Posted 7 years ago
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.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE, RADIUM CAN BE DANGERIOUS!!!
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!