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truth is just about every subject under the sun is covered by cigarette cards. Neck ties are covered, door knockers are covered, lighthouses get a set and things perhaps even stranger also, many of them appear on this website.

In 1916 Wills produced a set Mining 50 cards. There are not many sets of cards dedicated to this subject so clearly the fact that vast numbers of people being employed in an industry was not enough for cards to be produced about it. It might be the fact you would have to go some to do a better job at producing the set than Wills did.

To my mind though there was plenty of scope for diversification on the theme as this set deals with Mining as it was at the turn of the century about the globe. Still this is not about what might have been but rather what was.

Mining had developed since its first attempts in prehistory and the Bronze Age but these advancements had only gone to make the business more hazardous. More men working deeper underground was the basic idea.

Cumberland is a clue if you know your pencil names.

The early Bronze age is sometimes called the Copper age and card 11 of this set represents Copper mining. It shows Rio Tinto in Spain where calcination heaps are burning in the open air to remove water, sulphur and other impurities. I bet that was a nice atmosphere to work in.

In time the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron age and a number of cards relate the mining of iron. Card 25 describes the vast open cast methods of extraction which were going on in the Urals, Russia. A network of terraces allowed the horse drawn carts to bring the iron ore up to ground level.

As you have come to expect from Franklyn Cards no money is spared for in-depth research and 'Paint Your Wagon' was part of the arduous work done for this one. Remember the bit when Clint Eastwood's original partner is being buried and Lee Marvin takes on the role of preacher. As the 'mourners' shuffle their feet it becomes increasingly clear there is gold in that thar' grave. Up went came the body and in went the mourners including the preacher. Well it actually happened almost verbatim in Carson Creek.
The lack of women was also something of a problem and there are some great stories about efforts made to ship women into these communities. I leave it to you to find out about the efforts of the ex-matron of Sing Sing, Mrs Farnham and Miss Pellet who failed by varying degrees to solve the problem.

The annual output of pig iron from the Urals was nearly a million tons which represented a fifth of Russia iron output at the time. Card 26 shows Iron Ore coming out of a mine in Sweden. Turns out Iron ore was one of the most important of Swedish industries in 1912 when more than seven million tons of ore was mined which made some 700,000 tons of pig iron.

Card 27 and Lake Superior seems to be the equivalent in the US where the card notes the iron ore lies close enough to the surface to be worked by the modern wonder, the steam shovel. This monstrous work of engineering weighed 92 tons cost £1900 ($3000) and load wagons at a rate of 647 tons an hour. The card also notes US mines extracted iron ore worth 120 million dollars. The card shows the steam shovel doing its thing.

Leaping forward in time we get to pre-industrial Britain.

The Middle of the 17th century saw pit ponies going into the mines to help drag the coal out and card number 8 of the series shows a pit pony pulling coal out of the mines in 1916.

It notes that up to 30 ponies are used in a pit and are stabled down there as to bring them up and down the pit shaft would be something of a waste of time. They therefore spend their entire lives in darkness but the card reassures us that they seem to thrive and are well cared for. I do not doubt they were relatively well cared for but the thriving bit seems to be pushing the limits of my credibility.

Another card tells us of the technique called 'Holing' which is basically digging under the base of the coal seam prior to blasting. Not a job I would be keen to do as another card explains sometimes blasting was not necessary as the coal might well fall under its own weight.

Fine as long as you were not digging underneath it at the time. Of course plenty of people ended up dying that way and in many other dreadful ways within coal mines over the years.

A number of the cards relate to the coal mining industry which is hardly a surprise given it was a quite massive employer within the United Kingdom and the fact we needed coal to make our world work. The set is fairly restrained though as it could easily have produced 50 cards on the workings of a coal mine without any difficulty. Instead it goes for a more global perspective.

Coal and Steel ensured Britain got a head start in the industrial revolution stakes which ensured we got a head start on the ruling the world stakes also. The set also shows the mining of oil the next great power source of development.

Card 33 shows the Russian Oil field of Baku and the following card illustrates the sea based S.California oil fields. In 1912 the Baku field produced 7.5 million tons of oil, which made it one the largest oil producing areas of the world.

By contrast the S.California field had about 200 derricks at the time producing about 200 barrels of oil according to the card with the sort of numbers that always ring alarm bells of suspicion. It does not oil had to be brought carefully as mixing oil and water was not considered clever back then either. These get in the set because they were the first off-shore oil wells in the world.

Texas was a huge producer of oil, in 1901 the discovery well in the Spindletop field increased US oil production by 50% and world production by 20% overnight, be impressed. By 1902 there were some 400 oil wells in the Spindletop field.

Where there is oil there is usually gas and card 35 shows what can happen with this sort of combination. An oil field on fire in Texas. Oil field fires are pretty grim today, imagine wooden drilling derricks pulling oil out of the ground so close together you could almost touch one from the other. The best method of combating the fire was to blast steam at it, starving it of oxygen.

We all accept the importance of oil, and to a lesser extent coal, in the modern world but we forget just how important salt was for so long. Card 43 shows the Salt Mines in Northwich Cheshire (UK). Some of these mines were vast complexes covering 40 acres with rock salt cut out in up to 16 foot seams. The roof was kept from crashing down by leaving pillars of salt which was a pretty common method of going about things.

