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When I went off to first grade in the fall of 1955, one of the first things our teacher taught us was to tell time.  In recognition of my newly-acquired skill, I got my first watch for Christmas that year -- a Hopalong Cassidy wrist-watch, and yes, it would be worth a small fortune today if I still had it, mint condition, in the box.  But that possibility was pretty much shot after about the first thirty seconds.

Hoppy didn't last long -- drowned in a swimming accident, if I recall, his cold, dead eyes staring out from behind a fog of moisture on the inside of the crystal.  I don't think he even made it to the next Christmas.  My second watch was a marvel.  It had -- like every watch I would have for the next twenty years -- hands and numerals that glowed in the dark.  I could tell what time it was even when the lights were out.  How cool was that?

If  I'd known the history behind those glowing hands, I might not have been so enthusiastic.

One of the items in the recently-passed stimulus bill -- one that raised the ire of a number of the "spending is not stimulus" Republican critics -- was an $800 million dollar allotment to the EPA (cut to $600 million at the insistence of our aisle-crossing bipartisan trio) for cleaning up "Superfund" sites, those highly-contaminated environmental time bombs festering across our country.  Illinois has a number of Superfund sites.  The closest to me is in Ottawa, La Salle county, Illinois about 50 miles northeast of my home.  The EPA's description of the site hints at a story far darker than a few acres of contaminated soil.

The contamination probably originated from processing wastes and demolition debris from two companies that once operated within four blocks of each other near the center of Ottawa -- Radium Dial Co. during 1918-36 and Luminous Processes, Inc. (LPI), during 1937-78. Both companies used radium-based paint to produce luminous dials for clocks and watches.

The dial painting industry got its start during World War I, two decades after the discovery of radium by Marie and Pierre Curie  in 1898.  It filled a government demand for watches and instruments with luminous dials and faces so military men in the trenches could read them without turning on a light or lantern and giving away their position.  After the war, the luminous watch faces and hands became a fashion fad and kept the industry going and the dialpainting executives prosperous into the Roaring Twenties.

The Radium Dial Company employed about one thousand local women to paint dials primarily for their largest customer, the Westclox clock factory in Peru, Illinois that made the ubiquitous "Big Ben" alarm clock.  In an era with few occupations open to women, the pay at the dialpainting factories was significantly better that most alternatives -- as much as three times more -- and the factories had little trouble filling positions.  The women, many of them girls fresh out of high school, became part of a phenomenon that would become  known collectively as the "Radium Girls".

The women working in Ottawa were assured that the luminous material was safe.  Their instructor, wife of the plant manager and teacher of the lip-pointing technique, once ate the radium-laced paint from a spatula to demonstrate its innocuousness.  The workers were told by their supervisor that the radium would "put a glow in our cheeks," that "the paint would make us goodlooking,"
Claudia Clark, Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform: 1910-1935

"Lip-pointing" was a technique of using the lips or the tip of the tongue to twirl a sharp point on the brushes the girls used to hand-paint the dials and hands.  Inevitably, some amount of radium was ingested in the process.  While in some cases the company itself did not officially teach or promote lip-pointing, which was often passed on from veteran worker to newcomer, they didn't do anything to stop it, either.  And even though plentiful evidence later surfaced to indicate they knew the dangers of the substance their employees were working with, when asked they were quick to characterize radium as 'harmless', even beneficial.  The falsehoods presented to the Ottawa dialpainters were echoed elsewhere.

...In the 1920s company managers told many employees that ingesting radium would add to their vitality, curl their hair, improve their complexions, and make them sexually attractive. The dial painters thus eagerly licked their paintbrushes to give them the fine point they needed to paint the watch dials. Many also applied the radioactive substance to their rings, buttons, and belts. One man even painted his teeth to make them glow...
H. Wasserman and N. Solomon, Killing Our Own


"Radium Girls" is a term that has a dual usage.  It can refer to both the general population of clock- and watch-dial painters at several sites across the county, notably Ottawa; Orange, New Jersey; Waterbury, Connecticut; and on Long Island, New York;  but also specifically to a group of five dial-painters from the United States Radium Corporation factory in Orange, New Jersey.  It was in New Jersey that the wake of devastation being left by the dialpainting process first came to light.  

