The story goes that a Benedictine monk, named Basil Valentine, who lived about the time of Luther, at Erfurt, and was fond of scientific researches, gave metallic powders to some hogs, the effect of which was to purge them thoroughly and then to fatten them. He wrote a book called the " Triumphant Chariot of Antimony," in which occurs the following curious passage: "Let men know that antimony not only purgeth gold, cleaneth and frees it from every peregrine matter, and from all other metals, but also (by a power innate in itself) effects the same in man and beasts. If a farmer purpose in himself to keep up and fatten any of his cattle—as for example, a hog—two or three days before let him give to the swine a convenient dose of crude antimony, about half a drachm, mixed with his food, that by it he may be purged; through which purgative he will not only acquire an appetite to his meat, but the sooner increase and be fattened. And if any swine labor with a disease about his liver, antimony causeth it to be dried up and expelled." In the kindness of his heart, Valentine thought what a good thing it would be to give some of this fattening powder to his fasting brethren. Unfortunately for the success of the theory, all who partook of it died; hereupon the poisonous mineral was called anti-moine, or antimony—destructive to monks. There is pr toably rnoie fancy than fact in this nar- rative ; but as it serves to enliven the tedkim of a lecture m this metal, it will no doubt retain its place in our books, and be told to all future generations as a capital joke upon Valentine. The compounds of antimony were known to the most ancient races, and it was Used by the women of the East chiefly fo? staining the upper and under edges of the eyelids, so as to increase the apparent size of the eye. It is said of Jezebel that she " put her eyes in sulphuret of antimony," as the passage literally means, when Jehu came to Jezreel ; and the ancktit Greeks called the ore broad eye, from this custom. The alchemists entertained great hopes of the new metefl. As they called the acid that could dissolve gold aqua-regia, er royal water, so they named antimony regulus, or little kmg, because it so easily attacks and renders brittle, and thus destroys gold. It was also called the wolf among metals, on account of this property f devouring the harmless lambs of the flock. Although the compounds were so long known, the metal itself was not prepared until about the same time as Columbus .discovered America. There is something interesting in this coincidence, as the narrative of the great navigator's exploits would have reached but a small portion of the inhabitants of the globe, if it had not been for the invention of movable types, made from antimony and lead, with which to print the story. And to cite another freak of invention, we will state that the shafts of the steamships that cross the ocean, rest in bearings largely made of antimony—and thits commerce and letters owe a great debt to this metal. We sometimes find antimony in a pure state directly upon the surface of the earth, but this would be too good fortune i to be lasting, and in actual mining very little is obtained from such a source. We meet with it in combination with arseailfe —in fact, the two metals, arsenic and antimony, appear t have a great affection for each other, and are often found together. Their habits are very muili alike, and they are HI* - tually enemies of mankind, as they are violent poisons. The principal ore of antimony is a suphide called stibnite, and from this it is chiefly made. The ore is roasted, and afterward fused with potash and charcoal; and sometimes purified by being dissolved in acid, and precipitated by water, and again fused so as to produce what is, eveu to the present day, called the regulus of antimony. The metal is very brilliant, highly crystalline, and can be pulverized the same as a mineral; from which it can be inferred that we cannot draw it out into tubes or wires, or hammer it into sheets, as we can copper and many other metals. It has a specific gravity of 6-7, and a cubic foot of it weighs about four hundred and twenty pounds. ItmeJts at a low temperature, and when it solidifies from fusion, it expands a little, the same as ice, and takes a perfect copy of a mold. This latter property enables us to employ it in the manufacture of type and music metal. We cannot employ antimony alone for this purpose, as it is too brittle, so we sometimes melt lead, and at other times tin with it. In different countries they use different metals to alloy with antimony to make types. Some English types were found to contain about sixty-nine parts of lead, nineteen and a half of antimony, nine of tin, and the balance of copper. Other specimens have recently been made of seventy-five parts of tin and twenty-five parts of antimony. The manufacturers of types have secrets of their own, which they naturally do not wish to divulge, a great point being to have the faces hard, the impression sharp, and then to be able to cast the very smallest type. There is a peculiar kind of antimony made by means of the galvanic battery, which explodes like gunpowder when it is touched with aredhot iron. It is even not safe to scratch it with a file for fear of serious consequences. Fortunately, this