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Views of the Borax Industry, ca. 1898-ca. 1915
BANC PIC 1905.17174--PIC  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Background
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Views of the Borax Industry,
    Date: ca. 1898-ca. 1915
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 1905.17174--PIC
    Creator: Pacific Coast Borax Company
    Extent: 49 photographic prints ; 20 x 25 cm. 49 digital objects
    Repository: The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is available for use.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
    Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Views of the borax industry, ca. 1898-ca. 1915, BANC PIC 1905.17174--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Digital Representations Available

    Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Digital image files were prepared from selected Library originals by the Library Photographic Service. Library originals were copied onto 35mm color transparency film; the film was scanned and transferred to Kodak Photo CD (by Custom Process); and the Photo CD files were color-corrected and saved in JFIF (JPEG) format for use as viewing files.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information



    The Pacific Coast Borax Company was founded in 1890 by Francis Marion Smith, who created the company from an amalgamation of several holdings and mine sites in Death Valley, California, and Nevada, and other sites along the Nevada-California border. The company mined for colemanite - a type of borax which was borate of lime. Colemanite contains a higher boron oxide content than other types of borax, a material found in crystal form which is used to work and weld gold. Boron products can also be used in glass manufacturing and as a plant nutrient.
    In 1889, a New York office of the Pacific Coast Borax Company was opened, run by J. W. Mather and his son, Stephen, who opened a Chicago office as well. The Mathers were deemed responsible for the use of the "20 Mule Team" as the trademark of the Pacific Coast Borax Company. Francis Marion Smith went to England in 1896 and discovered an English food preservative company which used borax and boric acid. Smith soon signed an agreement with the English company creating The Pacific Borax and Redwood's Chemical Works, Ltd., in which the Pacific Coast Borax Company agreed to sell all its assets to the new organization. The company created a factory in the New York area which proved successful as a liaison between London and the California and Nevada sites.
    In 1899, Borax Consolidated, Limited was created in order to search for other sources of raw material besides those in California, and to expand the foreign refining operations. The new company had absorbed Pacific Borax and Redwood's Chemical Works. The company continued expanding operations in the southwestern United States with the construction of railroads, which began replacing the 20 Mule Teams. Improved production methods kept prices down and introduced a great variety of borate materials to the market. In 1915 the company acquired the site of the present refinery, at Wilmington, California.
    ( Source: Woodman, Ruth C. The Story of the Pacific Coast Borax Co. Compiled by Ruth C. Woodman ; designed by Ann Rosener. [Los Angeles]: Borax Consolidated Limited, 1951.)

    Scope and Content

    This collection consists of 49 photographic prints of views of the borax industry in California and New Jersey, ca. 1898-ca. 1915. The photographers are unknown. The photographs were probably produced or commissioned by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The cover and printed captions which are included with the photographs were apparently part of an album which was disbound. Included are images of activities and facilities of the Pacific Coast Borax Co., various "20 Mule Team Borax" products, the Bayonne refinery (interiors and exteriors) in New Jersey, lab procedures, equipment, and women working in the packing room. Also included are views of the company's mine in Death Valley, California, borax miners, and 20 mule teams transporting the borax products. Typewritten captions are pasted below the photographs and are reprinted in the container listing.