In the early 1920's, dentists near Orange, New Jersey began to notice an unusual number of patients suffering necrosis of the jaw, a deterioration of the bone in the jaw that left it porous and honeycombed, accompanied by tooth loss, and other ailments.  Between 1922 and 1924 four dialpainters died and many others were ill.  Causes of death were attributed on death certificates to phosphorous poisoning, mouth ulcers and syphilis, but suspicion was beginning to be cast on a common element in all the cases -- their employer, U. S. Radium.

By 1924 news that four employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation had died of necrosis of the jaw--a rare degenerative disease--reached the Board of Health of Orange County, New Jersey. Eight other women were seriously ill, and local dentists were reporting still more cases. But when Katherine Wiley of the National Consumers League approached the company, she was told the problem was due to poor dental hygiene.
H. Wasserman and N. Solomon, Killing Our Own

Grace Fryer worked as a dialpainter at the United States Radium Corporation factory in Orange, New Jersey from 1917 until 1920, when she left for a job as a bank teller.  In 1923 she began to experience health problems.

About two years later, [Grace Fryer's] teeth started falling out and her jaw developed a painful abscess. The hazel eyes that had charmed her friends now clouded with pain. She consulted a series of doctors, but none had seen a problem like it. X-ray photos of her mouth and back showed the development of a serious bone decay. Finally, in July 1925, one doctor suggested that the problems may have been caused by her former occupation.
Bill Kovarik,  The Radium Girls

As Grace Fryer considered what to do next, she had a seeming stroke of luck.  She was approached by a specialist from prestigious Columbia University, contacted by friends, he said, who offered to examine her.  Not only that, but there happened to be, coincidentally, a colleague available who reviewed and confirmed his findings, that Grace was in perfect health and had nothing to worry about.

...Columbia University specialist Frederick Flynn, who said he was referred by friends, asked to examine her. The results, he said, showed that her health was as good as his. A consultant who happened to be present emphatically agreed. Later, Fryer found out that this examination was part of a campaign of misinformation started by the U.S. Radium Corporation. The Columbia specialist was not licensed to practice medicine -- he was an industrial toxicologist on contract with her former employer. The colleague had no medical training either -- he was a vice president of U.S. Radium.
Bill Kovarik,  The Radium Girls

Now Grace Fryer faced an uphill battle.  As a bank teller she had limited resources for either medical treatment or legal fees, and few lawyers were willing to invest resources in what they viewed as a quixotic battle  against a major corporation unlikely to yield a favorable outcome.  In addition, in the early decades of the century, radium was viewed by many as a miracle cure for any number of ailments.

[Radium] was often seen as a scientific miracle with enormous curative powers. The "radium craze" in America, which began around 1903, familiarized the public with the word "radium."  One historian said: "The spectacular properties of this element and its envisioned uses were heralded without restraint in newspapers, magazines and books and by lecturers, poets, novelists, choreographers, bartenders, society matrons, croupiers, physicians and the United States government."  Stomach cancer could be cured, it was imagined, by drinking a radium concoction that bathed the affected parts in "liquid sunshine."  One of the medical drinks sold over the counter until 1931, "Radithor," contained enough radium to kill hundreds or possibly thousands of unsuspecting health enthusiasts who drank it regularly for several years.  An overview of newspaper and magazine articles on radium in the first decades of the 20th century found their tone strongly positive.
Bill Kovarik,  The Radium Girls

It might have ended there, and Grace Fryer might have become another anonymous victim of the  radium industry had it not been for the intercession of a formidable combination --  (gasp!) social activists and muckraking journalists.  