form of the metal is not commonly met with in the arts, or dealers in the article would be exposed to much danger. Compounds of antimony are used in the manufacture of certain kinds of metals without phosphorus, but the explosive metal has no application for this purpose. Antimony has been employed to impart hardness to iron, but as manganese is preferable, it is not very popular for this purpose. It is also used with copper and zinc to make brass, where a particular quality of that alloy is required. When we wish to make a pure transparent, colorless gloss, we sometimes use a little antimony. A very curious fact has recently been observed by Parkinson, that when antimony is combined with ten per cent of metallic magnesium, an alloy is formed which will aotually deliquesce and melt away to water in the air. No uses have been suggested for this alloy, but it is worthy of note in the "behavior of two metals. An iron-black powder, used for bronzing plaster casts, papier-mache figurej, and imparting a steel color to those and other similar objects, is finely divided antimony, produced by precipitation with zinc. The beauty and permanence of antimos\y w 'jb.e air suggests its use as a suitable coating for the protection of other metals, such as iron and copper. The butter of antimony is dissolved in alcohol, and clarified with a little muriatic acid, and the bright copper surface is plnnged into it for half an hour. It becomes coated with a beautiful bright film of antimony, which adheres strongly, and does not alter in the air. Copper-wire coated in this way can be bent without destroying the thin film. We can make a powerful galvanic battery by employing antimony at one of the poles, instead of gas carbon. Amalgamated zinc in dilute sulphuric acid is used at one end, a massive block of antimony, immersed in a saturated solution of equal parts of common salt and epsom salts, at the other. This forms a simple, cheap, and powerful battery, suitable for electro-plating. In England, the best Britannia-ware contains antimony, and the English government harden their bullets and shot with it. As an anti-friction metal, for the bearings of machinery, for the packing of railroad axles, it is now largely employed. A beautiful carmine red color, and a fine yellow, are prepared from its compounds. In medicine, tartar emetic, which is partly composed of antimony, is well-known, and for a hundred years no substance has been the occasion of greater controversies, or more extravagant expectations as a remedy in all cases of sickness, than antimony. It was even necessary, at one time, for the government of Prance to prohibit its use, so great was the excess in its prescription. Notwithstanding the numerous uses to which this metal is applied, there are not more than one thousand tuns of it produced every year. We have thus sketched a majority of the popular applications of antimony, and may have beguiled our readers into acquiring information which they did not possess before. It is worthy of note, that the cosmetic which was a favorite of the " broad-eyed" woman of ancient Greece, has not ceased to retain its supremacy in modern times, and the medicine that fattened hogs at the time of Valentine, is now prescribed by the veterinary surgeon as a panacea for the ills of horse-flesh. In fact, antimony plays an important role in the ordimary affairs of life, for we drink our tea, shoot our enemies, cure our horses, cross the ocean, travel on the railroad, paint our pictures (not to say our faces), sing our songs, strike a light, harden our steel, coat our copper, purify our glass, jprint our books, telegraph our messages, and use as a medecine this wonderful metal.—Professor 0. A. Joy in tlw New World. Carbolic Acid as a Preservative Agent. The- Amntran Kuturab t Bn ntjs Severn] correpocdentB %hd hVO d-1 d rjneionrt jdr)g Hint iKilmf turJi very small amount of carbolic acid (say aBee or four drops of acid to 2 oz. of glycerin) answers By for some delicate animals. But the best thing foft'ving most animals is alcohol. The contraction offlft put into alcohol (complained of by some corresponB caused by the alcohol being too strong. All animalrKie put into weak alcohol at first (not over 25 or 30 peinl after remaining a few hours should be transferredHt 75 or 80 per cent alcohol. A very fine article for Ho the tissues of animals, and for soft animals like Bkactinias, worms, insects, larvae, etc., can be made, m experiments, of glycerin, a little of the strongR, and a very small portion of carbolic acid. ThKion will preserve the colors as well as the tissues. TKine soap (white castile is the bpst) put into alcohol wiBBPevent most colors from fading, unless exposed to direct sunlight, Experiments on Heavy Ordnance. The following conclusions, deduced from experiments on heavy ordnance, are given in the Report of the Ordnance Committee, presented to the Senate February 15,1869 : 1. That no more heavy guns should be purchased for mount- I ing in the fortifications or use on shipboard until such improvements are made in methods of fabrication as will insure more reliable endurance than has heretofore been exhibited. 