Author Topic: sulphur  (Read 10575 times)

wbgv

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sulphur
« on: December 14, 2009, 03:47:22 PM »
I've been reading on colonial gunpowder manufacture..I know that the nitrate can be extracted from animal wastes,but where did they get the sulphur?
« Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 11:52:13 PM by ChuckBurrows »

Offline blackdave

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2009, 06:18:05 PM »
There are natural sulphur deposits in the desert regions which are at or near the surface.  It is an old traded item but highly hazardous to those who mined it.

By the way, I get mine at Wal-Green Pharmacy - the Pharmacist ordered it for me under the old name of flowers of sulphur - I use it to make fire spalls - an old method of transferring flame from char to fire - dates back to the period of Christ.

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Offline T*O*F

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2009, 06:35:44 PM »
Quote
There are natural sulphur deposits in the desert regions
There are no deserts in colonial America.
Dave Kanger

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Offline Dphariss

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2009, 06:59:25 PM »
Quote
There are natural sulphur deposits in the desert regions
There are no deserts in colonial America.

Technicalities, technicalities. Heh! Heh!

I don't think there was much sulfur in Colonial America.
They would have had to import I think.
But don't take my word for it.
Dan
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Online LynnC

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2009, 07:12:38 PM »
I thought sulfur was Brim Stone, like that found around volcanoes - OOPS, no colonial volcanoes either  :o
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Offline Rolf

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2009, 07:59:26 PM »
If you google sulfur deposits in USA, you'll find several sites referring to sulfur extraction from fossilized salt domes. I guess that where they got it. One of the sites says "Vast subterranean deposits are found in the U.S. in many parts of Louisiana and Texas, as well as in Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, and California."
http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=223350

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« Last Edit: December 14, 2009, 08:08:11 PM by Rolfkt »

Offline SCLoyalist

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2009, 08:27:15 PM »
The book "Arms Makers of Colonial America" says in colonial times:  "Sulfur was found naturally and purified by sublimation."     I think sulfur is pretty common in various compounds.    Seems like any place that has smelly sulfur water might have potential as a source of sulfur by processing other mineral deposits  found in the area.

Another possibility is some powder may have been made using an alternative recipe to the charcoal,sulfur,saltpeter standard.   Ive seen recipes for a workable gunpowder made from sugar, saltpeter, and iron oxide.   

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2009, 10:36:19 PM »
Sulphur was imported to America in the late 18th and early 19th century--I think it came from Spain and France during the Rev War but I don't know where they got it. Although there are some sulphur springs in the east it wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that the sources along the gulf coast became readily available.
Gary
« Last Edit: December 14, 2009, 10:37:55 PM by flintriflesmith »
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Dean D.

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2009, 11:03:13 PM »
Just a thought.  Many iron and lead bearing minerals contain sulfer, Iron Pyrite and Galena are both sulfide ores.  During the smelting process sulfur forms in the smelter chimney as a sublimate.  While small in quantity it could be used to make gunpowder with further refining.

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2009, 12:40:19 AM »
Just a thought.  Many iron and lead bearing minerals contain sulfer, Iron Pyrite and Galena are both sulfide ores.  During the smelting process sulfur forms in the smelter chimney as a sublimate.  While small in quantity it could be used to make gunpowder with further refining.
True but 18th-century iron makers sought out low sulfur ores because there was no easy to remove it from the iron. High sulfur iron is hard to forge.

Along most of the east coast and as far west as the mountains it was either bog ore or hematite in the colonial period.
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dannybb55

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2009, 04:03:14 AM »
Quote
There are natural sulphur deposits in the desert regions
There are no deserts in colonial America.
[/quote
 It seemed awful dry in Lincoln County New Mexico and that place was traversed by colonists before Jamestown.

Dean D.

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2009, 04:11:20 AM »
True but 18th-century iron makers sought out low sulfur ores because there was no easy to remove it from the iron. High sulfur iron is hard to forge.

Along most of the east coast and as far west as the mountains it was either bog ore or hematite in the colonial period.

I do agree with you, bog iron and hematite are much easier to process with their available technology.  I guess I meant to point out that they had sulfur available if they knew how to retrieve it.  An interesting and possibly germane topic in our times.

Offline TPH

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2009, 05:35:40 PM »
Don't forget the MANY sulfur springs in western Virginia. Maybe not a good source, but....
T.P. Hern

Offline G-Man

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2009, 06:54:32 PM »
There was pyrite mining in Virginia after the Civil War as a source of sulfur - there is a narrow band of rocks that contain it running across the state - but I do not know how early it started.  Pyrite was found in Virginia by the earliest English settlers - apparently the natives crushed it and used it for pigments.  But as Gary said, I've not seen a colonial period reference to it being used to make gunpowder.
 
I have read of sulfur being imported from the Caribbean in colonial times (lots of volcanism in that region).

There are lots of sulfur springs and salt springs with sulfur content along the flanks of the Appalachians and through the Ohio Valley, I believe a lot of it is actually in the form of hydrogen sulfide gas so I don' think many of these springs could yield enough sulfur in a form that could be used for gunpowder. Some might though - hence the references others have pointed out to sublimation.  In Foxfire 5 I recall a writeup on making gunpowder but I don't know if there are any references to how the old timers got their sulfur.  There are numerous references to powder being in short supply at the frontier stations and people risking their lives to bring it in from the east.  There are lots of refernces to making salt at these springs, but no mention I've seen of trying to collect sulfur.