NOTE: In Part II, the story of the Radium Girls enters the domain of an tenacious sisterhood, popular media and eventually the courts, and weaves its way through a labyrinth of business, governmental, scientific, and institutional entanglements.  This is, I hope, Part One of two, but there are a lot of side streets and digressive detours ahead that could keep the curious occupied for a long, long time, and a lot of rooms you can step into and have the eerie feeling that you've been there before (I remember this!  Isn't this...?  Yes, the Bush administration.  But wait!  That calendar on the wall says  -- 1927! {cue "Twilight Zone" theme...})

How Regulation came to be: Radium Girls - Part II
How Regulation came to be: Radium Girls - Part III

Update 3/1/09 Fixed mis-located paragraph.

Originally posted to dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 02:11 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  But, but... (16+ / 0-)
      Companies would NEVER endanger their workers.  This is obvously just a bunch of lazy workers trying to get on the gravy train... and the governement will obviously butt in and run another business out of the country.


      good job again bro.

    •  Oh yikes, I missed one. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dsteffen, marykk, Youffraita, puffmeister

      Having read your Iroquois diary last week, I noticed this title and your login on the rescue page and knew this would be another well-told and important story. My teachers sometime in high school or junior high told us the tale of the radium dial painters. Or could it have been later... anyway, I knew the story in its two-line form, but not the details. I look forward to your continuing story, and must now also go back to check the FDA installment.

      The law in its infinite majesty forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.
      - Anatole France

      by pixxer on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 10:50:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I used to know one (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dsteffen, marykk

      of these women.

      Years ago I worked at an airport for the FBO located there (an FBO is a "fixed base operator, meaning the company that runs the joint). In our shop facility there was a radio repair station that employed a very talented woman whose name I can't recall just now. But I remember that both she and her daughter had worked with this paint - it was also popular for aircraft instruments, enabling pilots to read them in the dark.

      This was in the early eighties and both she and her daughter had to regularly get tested for radiation levels even then. I imagine she's gone now, but hearing this tale one day was my introduction to Radium Girls.

      Great diary, I look forward to the next installment.

      Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

      by Pariah Dog on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 02:57:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pariah Dog

        I might incorporate that (the testing) in the conclusion as one of the things that came about through the lawsuit and resulting regulations, if you don't mind.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.  Hope Part II will live up to expectations. pressure...  ;-)

        People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

        by dsteffen on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 03:51:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Be my guest! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          IIRC the testing was voluntary - checking for cancer most likely - but I seem to recall something about her radiation levels as well. I remember getting a chill when she started talking about this one day.

          As a kid I'd worn one of those watches you spoke of. I clearly remember the Baby Ben alarm clock beside my folk's bed. And yet I'd never heard of the dangers from those "glow-in-the-dark" dials until that day.

          Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

          by Pariah Dog on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 03:18:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  By the way (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I wanted to tell you too how much I've enjoyed all your How Regulation Came To Be diaires. I consider them a public service.

            I'm old enough to remember why we have some of these laws, but there are far too many people who look at some regulation or other and figure it's just Big Gummint interference because it was a slow day on The Hill.

            Please continue striking blows against Teh Stoopid.

            Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

            by Pariah Dog on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 03:28:36 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  tips and recs (13+ / 0-)

    for painting little stripes on the hour.

  •  I had no clue... (14+ / 0-)

    Starved Rock is one of my favorite places in this state... I didn't know it was that close to this travesty.

    "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

    by sheddhead on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 02:24:25 PM PST

    •  Production continued at Ottawa... (12+ / 0-)

      ...very late, as you can see by the dates in the EPA summary.  In the next part there will be some stuff about the Luminous Processes operation that will blow your mind (and not in a good way).

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 02:54:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I distinctly remember (6+ / 0-)

        an EPA operation to decontaminate some shop in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati in the mid 80's, that had been cordoned off and left vacant for at least 40 years because it was heavily contaminated with radium from just such an operation...but I can't find it anywhere online so far.

        Anyway, thanks for the series.

        •  There seem to have been... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...a number of smaller operations in production that never made the media and the historical accounts.  I'd guess it's because their workers didn't sue or didn't get the national publicity, or the company just settled quietly -- it probably became pretty much pro forma after a while (is that the right lawyer-ly word?).  I think there are two or three other locations I've seen mentioned either in comments to some of the articles I looked at in researching this or a comment or two downthread.

