Museum logo Joseph Grant Almaden Quicksilver Martial Cottle SCCP

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Catalog number 1997.2.1630
Object Name Clipping, Newspaper
Date 1940
In a setting where sturdy pioneers once sought riches that brought fame to this vicinity, a man is making a comfortable living from waste left behind by those eager to attain speedy wealth.
The setting has long since changed, where a thriving community of some 6,000 persons once stood, only a few homes and landmarks remain of what was once Almaden.
Summer cabins dot the highway and through the quiet of the day can be heard the motor of Claude E. Watson's homemade apparatus busily at work segregating brilliant-hued cinnabar from the dump that was left behind.
It is not the first time the dump has been worked over; in fact, it is the fourth, but Watson has a new system for his work and it has already netted him some $5,000 in less than a year.
Once Watson was a truck driver. Then he got the fever to do a little prospecting and he left the state to do so. He had his eye on the old dump at Almaden for a long time and with a practical mechanical mind, Watson figured out a new method of obtaining the valuable cinnabar from apparently worthless rock in the dump.
He uses six jigs and a concentrating table to get his tailings ready for the smelter. Into the maw of the machine eventually goes four sizes of cinnabar, walnut, cherry, pea and dust. The jigs are in good working order, but the signs of home construction can be seen.
Watson explained that he had never seen anyone collect the cinnabar in this manner before, explaining that the jigs shake out the light, worthless rock and leave behind the mercury-laden ore. The concentrating table sifts the dust like a placer miner pans gold, but more efficiently.
Three men aid Watson in his work, one bringing the dump materials to the machine in a scoop drawn by two horses, while the others actually run the jigs.
Watson pointed out that the dump runs about $1.50 per ton in quicksilver and that he handles from 35 to 40 tons per day. He is expecting a raise in the price paid for quicksilver in San Francisco, the present price being $69 for a 76-pound flask.
"Of course my shipments will not equal these," Watson stated in displaying old shipping bills of the quicksilver mines, calling for payments ranging between $25,000 and $50,000, "I'm satisfied, however, and I'm making plans to move the machine over on the hillside and to enlarge it so I can handle more ore."
Watson has an indefinite lease on 15 acres of land where the old smelters of the mine stood; he has the equipment with which to get the quicksilver, and a market that will take all he can supply.
The smelter which separates the quicksilver from the cinnabar is an-other home-made contrivance. Put together of old bricks found where he is working, and ordinary mud, the smelter is different than any used in California. Watson, with an old mining friend, designed the smelter which works to perfection.
The cinnabar is heated to 570 degrees fahrenheit by an oak fire, the quicksilver then vaporizes and passes out of the smelter into a pair of condensers made from ordinary three-Inch pipe with water trickling over them.
The metal drops into buckets at the end of the pipes, black with soot and water. Wood ashes remove the soot and quicksilver is then left free and ready for shipment.
Of course, Watson has ideas for expansion, but not for going into the business on a big scale. He is satisfied to take what he can get from the old abandoned dumps. He has heard of "pools" of quicksilver in the vicinity and has sunk several shafts without results, but still he is satisfied.
He lives -with his wife in the old office building of the original quicksilver mining company where $80,000,000 worth of quicksilver passed in the old days. There he located a number of old bills of lading, court orders and a number of other relics of the pioneer days of the mine which he is keeping.

Photo Caption: Above are the home-made jigs of Claude E. Watson, former truck driver, who is now making a comfortable living working the [remainder is missing].

Joseph Salameda Is Camp Director.
Joseph Salameda has been appointed summer camp director for the Naglee-Dana School for Children. He is a San Jose State College undergraduate.

Cataloged by Boudreault, Art