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RADIUM GIRLS & Radiolite Dial Watches.

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    Posted 7 years ago

    (291 items)

    RADIUM GIRLS & Radiolite Dial Watches.

    In 1919 R. H. Ingersoll & Bro. introduced the “Radiolite” pocket watch with a dial with the hands and numerals painted with a luminous radium coating. This made it possible to look at your watch in the dark and be able to know the time.

    People had long been experimenting with paint made from phosphorous in order to give off a glow in the darkness which would be sufficient for time reading, but phosphorus had its limitations; it must first be exposed light before it is taken into darkness, so if a watch is placed in your pocket, it would not absorb enough light in the daytime to allow it to be luminous at night.
    With the discovery of “Radium” in 1896, it was discovered that tiny quantities of a whitish powder (salt of radium), emitted rays that would pass through solid matter as light passes through glass. With Radium, the problem was solved. It was found that this amazing substance would affect certain other substances, causing them to shine for years in the darkness by means of their own light.
    Thus it became possible to develop a luminous coating which the Ingersoll’s had applied to the hands and figures of their “Radiolite” watch, and presto! The problem of telling time in the dark was mastered and available to every average person desiring one.

    And it needed to be applied to the dials. This is where the story begins about “THE RADIUM GIRLS”:
    Radium dials were almost always painted by young women, who used to 'point' their brushes by licking and shaping the bristles prior to painting the fine lines and numbers on the dials. This practice resulted in the ingestion of radium, which caused serious jawbone degeneration and malignancy and other dental diseases reminiscent of phossy jaw. The women, who had been told the paint was harmless, ingested deadly amounts of radium by licking their brushes to give them a fine point. Some also painted their fingernails and teeth with this glowing substance. The disease, radium-induced osteonecrosis, was recognized as an occupational disease in 1925 after a group of radium painters, known as the Radium Girls, from the United States Radium Corporation sued. By 1930, all dial painters stopped pointing their brushes by mouth. Stopping this practice drastically reduced the amount of radium ingested and therefore, the incidence of malignancy, to zero by 1950 among the workers who were studied.

    Pictured above, is a photo of three Radium Girls, one “pointing” her brush and the other two painting the dials. Along with the photo are two Ingersoll Radiolite pocket watches. One with a black dial with the hands & numerals painted with this radium coating and one with a white dial with the hands an hour marks painted.

    Thanks for looking,
    I'm going to have to start making shorter post, sorry!

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    1. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      Thanks for the appreciation:
    2. walksoftly walksoftly, 7 years ago
      Great post adding the photo & telling the story of the Radium Girls.
    3. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      Thanks for the appreciation:
    4. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      walksoftly, I'm glad you enjoyed the story.
    5. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      Thanks toolate2 for the appreciation.
    6. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      Thanks Alan2310 for the appreciation.
    7. EAPGDepression EAPGDepression, 7 years ago
      I loved this thank you. I read a story about a Radium girl who died from thinking it would be fun to coat her body in the substance for let's just say fresh and curious reasons. :)
    8. EAPGDepression EAPGDepression, 7 years ago
      And after examining those dials I'm going to be much more careful with the box of old watch dials I have.
    9. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      EAPGDepression, thanks for the comments. In the August 1932 copy of the Readers Digest there is an article titled, Radium, a Double-Edged Sword, condensed from the July 1932 issue of the Popular Science Monthly that talks about the results of patent medicines containing radium. Some interesting notes are: It loses half its weight in 1730 years, and almost all its potency in about 19,000 years. After one swallows radium, it eventually is deposited in the bones. If a grain of sand were split up into 100 particles, each one would be the size of a lethal dose of radium. Interesting article.
    10. pw-collector pw-collector, 7 years ago
      Thanks Kerry for the appreciation.
    11. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      Great post Dave!
    12. pw-collector pw-collector, 6 years ago
      Thanks pops52 for the appreciation.
    13. Signaholic Signaholic, 5 years ago
      Yes, I own an Ingersol Yankee Radiolite pocket watch and to think it had it's hands and numerals hand painted by one of these ladies, probably someone had to die as a result.
    14. pw-collector pw-collector, 5 years ago
      Signaholic, some of the girls signed the back of the dials they painted. I haven't removed any of the radium dials I have to check, and don't think I will.
      Thanks for the comments & appreciation.

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