I read about the discovery of radium recently. It was mentioned that the Curies purchased a load of pitchblende from which the uranium had already been extracted, which is why it was cheap enough for them to afford. Apparently, uranium was an expensive enough metal to justify search and production of it even then, long before physicists found out how to use uranium as a nuclear fuel. What was it used for? Probably scientists did some research on it, but then again the amounts needed for that were rather modest I guess. Was it a metal which was traded at a large scale but for other non-nuclear purposes?
One industrial use for uranium was in making orange dies. In the 1920s and 30s a line of dishes called Fiesta Ware was popular in the U.S. It came in four colors, one of them a vibrant orange. In consequence, plates, gravy boats, etc. are still turning up at garage sales, flea markets and the like which bear a low level of radioactivity.
Among other things, uranium gives an interesting, greenish yellow tint to glass.
This page shows (at the bottom) a couple of glass swans (flower holders) made in 1885 with “uranium glass”.
If I recollect correctly it was used for making a distinctively colored kind of glass, and also for ceramics glazes.
i read something about radioactive paint, which was used to make glow in the dark watch numerals way back in the day… and that the people who made those usually got sick and died. the reason being to paint such tiny numerals they licked the tiny brushes to keep the tips very small during painting of the watches, and they ingested a small amount of radioactive paint each day…
Yes, it’s called radium necrosis.
Yes: see Ken Tomabechi’s Uranium Glass Gallery and similar sites.
The Radium Dial Company, last located Ottawa, Illinois is what you’re referring to, Something Clever. They were previously located in Orange, New Jersey and Waterbury, Connecticut. The company was in operation through the 20’s and 30’s and Illinois is still doing environmental clean-up at the two sites the factory was located over the years it was there.
A nice history is found here http://home.earthlink.net/~rogerr6/radiumdials.htm
There’s an online account here of the Radium Girls and their lawsuit to get compensation.
Uranium… for whiter, brighter teeth