Guy
« Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 07:06:46 PM by Guy Montfort »

Willy

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2009, 07:25:43 PM »
 Not much gunpowder at least reliable quality gunpowder was made in North America during the 18Th century,or even early 19Th century.Most was imported from Europe.The French and Spain to some extent provided most of the powder during the Revolution.Even as late as the Civil War gunpowder production was challenging in many areas,especially the South.Much was still being imported and the Blockade had a great impact.
A major source of sulphur mines were in Sicily and eastern Europe,places of volcanic activity.There are now sulfur mines in the US,but such places were largely unknown earlier.
            Regards,
                 Willy

Pvt. Lon Grifle

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2009, 11:46:02 PM »
The South  (The Confederacy) produced all the powder it needed for the war effort and then some in a purpose built  powder manufactory in Augusta, Georgia, very early in the war.  It was destroyed during the Union occupation  afterwards, along with its machinery so that the south would never again have source of powder in quantity. The remains are still where, though unrestored.   

Union testing showed that the mill produced better powder more consistently than did the  powder manufacturers supplying the North.   

Lon 


Willy

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2009, 02:31:42 AM »
 Yes,the CSA indeed produced tremendous quantities of quality gunpowder.The sulphur was eventually going to be a problem,since it was removed form Louisiana where the  sulphur was used in the sugar industry.Virtually all the sulphur in North America was imported from Europe.
        Regards,
               Willy

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2009, 05:36:21 AM »
I've been reading on colonial gunpowder manufacture..I know that the nitrate can be extracted from animal wastes,but where did they get the sulphur?

During the time in question most of the sulfur of commerce came out of Italy.

Daryl

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2009, 05:51:13 PM »
Not much gunpowder at least reliable quality gunpowder was made in North America during the 18Th century,or even early 19Th century.Most was imported from Europe.The French and Spain to some extent provided most of the powder during the Revolution.Even as late as the Civil War gunpowder production was challenging in many areas,especially the South.Much was still being imported and the Blockade had a great impact.
A major source of sulphur mines were in Sicily and eastern Europe,places of volcanic activity.There are now sulfur mines in the US,but such places were largely unknown earlier.
            Regards,
                 Willy

Interesting- back in the 80's I read somewhere that American DeadShot, which blew up in 1898 produced powder only second best to C&H #6. the 3 pounds of American DeadShot I shot off was the most accurate, cleanest burning powder I've ever used.  It was wonderfully clean, no dust, sharp hard angular grains of powder.  It certainly was superior compared to what was available to us then, or now, even though it might have been inferior to some back in it's hayday.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 10:56:25 PM by Daryl »

Offline Dphariss

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2009, 08:09:36 PM »
There were several pretty darned good powders made in America. None of them by DuPont as I recall ::) C&H Diamond Grain was tops but I suspect not by much.
American's Dead Shot
Hazzard's Kentucky Rifle
Both these being very good powders
Orange Extra by Laflin and Rand had a following too.

All it really takes is the desire of the powder maker to make a really good powder get the materials and then spend the time to do it.

Dan
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Offline T.C.Albert

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2009, 10:11:05 PM »
Some powder seems to have been made here even during the heat of the revolution, but where the sulfur was obtained I dont know.

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« Last Edit: December 21, 2009, 10:12:26 PM by T.C.Albert »
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JohnnyM

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Re: sulphur
« Reply #21 on: January 07, 2010, 08:09:15 PM »
According to my research, gunpowder and its individual components were a scarce commodity throughout colonial America and the AWI with the vast majority being imported.  During the revolution, France, Netherlands and Spain supplied the Americans with gunpowder, saltpetre, and sulphur via shell corporations set up by Ben Franklin and others and shipped to the West Indies where smugglers brought to America.  Great Britain obtained most of its sulphur from India (which it controlled through the East India Co after the F&I War).  France got most of its sulphur from Sicily (a lot of volcanic activity).  France had the best quality blackpowder in the world at the time thanks to Lavosier's manufacturing refinements.

Bunker Hill (Breed's Hill) battle was fought over the American's cache of 80,000 lbs of gunpowder and was ultimately  the deciding factor in the Rebels loss (lack of gunpowder - "Don't shoot 'till you see the whites of their eyes") though it was a pyrhic victory for the Redcoats.

The Continental Congress was very aware of the American's lack of gunpowder manufacturing and raw materials and Patriot printing presses printed fliers on how to make gunpowder and where to obtain the raw materials.  Charcoal was pretty easy considering the vast forests, saltpeter was mined from bird roosts in the wild and from church steeples  as well as collected from human urine.  Suplhur it seems was the most difficult coming mostly from local sulphur springs and distillation of the water

Even after the war, to encourage domestic gunpowder production, Congress (with Sec Treas A. Hamilton's suggestion) placed a 10 percent tax on imported gunpowder but exempted the duty on the import of saltpeter and sulphur.