1977.129 | Crushing room, Johnson Mine, Thetford Mines, QC, early 20th century

Crushing room, Johnson Mine, Thetford Mines, QC, early 20th century
1900, 20th century
Silver salts on paper
28 x 35 cm
Purchase from Ateliers Irénée
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
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Keys to History

Cobbing is sorting ore by hand and using a hammer to separate the asbestos fibre from the rock. The word cob comes from an old Norse word meaning to strike. Up until 1895, cobbing was almost always done by boys, but from then on, the youngest of them were gradually replaced by women. Women were starting to enter the work force in greater numbers all over Quebec. In 1891 women accounted for 20% of the manufacturing work force; by 1911, 27%. As their numbers in the asbestos industry increased, the English word cobbers became "gobeuses" in colloquial French.

  • What

    A brief moment of rest to pose in the middle of a 10-hour work day against the background noise of thirty-odd hammers.

  • Where

    These hammer virtuosos are in a Johnson shed at Thetford Mines (called Kingsville until 1905).

  • When

    This photo was probably taken around 1900. At the turn of the 20th century, Johnson was not the only company to employ women. Bell Asbestos had been the first Thetford mine to hire women in the summer of 1895.

  • Who

    There may have been a few girls under the age of fourteen in this shed. They were practically all under twenty-five, in any case. At the time, women worked as cobbers only until they got married. If you didn't find a husband before you turned twenty-five, you ran the risk of remaining an "old maid."