          People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

          by dsteffen on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:08:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I live in CT (19+ / 0-)

    and am very familiar with the tragic history of the radium girls at both the Waterbury Clock Company and Seth Thomas in Thomaston, CT.  I believe that there was recently an interview with one of the few remaining radium girls from CT in which she indicated that they not only had no protective gear, but were never warned of the dangers of pointing their brushes.

    Interstingly enough, one of the old factories was about to be rehabbed into condos -- the DEP stopped it temporarily because of the radium paint contamination between the floorboards.  Someone with basic common sense suggested a hepa-vac cleaning of the site, which was completely effective.

    I have a rad geek friend who still collects radium dials and watches.  Sorry to hear about your watch -- you wouldn't be affected by the radium, but you'd have a hell of a keepsake.

    You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race. - G.B. Shaw, "Misalliance"

    by gchaucer2 on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 02:25:52 PM PST

    •  Never warned of the danger (9+ / 0-)

      That seems to be a pattern that is pretty universal at all the dialpainting sites.  I've not encountered any reports of the companies doing a darn thing to protect the dialpainters.  In fact, they would deny there was any danger when confronted, as they did when the National Consumers League tried to investigate when the initial speculation of possible linkage of the early deaths to U.S. Radium surfaced.

      The scientists who worked for the company, and its executives always took great care to protect themselves around the radium -- a fact that became evidence as the plaintiffs tried to prove that the company knew of the dangers.  The dialpainters were, in the words of one of the articles linked in the diary, 'expendable'.

      I don't know if we really know where all the dialpainting sites were.  I ran into a couple of instances of readers reporting dialpainting operations elsewhere (Boston sticks out in my mind) that the researchers and authorities weren't aware of.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 03:40:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The biological effects of radiation were not (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dsteffen, marykk, pixxer

        really well known until the 1930s. Sadly, this is probably the reason that so many scientists died of cancer in the 1930s through 1950s (Marie Curie and Enrico Fermi especially come to mind). While it seems obvious to us now that licking radioactive paint is a bad thing, I don't think we can be so judgmental on early 20th century working conditions. We do so only with the knowledge that they did not have at the time. Environmental and worker protection are some of the greatest achievements of the 20th century and we should be very proud to have them. But we can't reasonably expect companies prior to these developments to have had the sensibility and knowledge that took 50 years of research (much of which is still ongoing).

        •  Oh I don't know (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          I understand what you're saying, however, some of the accounts I read of the radium girls (I used to use it as an example in my ag safety class), there apparently was a pretty good paper trail where the higher up's DID know there was a problem, but kept it quiet.  In those cases (the ford pinto syndrome) people need to go to prison for a very long time.
        •  Well, yes and no. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Maybe in the nineteen-teens you could say that people weren't aware, but by the mid-twenties the companies working with radium had a pretty good knowledge of what they had on their hands. Not the public yet, you're correct, but the management of the companies is what counts in this case.

          As I mentioned above, there was pretty clear evidence that the people running the companies were protecting themselves and their valuable employees -- the scientists, R&D people, etc.  The production workers, not so much (more like not at all).  

          U.S. Radium in particular had a report from a Harvard toxicology expert telling them flat out in no uncertain terms that they had a problem.  I think you'll find what they did with that report pretty damning.

          People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

          by dsteffen on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:18:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  How regulation came to be... (15+ / 0-)

    Great topic.  A lot of people don't understand the history and context around some things that they find onerous.  

    I used to work at a national park for textile mills.  The accident stories were horrendous.  

    Same is true for a lot of public health regulations.  People have no idea how bad it could really be.

    Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

    by mem from somerville on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 02:43:23 PM PST

    •  textile industry (12+ / 0-)

      The textile industry is definitely fodder for a host of good regulation stories.  Child labor laws , for one, owe a lot to the conditions in the mills.  And of course tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire.  I'm sure we'll be visiting the textile industry a few times before I've milked this subject for all it's worth thoroughly explored this topic.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 03:22:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Family History - Triangle Shirtwaist Co. Fire (6+ / 0-)

        I grew up with the family tale that the Triangle Shirtwasit Fire was what brought my great grandmother out of the sweatshops and into her role as an organizer for the Internaitonal Ladies Garment Workers Union.  She was a firebrand.