2. That the Rodman system of gun making, while partially-successful in smooth bores and small calibers, has so far failed in rifles of large caliber as to show it to be unworthy of further confidence. Recent improvements in defensive works and armor plating render heavy rifled guns the most efficient means of attack, and na system of fabrication which does not furnish such guns should be adopted or continued. The principle of initial tension, which is the basis of the Rodman system, appears to be of doubtful utility, as applied by General Rodman, especially for rifled guns. This tension, it is admitted, gradually disappears from the gun with age, and in time is entirely lost. 3. That guns cast solid, in the manner practiced in the navy under the direction of Rear-Admiral Dahlgren, while exhibiting satisfactory endurance as smooth bores with small charges and hollow projectiles, have not the requisite strength for rifles of large caliber. This mode of casting seems to be defective in principle, as the tensions inaugurated in cooling have a tendency to aid the powder to rupture the gun. 4. That experiments should be at once conducted for the purpose of ascertaining the real cause of the bursting of heavy guns, and of determining upon some method of fabrication that will secure uniform endurance. 5. That every encouragement should be given to inventors, and a full and fair trial accorded to all devices offered to the Government that promise a solution of the ordnance problem. 6. That more efficient means for harbor defense should be adopted. The latp war demonstrated that sand was the best material for defensive works, and that forts of masonry, such as we liave now mainly to rely upon for the protection of our seaboard cities, are inefficient to prevent the passage of armored, or even wooden vessels. The destruction of such defenses is only a question of time to ordinary guns of heavy caliber. It was also demonstrated that forts alone, of whatever character, cannot resist the entrance to harbors of powerfully armed ships if the preponderance of guns on the assailing fleet is sufficient. In the opinion of the committee, obstructions must be largely relied upon for harbor defense, in connection with properly constructed fortifications. 7. That no officer of the army or navy should be allowed to receive a patent for any article required, or likely to be required, for use in those branches of the public service, or to be in any way interested in the manufacture or procurement of such articles. It should be the duty of Congress to recognize in suitable rewards the services of such officers as might make inventions of especial value to the Government. 8. That the Ordnance Department of the army can be entirely abolished with great advantage as to economy, and without detriment to the good of the service. The duties now performed by officers of that corps could be performed by officers detailed from the artillery service, under the direction of a chief stationed at Washington. In this manner the whole expense of the ordnance establishment would be saved, and artillery officers, who have not only scientific training, but practical experience, would have a voice in the selection of the guns and ammunition they are required to use. The committee are of the opinion that, for the reasons shown, the interests of the public service demand a change in the system of procuring ordnance and ordnance stores, and the manner of conducting experiments with a view to determining the value of the same. The present system has failed to answer the purpose for which it was designed, and the United States is in the position to-day of a nation having a vast coast line to defend, and a large navy, without a single rifled gun of large caliber, and a corps of ordnance officers who have thus far failed to discover a remedy for the failure of the guns, or to master the rudiments of the science in which they have been trained at the public expense. The importance of an immediate change is shown by the fact that the Chief of Ordnance of the army asks for appropriations to purchase over 1,900 guns to arm the forts, not of a new and better system to be decided upon after more thorough and careful experiment, but of a kind that eipefisnee has shown to be inferior in range and penetration to the guns of foreign powers, and unreliable as to endurance. tt Hi proposed that 88 of fhrt-e JJMIB Khali bb toK)o*h hofft ntJim unitW, iOt* IS iv (tiUbx M.cHOO'i )" '.U.fi I Tj ? ;.(? Mill ') t't r t jt, * !" ()? tl '! Mi 1 #, t ) i 1,1 , i i) j)t jj .! ijii f mil i it ,, , f : To return to smooth bores, throwing huge spherical masses of iron with low velocities, is to disregard all modern progress in the science of gunnery, and to go back to the arms in use two centuries ago. Furthermore, the advisability of using guns of such great size is very doubtful, for the slowness with which they be handled and fired makes them less effective than smaller guns delivering a more rapid fire. Two hundred of the guns required it is proposed shall be Rodman 12-in. rifles, notwithstanding all of that class of guns heretofore I procured for the army or navy, and subjected to test, have I either burst disastrously before the lowest reasonable test has been completed, or have given such indications of failing, after a few rounds, as to be onsidered unsafe. It is proposed also to purchase 610 10-in. Rodman rifles, although the committee cannot learn that any gun