MP-0000.25.587 | Asbestos mine, Thetford Mines, QC, about 1918

Photograph, glass lantern slide
Asbestos mine, Thetford Mines, QC, about 1918
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1918, 20th century
Silver salts and transparent ink on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 10 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Industry (942) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

The first steam-driven mechanical shovels used in asbestos pits date back to 1906. Since they moved on tracks, they could also be used with locomotives. The steam shovel was used as a winch to move the wooden bins that were loaded by hand. Once loaded, the bins were placed on platforms and hauled by locomotive to the entrance of a tunnel leading up to the surface. The platforms were then hoisted using a powerful electric winch much stronger than the steam-powered models. Enormous quantities of rock and waste built up near pits, changing the landscape forever. Even today, visitors are amazed at the huge heaps, which are quite logically proportional to the size of the pits.

  • What

    The use of steam locomotives and steam shovels marked another stage in the mechanization of asbestos mining, but did not necessarily mean that the cable cranes were totally abandoned. Some companies, like King, kept them going for several more years.

  • Where

    This is definitely the Bell Asbestos pit in Thetford Mines.

  • When

    According to historian Marc Vallières, this picture dates from 1918. At least, that is what it says on a black-and-white copy in his book Des mines et des hommes.

  • Who

    In 1906 the Bell Asbestos mine became the property of the American company Keasbey & Mattison, of Pennsylvania. The company also processed asbestos, achieving vertical integration.