        (In her eighties, she lived in a Jewish nursing home that, natch, kept Kosher.  We brought her pepperoni pizza when we visited.)

        "Specialization is for insects." L. Long

        by rrouda on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 08:42:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hey, what a great history! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsteffen, marykk

          We learned about Triangle in school at a rather young age. It was so horrifying. I have always remembered it. I don't remember hearing about subsequent labor organizing, but I think there was mention of more 'rules'. Not who made them happen... of course ;)

          The law in its infinite majesty forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.
          - Anatole France

          by pixxer on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 10:56:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  "Look for the union label" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsteffen, marykk

          A commercial from back before the GOP destroyed unions, the middle class, the banks, and the total economy.

          GOP: Turning the U.S. into a banana republic since 1980

          by Youffraita on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 12:14:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Always enjoyed that commercial... (0+ / 0-)

            ...marginal production values or no.  We needed to see more of that kind of thing from the unions.

            Are there any garment workers left in the U.S. anymore?

            People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

            by dsteffen on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:22:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'll look forward to the next installment! n/t (7+ / 0-)
  •  Thank you for this (11+ / 0-)

    Every generation, or so it seems, needs to be reminded why the government safety regulations were imposed on factories and manufacturers -- for the benefit of the workers and their families.

    I look forward to next week,


    •  Thank you for reading. (7+ / 0-)

      I get so tired of listening to some of the locals b*tch about regulations -- not about any that effect them personally, mind you, but about some company or industry who they've been informed by the RWNM is being over-burdened with unspecified "unreasonable" regulations.  I've rarely encountered one that you can't track down a damn good reason for with a little googling, or just plain common sense.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 03:17:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary--thanks. (13+ / 0-)

    I grew up in Peru, IL back when the Westclox plant dominated the culture of the town. (Our family business closed the same week every summer--"Westclox vacation".)

    I remember, as a child, being horrified by the stories my dad told of the "radium girls" in Ottawa. And it's still absolutely horrifying. Thanks for telling the story.

    •  Radium Dial Co. (5+ / 0-)

      was in either La Salle or Peru briefly, I believe, early in their existence.  I'll have to dig back through some of the sources I used for this -- it's in there somewhere.  They were also in Streator for a year or so before settling in Ottawa.

      I think it was impossible for someone to grow up in central Illinois in those days without having a Westclox Big Ben alarm clock at some point.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 03:09:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Westclox vacation (6+ / 0-)

      I'm a bit south -- we were under the dictates of the "Caterpillar vacation".  Same thing.  Cat closed down for a couple of weeks, their suppliers and companies that derived their livelihoods from Cat did too, and lots of people just found it convenient to take off the same time.

      Cat's operation in the Peoria area is such a shadow of what it once was, I don't think the Cat vacation is a phenomenon like it was 40 or 50 years ago, if it exists at all.  I'm not even sure if they do that anymore.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 04:01:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A similar thing when I was growing up ... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dsteffen, marykk, puffmeister, pixxer

        ... in the mid 1950s was Strawberry Schools in the strawberry growing regions of central Florida. Small growers pulled their kids out of school mid-to-late spring to help pick the crop, so the schools just closed down for 2-3 weeks.

        But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

        by The Werewolf Prophet on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 08:53:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Here we go... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The Radium Dial Company moved from Chicago to Peru, Illinois, in
      1920, to be closer to its major customer, the Westclox Clock Company
      (Figure 4). Radium Dial did not remain long in Peru, but found a more
      appropriate site in the former township high school building in Ottawa,
      Illinois. This studio was in operation by 1922 and continued operating at that
      site until it closed in the middle 1930s. Radium Dial also opened a studio in
      Streator, Illinois, in 1925, but it closed this studio after only about nine
      months of operation.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:30:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Elgin, Illinois (5+ / 0-)

