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Fluorspar Mining

Fluorspar Mining

Photos from Illinois and Kentucky, 1905-1995

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Herbert K. Russell


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
102 pages, 8.75 x 8.5, 86 illustrations

Shawnee Books


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  • Table of Contents
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Supplemental Materials

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About the Book

Winner, ISHS Best of Illinois History Award, 2019

This first-ever pictorial record of the people and methods of the Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar District from the 1900s to the 1990s covers early and modern means of extracting, hoisting, processing, and transporting the mineral from mine mouth to end user. Nearly one hundred images carefully selected by author Herbert K. Russell show early pick-and-shovel extraction and open-flame lighting as well as primitive drilling methods and transportation by barrels, buckets, barges, mule teams, and trams, in addition to the use of modern equipment and sophisticated refinement procedures such as froth flotation. Russell also provides an overview of the many industrial uses of fluorspar, from metal work by ancient Romans to the processing of uranium by scientists seeking to perfect the atomic bomb. Preserving what is known about the industry by miners, managers, and museums, this detailed and fascinating pictorial history looks both above and below ground at fluorspar mining.


Herbert K. Russell, a retired director of college relations at John A. Logan College, is a literary scholar and Illinois historian who has been a college teacher, an editor, and a writer. The author of several encyclopedia articles and books, including The State of Southern Illinois: An Illustrated History, he is the editor of Southern Illinois Coal: A Portfolio and A Southern Illinois Album: Farm Security Administration Photographs, 1936–1943.


“Until now, the story of our local miners’ tribulation and triumph in producing the strategic mineral fluorspar has been untold. Herbert K. Russell’s Fluorspar Mining is a captivating visual essay of the vital role these great men played in winning two world wars.”—Ed Clement, director, Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum
Fluorspar Mining: Photos from Illinois and Kentucky, 1905–1995 is an excellent pictorial history of one of the most important fluorspar mining regions in the world. The historical photographs and complementary text will be of interest to anyone seeking information about the mining practices or people of the Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar District.”—F. Brett Denny, associate economic geologist, Illinois State Geological Survey
“At last, author Herbert K. Russell provides a long overdue look at the former mining of fluorspar along the Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky, a largely forgotten industry. The brave miners and the machines that brought the colorful mineral to the surface come to life in the book's splendid collection of historic photos. Russell clearly illustrates that coal extraction was not the only show in Illinois’s mining world.”—Taylor Pensoneau, author of Reporting on Lifeand People along the Way