1999.347.1 | Bell Mine (?), Thetford Mines, QC, about 1910

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Bell Mine (?), Thetford Mines, QC, about 1910
About 1910, 20th century
Silver salts on paper
24.5 x 29.8 cm
Gift of Mr. Alfred Penhale Estate
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
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Keys to History

You might think that the miners of 1920 lived better than their predecessors, but that was not really the case. Between October 1915 and March 1920, wages rose from $1.75 to $4.25 a day. This increase might seem enormous, but it was less than the increase in the cost of living over the same period, as the war led to unprecedented inflation. The real income of a mine worker in 1920 was actually less than it had been in 1912. Yet earning $25.50 for a 60-hour work week, it was still possible to provide comfortably for a family of five. Harder times were yet to come.

After the First World War, the asbestos industry continued its slow shift towards mechanization. Until 1930, raw asbestos was still loaded by hand, to prevent it from being damaged by being shaken up in the bins or cars. It was not until the 1950s that the industry could really be called mechanized. By then, more workers were employed for machine maintenance than for mining and processing ore.

  • What

    A steam-powered locomotive crane, an excavator on rails, fills a car with spoil (waste earth and rock containing no asbestos).

  • Where

    This scene probably took place at the Bell mine at Thetford Mines.

  • When

    This photo could have been taken as early as 1910, the year that steam locomotive cranes were brought into the mines. It quite certainly dates from before 1922, as that was the year wooden cars began to be replaced by steel cars. Also, steam shovels with caterpillar treads started to come into common use in 1925.

  • Who

    Some locomotive cranes needed a seven-man crew: four at the controls, a fireman, an oiler and an operator.