenth of the cost of rail freights, or in the approximate proportion of one mill to one cent per ton mile.
The augmentation in the cost of transport where bulk is broken and cargo transferred between terminals is emphasized in the shipment of wheat from the lakes by way of the New York State Barge Canal to New York en route to
1 In elevator. 2 On barges.
In addition to the New York State
By reason of the shorter and cheaper haul down the St. Lawrence there was a greater volume of grain shipped out of Montreal last season than the combined grain shipments out of all other Atlantic ports.
The locks of the New Welland Canal, now being constructed and well advanced towards completion, are seven in number and capable of locking vessels of very much greater capacity than the present lake vessels of 15,000 tons over the difference of elevation of 330 feet between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario at Niagara Falls. When this canal
becomes operative, there will remain but 110 miles separating the deep-water navigation of the lakes from ocean navigation at Montreal. Within this distance there remains to be enlarged and deepened from fourteen feet to thirty feet but 45 miles of canal, a simple and straightforward process along lines familiar to engineers on the St. Lawrence for more than one generation. This undertaking, in its engineering features and in the volume of excavation, when compared to that of Panama, is a minor project.
The average width of the Panama Canal is three times as great, and some of the cuts, as in excavating through the continental divide at Culebra, are more than 300 feet deep.
New York is about one thousand miles south of Central Europe, our main foreign market. The St. Lawrence River and Gulf are in the direction of the shortest possible sea lane to Central Europe.
The average rate of travel of an ocean or lake freighter is 250 miles a day. The average travel of a freight car is 30 miles a day. The average cost of ocean freights is but one-tenth of the charge for rail haul. The rates of freighting the bulk cargoes, for which lake vessels are especially designed, are less than seventy per cent of the cost of ocean carriage.
In modern water carriage size means cheapness, the transport of a given weight of cargo in a single vessel being cheaper than in two vessels of half the size. The concentration of carrying power affects economies in officers and crews, their wages, provisions, and accommodation space, and size makes for economy in ship-building. If two steamers of 2,500 tons each were to cost for both, say, $500,000, one vessel of 6,000 tons could be built for that price, and for double of the cost of a 6,000-ton vessel a 14,000-ton to 15,000-ton vessel could be built.
It is the navigable depths of channels that is the controlling factor in the em
ployment of the most economical and
The market will always select the cheapest route for trade; the ports themselves are but the points of collection and distribution of the markets or industrial centers, and their position is determined by this economic relation.1
There are but two States having ports on the lakes and on the Atlantic: New York, though not a great producer of raw materials, is the greatest manufacturing State in the Union; and Pennsylvania, the second in volume of manufactures, whose main industry is the conversion of the iron ore of Lake Superior into steel, made commercially practicable by the economies of water carriage. Montreal is the head of ocean navigation on the St. Lawrence and is the Canadian metropolis.
New York is the greatest port in America, and is the port of distribution for more than half of the sea-borne commerce of the United States; Montreal is the second port in America. These two ports are the main points for the collection and distribution abroad of the products from the region of the Great Lakes.
In the fall of 1919 the Canadian Gov-
and to formulate plans and estimate the
Two hundred and seventy million dol-
From the head of the Galops, the first rapid on the St. Lawrence, to Montreal is about 110 miles; the proposed works are virtually all within this distance.
The general scheme is, starting from Montreal and going up the river, to deepen the present Lachine Canal with some variation from the present line. This canal is 81⁄2 miles long and passes the forty-five feet of drop in the Lachine Rapids.
From the head of these rapids Lake St. Louis runs eighteen miles to the entrance of the Soulanges Canal. This canal passes in the fourteen miles of its length the Cascades, Cedars, Split Rock, and Coteau Rapids; the difference in elevation over this series of rapids is 84 feet, and it has the greatest potential horse-power on the river. It is proposed to build an entirely new canal past these rapids.
The foregoing data on shipping are from the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Lake St. Francis runs from the head of these rapids to the foot of the Cornwall Canal, a distance of 30 miles.
The Cornwall Canal is 11 miles long and passes the 48 feet of drop in the Longue Saulte. It is proposed to develop about 1,500,000 horse-power through the construction of great dams at and above these rapids. These dams will back the water of the river up for about twenty miles to the Rapide Plat, where it is proposed to build another series of great dams, to back the river up above it to about the level of Lake Ontario, and to serve as regulating works to govern the level of that lake.
The impression in the public mind is that this international power and navigation development will flood out all the rapids of the river and leave great placid pools between the dams. This is far from the conditions that will obtain.
The main rapids of the St. Lawrence are the Lachine, the Coteau-Cascade series, and the Longue Saulte; the proposed development will not lessen the turbulence of these rapids or shorten the length of canals required, about 34 miles, to carry navigation past these rapids. The effect will be to drown out the two minor rapids, the Rapide Plat and the Galops, and the canals around them and to develop 1,500,000 horsepower.
If the present canals were deepened to 30 feet and no dams built or power developed, the cost would probably be less than half of that of the more elaborate scheme with its great structures and the great cost of their installation.
The urgent need is a means of transporting the great volume of Western products to the markets of the world and
the substitution of the economies of water carriage for the tenfold cost of transportation by rail.
The development of water power is not an urgent need in Canada. There is more water power available on the St. Lawrence, the Ottawa, and from the runoff of the Laurentians than there are
industries to use it; the population is less than ten per cent of the population of the United States.
In connection with the negotiation relative to a treaty governing the international aspect of the proposed deepwater way and power development, the Canadian Government, in response to a communication from the Secretary of State, replied: "It would not appear to be expedient to deal with the matter at the present time."
The proponents of the project state that the present high cost of transportation of Western products is an avoidable and unnecessary tax and bounty exacted from the producer.
The opponents of the project state that the whole scheme is chimerical and impracticable by reason of the short season of navigation, ice in the Gulf, and fog, and that the cost will run into prohibitive figures; and they also put forward other deep-water way projects that will maintain commerce in its present channels.
The climatic conditions obtaining on the lower St. Lawrence are not more severe than the conditions about Lake Superior, where over 100,000,000 tons are passed through the Saulte Ste. Marie Canal each season; when the St. Law. rence deep-water way is developed, there will not be a more restricted or difficult section for navigation on the route than the present passageway between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Any climatic restrictions that would apply to the proposed deep-water way apply with equal force to the present conditions on the lakes and to the barge canals and to the port of Montreal-the second port in America in volume of tonnage.
It is to be expected that those ports or States whose present commerce and trade may be deranged or diverted by the proposed trade route will be strenuously opposed to the project, and the seemingly great economic advantages that will accrue to the country as a whole should be weighed against these disadvantages.