Now if someone had burst into this house half an hour ago and exclaimed they had found plumbago deposits under the house I am not entirely sure what I would have done. Shifted uncomfortably hoping the lunatic would finally give the game away and tell me what it was I imagine. If I had to act upon this information I suppose the stock answer would be 'Call an expert in.'

Well if they burst through the door now I am ready.

Yes, it does say Ringers in the corner. No I've not got it wrong.

It might happen to you if you live in New York or Pennsylvania as there are Plumbago deposits there apparently (if they do, say, 'Leave it there' Its low grade stuff by all accounts). It is more likely to happen if you live in Sri-Lanka (Ceylon on this card of course) in which case say, 'Get digging lads.' Its high grade stuff. In the UK though we have basically exhausted our Plumbago but it used to be mined extensively in Cumberland.

Cumberland is a clue if you know your pencil names. Plumbago is graphite, used in the manufacture of crucibles, black-lead pencils and lubricants and as a polishing agent. The card does not mention it but it seems its principal use now is as a facing for sand moulds in foundries to give a smooth finish to castings.

If someone had run in and told me the other carbon form, diamonds had been discovered under the house I would not have needed a second thought, I would be digging for Britain by now. A good many cards are dedicated to the mining of diamonds.

The cards deal with the S.African diamond mines and the creation of De Beers (in 1907 De Beers mines produced 78 million pounds sterling, card 14). Quite how much good has come of diamond mining over the years must be open to question and not one I am going to even attempt to answer.

Here is a fact not on the back of the card but did you know 400 tons of copper can be pulled through a diamond die making a strand of wire thin enough to circle the globe 20 times before the die shows sign of wear. Many other cards deal with other precious and semi-precious stones buried deep in the ground. Rather like someone being famous for being famous these things seem to be expensive because they are expensive.

Gold gets even more of a mention and if it was not enough for S.Africa to be blighted by diamond mines they have to have gold mines as well. Card 19 tells us 39 millions sterling was pulled out of S.African soil in 1912.

The cartoon image of mining gold in lumps the size of your head is soon dispelled on card 21 (mind you if anyone has got a head the size of the 'Welcome nugget' better get off to a doctors unless that happen to be an elephant, 176 pounds of pure gold.). It shows a Stamp Battery in S.Africa. Gold is hidden in small quantities throughout the ore and has to be pounded out of it and this is what the factory does.

Some of the stamps weighed over 1000 pounds and delivered between 30 to 100 blows per minute (even a boxing judge couldn't miss that sort of work rate). A mill would have 240 stamps and it notes it was a pretty noisy place to work. I should think it was a pretty noisy place to live within a mile of.

Details from Card 18
Mount Morgan Mine, Queensland
The story of Mount Morgan is a most romantic one. In 1882 two brothers named Morgan, both experienced mines, visited a poor selector named Gordon, and noticing signs of mineral wealth on his land induced him to sell then the property for £1 per acre. The Morgans soon found that they had acquired one of the richest spots on earth, for Mount Morgan proved to be actually a hill of gold, and for some years was the largest gold mine in the world.

Card 18 proves there was always something romantic about gold. Hands up who thought the story might have been a little more romantic than it turned out to be. Gold Rushes were pretty common indeed and caused all manner of problems and legends (the Klondyke appears on card 23).

Australia has got diamonds, it has got gold and card 46 tells us about its Silver deposits at Broken Hill. The find was so amazing the original outcrop was mistaken for tin. In 1885 the Broken Hill Propriety Company was floated and the card informs us that between 1885 and 1905 dividends to the value of 12 million sterling. Makes internet shares look pretty feeble and nobody woke up one day to discover they had shares in a company that had never made a cent profit.

If you thought gold was expensive check out Platinum (cards 36, 37) found in Russia. Card 36 tells us it is useful for tipping writing pens as well as uses in jewellery.

Britain seems to be remarkably devoid of anything worth digging out of the ground in the modern sense, we cannot even be bothered to dig the coal out of the ground anymore.

The set is suggesting Australians cannot dig their back gardens without finding, diamonds gold silver and all manner of other goodies and we cannot even find plumbago anymore. Still fear not, live in Cornwall and tin is a possibility ass is China Clay (card 2) We will never be without pots or a surface for writing paper it seems whilst there is china clay in them thar hills.

For those that have everything you might like to consider the Edwards Ringer & Bigg set, 'Mining' (1925) apart from the fact it was issued 9 years after the Wills set it is exactly the same set as Wills. Oh yes the Ed. Ringer & Bigg set is twice as expensive. I knew there was some reason I was mentioning it.

Mining is a pretty dangerous occupation as can readily be understood but card 39 really is something for the really determined. Again found in England it is found in Cornwall and was discovered by Professor and Mme. Pierre Curie some 20 years previous to this set being produced.

Yes, Radium. The card shows people happily mining it, they are all wearing flat caps though, presumably an early precaution against hair loss. The card describes it as a 'valuable and mysterious metal'.

Mind you if you think we are badly off Canada gets a mention because of its open cast Asbestos works. I am sure this is something the world could not be without. Still in 1915 there were more important things to be thinking out than Asbestos poisoning. I know I would rather be taking gold dust home than asbestos dust when all said and done.

So there you have it Wills have come up trumps again with a darn fine set of cards, dig 'em out if you can or alternatively drop me a line, Franklyn Cards perhaps the richest seam of cigarette cards in the world.