    Home of the Elgin clocks and watches, had Radium girls as well, IIRC.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 04:36:05 PM PST

    •  Thanks. I did not know that. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love, trashablanca, marykk, pixxer

      The company I worked for at the time manufactured a building a decade ago or so for a company called Elgiloy.  If I remember the story correctly, Elgin apparently developed an alloy in the course of their watch-making that turned out to be a more lucrative product than the watchmaking operation, which they apparently sold in 1964, according to a website I just looked at.  The design of the building incorporated a clock tower in the corner in recognition of the company's origins.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 04:58:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Elgin did indeed have Radium Girls (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The size of the dial industry in the 1920s can be estimated by the
      number of firms purchasing luminous compounds from the U.S. Radium
      Corporation and the Radium Chemical Company. The former claimed that
      about 120 firms bought luminous paint. Radium Chemical placed the total
      number at about 100 and stated that its major customers were Radium Dial in Ottawa, Illinois; Elgin Watch in Elgin, Illinois; Waterbury Clock in Waterbury,
      Connecticut; New Haven Clock in New Haven, Connecticut; Waltham Watch
      and Clock in Waltham, Massachusetts; and Ansonia Clock in New York City.
      The U.S. Radium Corporation plant in Orange, New Jersey, and the Radium
      Dial Company plant in Ottawa, Illinois, were by far the largest application
      plants. By the end of 1921 an estimated 28 Ci of radium had been used in
      luminous compounds for watch and clock dials, gun sights, and similar

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:33:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You know, I would have given the Radium (5+ / 0-)

    ...Dial Company a pass on much of this problem, since even scientists and doctors of the day didn't know about all the possible ill effects of radium exposure.

    But, the part about medical exam results being faked--well, now I know....

    "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

    by rfall on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 05:18:17 PM PST

  •  I remember both the radium dials on clocks and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, trashablanca, pixxer

    ...later, the luminescent dials on LCD watches--though those were done using tritium, an alpha emitter, so harmless in its encapsulation.

    I look forward to part deux.

    "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

    by rfall on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 05:20:22 PM PST

  •  Business has a long history of not caring (7+ / 0-)

    about the health and safety of workers.  Triangle SHirtwaist Fire killed dozens of women who were locked into the building so they wouldn't take unauthorized bathroom breaks. It let tot he founding of the International Garment WOrkers Union.

    This sort of unconcern is WHY unions still matter.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 08:00:01 PM PST

  •  Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, pixxer

    I love coming to DailyKos and learning about such things!

    "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    by Clytemnestra on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 08:41:36 PM PST

  •  Great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, pixxer

    Thanks.  I remember those watches, and I knew just a bit about what happened, but not the details.

  •  Documentary? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, marykk, pixxer

    I saw a documentary about this subject a number of years ago. Maybe 15?  (It was shown as part of a college film series.)  It was very disturbing.  I remember one scene in which the camera begins tight on a woman's face and slowly pulls back to reveal that her legs were shockingly enormous.)

    I just tried to find information about this film online, but couldn't.  (It's not "Radium City" nor the play "Radium Girls.")

    Anyone else remember seeing this documentary?  Got Link?

  •  Great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, marykk
    I thank you!

    War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

    by Margot on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 01:56:01 AM PST

  •  Where's Kurt's acknowledgement? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I can't remember which book, but I know that's where you learned about this.

    BTW thanks for the JRFH donation, you probably put her over the top for another cheesy plastic medal.

    Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them - T Paine

    by breezeview on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 06:31:14 AM PST

    •  Thanks. Always glad to... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      breezeview the cause of acquiring cheesy plastic medals.  

      Actually, no, I didn't learn about it from Vonnegut (or if I did I've forgotten).  After you left for Texas there quite a lot of publicity when the Ottawa site was put on the Superfund list.  I think I had maybe heard of it before, but that was my first in-depth exposure (poor choice of words, non?) to it, IIRC.

      Here we go.  Google says it's in Jailbird, which is one of the few I haven't read.

      People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages. --C. Wright Mills

      by dsteffen on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 10:36:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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