of this class has ever been subjected to test in this country, except the Parrott rifles of that caliber, which are acknowledged failures, having been condemned by both branches of the service. No progress toward obtaining better guns is likely to be made while the ordnance bureaus are organized as at present; and the committee deem the best way to secure such impartially conducted experiments as will determine with certainty what are the best arms, and to insure greater economy and regard for the public interests in their purchase and adoption, is in the formation of a mixed ordnance commission composed of officers of high character detailed from both the army and navy, who shall have no interest in patents OR devices for arms. How the Florida Keys were Formed. Just outside the lower extremity of Florida are a number of islands—the easternmost almost touching the main-land, while the western lie a little farther off. In consequence of this peculiarity in their disposition, the space left between these islands and the Florida coast, marked on the map as mud flats, is broad and open at the western outlet, but almost close toward the east. It is important to remember the form of this broad intervening space, stretching between the keys and the main-land, because the narrower and more shallow end may easily be filled up with sand, mud, etc. If you will look at the map, you will see, by the flats at the eastern end of this once open channel, that such a process is actually going on. In fact, a current sets toward the channel, drifting into it sand, mud, and debris of all sorts. I hope to show you how these flats, gradually consolidated into dry land, will at last make a bridge between the islands and the lower extremity of Florida, uniting them solidly together, so that the former will ceage to be islands and will become a part of the main-land. Indeed, we shall find that Florida, herself, so far as her structure is known, is only a succession of such rows of islands as now lie outside her southern shore, united together by flats exactly like th tf*. assAitfUatmg at this moment between the present islands and (lie coast. These islands are called the Keys of Florida, and are distinguished from one another by a variety of appellations, such as Sand Key, Key West, Indian Key, Long Key, and the like. They are of various sizes ; some —like Key West, for instance—are large, inhabited islands, planted with fruit and flower gardens, where cocoanuts and other palms, orange trees, and bananas grow in great luxuriance, while others are mere barren rocks, scarcely rising above the surface of the ocean, washed over by the waves, and wholly destitute of verdure. Suppose now that in fancy we sail out from the keys on their seaward side, choosing a bright, calm day when the surface of the ocean is still. The waters of that region are always remarkably clear; and under such influences of sky and atmosphere they are so transparent that the bottom may be seen at a considerable depth, distinct as a picture under glass. Sailing southward to a distance of some four or five miles from the keys.we find ourselves in the neighborhood of a rocky wall rising from the ocean bottom. As we approach it, if we look over the side of the boat, we shall see that we are passing over a floating shrubbery, a branching growth, spreading in every direction, its lighter portions swaying gently with the movement of the sea. It is not green, like land shrubbery, but has a variety of soft, bright hues, purple, rosy, amethyst, yellow, brown, and orange. If circumstances are favorable, and the water crystal-clear, as it sometimes is, we shall have glimpses of bright-colored fishes swimming in and out amid this tangled thicket; or here and there we may discern a variety of sea-anemones, their soft feathery fringes fully expanded. This wonderful growth, over which we have imagined ourselves to be sailing, is the top of a coral wall. Reaching the surface of the water at intevals, it forms little rocky islands here and there, divided from each other by open channels, through some of which vessels of considerable size may pass. This wall is in fact a repetition of the same process as that which has formed the inner row of keys, though in a more incomplete stage; it is built up by coral animals from the sea bottom. Wherever circumstances are most favorable to their development, there they grow most rapidly. In such spots they bring the wall to the sea level sooner than in others. This done, however, the work of the coral animals ceases, because they cannot live out of water. But in consequence of a certain process of decay and decomposition, such a wall—or coral reef, as it is called—is surrounded by coral sand and fragments worn away from it by the action of the sea. Materials of tfiis Sort, mixed With sea-weed, broken shells, f1 , soon gattipr Ujiw ftp top of the Xet potal formed which we call the Keys of Florida ; and in the same way the little patches now rising highest on the sum-mit of the Reef, will enlarge gradually into more and more extensive islands, though at present many of them are scarcely visible above the water level.—Mrs. Agassis in “Our Young Folks” for March.
This article was originally published with the title "Antimony" in Scientific American 20, 24, 369-371 (June 1869)