The Potash Famine – Potash From Anything and Everywhere

Hornsey Plant - Filter tank and intermediate bin, California Trona Co. Borax Plant, May 1909.

Hornsey Plant – Filter tank and intermediate bin, California Trona Co. Borax Plant, May 1909

DURING THE AUTUMN of 1909, a wide-awake senior at the University of Nebraska, working as an assistant in the geology department, was analyzing samples labeled “alkali salts” sent in from the western part of that state. Hundreds of salt lakes dot this region, and being chemically minded, the youthful imagination of Carl L. Modesitt was fired by these bitter waters and their surrounding rims of white salty crusts because of their high potassium content. He conferred with John H. Show, a recent Nebraska graduate. Rumblings of the potash war reached them, and being blissfully ignorant of all the heart-breaking research that had so often failed the world over to find the means of commercially exploiting tempting brine deposits, they convinced themselves that they had solved the American potash problem with a great domestic supply.

Together, Modesitt and Show analyzed all available samples and found from 15 to 33 per cent K2O content. They determined to explore the brine lake country to determine exactly which were the richest and most promising deposits. In this venture they were joined by Clark C. Denny, Victor L Jeep, and M. E. Cornelius, all former students of the University of Nebraska. These young enthusiasts left the laboratory and set forth exploring in the sandhills of western Nebraska. On March 21, 1910, after borrowing, begging, otherwise obtaining materials, and supplementing it with their meager savings, Cornelius, Jeep, Show, and Modesitt arrived at Alliance, with camping equipment and supplies, tools and other materials believed necessary for field work.

A team and wagon was hired to take them to various lakes for exploration, and that evening camp was set up 13 miles east of Alliance, on the shores of Jesse Lake. It turned cold and rainy and shelter was sought in abandoned sod houses, but nothing could dampen their youthful spirits. The party covered 100 miles and took samples consisting of shore crystal deposits, brines, subsurface muds, sands, and other material showing promise, from Fenner, Jesse, Herring, Larson, Reno, Bower, Hill, Peterson, Price, Dead Horse, Mayer, Vandervoort, McCarthy, Richardson, Cluf, and Felling Lakes, each varying in size from ten to 500 acres. After the next several months, Show completed the analysis of all the samples and Modesitt determined the amount of material in each lake to ascertain which one presented the best possibility for commercial production.

The young explorers demonstrated sound ability by filing mineral claims in 1912 on Jesse Lake which, even in the fine combing of this region during the war, proved to be the richest source in the entire section. They worked out a recovery process and endeavored to raise capital. In this discouraging task they were assisted by T. E. Stevens of Omaha and finally succeeded, by 1912, in scraping together $18,000 to erect a small reduction plant at Jesse Lake. In 1914 their Potash Products Company was incorporated in Nebraska. Modesitt tried to interest the General Chemical Company and Swift & Company in the project. But reports on samples sent to fertilizer makers and agricultural schools were conflicting and he failed. He and Show were backed, however, by W. H. Ostenberg, Herman Reinbold, and W. A. Redick, all of Omaha, and they built a small plant at what came to be the town of Hoffland.  Two years later that plant represented an investment of $375,000, paid for out of surplus, and the stockholders were said to be receiving 40 to 60 per cent dividends monthly.

This was the genesis of the Nebraska lakes potash production. It flourished like a sunflower, producing during the war more potash than any other source. It wilted as if struck by a killing frost, as soon as Franco-German potash again appeared on the scene. Indeed, this is almost the whole story of the frantic efforts to assuage our potash famine. All sorts of potash-bearing materials, wherever they were found, were worked intensely, often with more optimism than chemical good sense.* Of the 128 plants that in 1918 yielded 54,803 short tons of pure K2O about one-fifth our prewar consumption but one survived to become an important factor in the American potash industry. This was founded only after the discovery of the potash beds in West Texas, after the war.

This mushroom growth started slowly. In 1915 five plants produced 1,090 tons of K2O (value $342,000), less than a week’s normal supply.  The well-grounded fear that any American potash enterprise would be exterminated by the German Cartel as soon as hostilities ended, held back many enterprisers. One of the sanest, best-informed of the government experts, Dr. Frank K. Cameron of the Bureau of Soils, put these misgivings into blunt words and even went so far as to recommend that, however great the emergency, the Government should not squander public funds on so temporary an expedient as endeavoring to supply our own potash needs. In the face of such a dour opinion, small wonder that it took the fantastic $600-a-ton price to tempt even the foolhardy into so chancy a venture. But the lure of exorbitant profits proved irresistible, and production was doubled during 1916 and tripled in 1917.

In the end, 21 states and Puerto Rico reported potash production. Nebraska furnished over half the total; California, a third; Utah but 7%; all the rest only 6%. Native brines were the chief source, 27 plants 19 in Nebraska being responsible for 73% of our total wartime output. Kelp furnished 9%; molasses distillery waste, 6%; alunite, 5%; all others, 7%.

Of the 128 different producers, 51 extracted potash from wood ashes, but together they made less than the 8 working with Steffens waste-water from the beet-sugar refineries. The average yield of these pot-ashes producers was but 13 tons as compared with an average of 1,471 tons for the 27 plants producing from brine. Alunite plants with an average output of 655 tons stood second highest in average per unit yield.

Nowhere was the potash fever more virulent than in the Nebraska lakes region. These shallow bodies-of bitter water, long the bane of the cattleman’s existence, staged a first-class revival of the old-fashioned mining boom. Sharp-eyed speculators in mineral rights, smooth-spoken promoters of potash companies, energetic engineers in khaki and boots, poured into the country. Any Nebraskan with a single, tiny salt lake on his land began dreaming golden visions. Bustling towns Hoffland, Lakeside, Antioch sprang up where half a dozen little houses had clustered around a general store. Nobody could keep count of the companies organized to cash in on this chemical bonanza, but apparently some 35 actually accomplished extraction of more or less potash. Nine of these were sizable operations.

Pioneer and biggest of all was the Potash Products Company, which in 1917 changed its name to the Potash Reduction Company. Carl Modesitt was the general manager in active charge. Actual production began during the summer of 1914 and during 1916 the Company shipped about 12,000 tons. Much of the output went to the Niagara Alkali Company at Niagara Falls which refined the crude salts and produced caustic potash and potassium carbonate. These interests organized the Western, Alkali Refining Company and equipped a plant at East Omaha which, between May and December 1918, produced caustic, sold to Edison for storage batteries, and carbonate bought by Bausch & Lomb Optical Company. The product, as from all the Nebraska plants, was so-called crude salts, recovered by evaporation; but the Jesse Lake brine yielded a very high-grade material (K2O, 28%).

The second, large-scale Nebraska operation was the Hord Alkali Products Company (later the Hord Company) with a plant at Lakeside reputed to have cost between $60,000 and $100,000. Operations began January 1917.  The Palmer Alkali Company, Lakeside, and the American Potash Company, Antioch, both began producing in the autumn of 1916, the latter being purchased late in 1917 by interests affiliated with the Western Potash Works. Another early bird in this lively field was the Nebraska Potash Works, Antioch, incorporated in March 1916, with a stated capital of $100,000. It began pumping brine from Taylor Lake the middle of the following April, evaporating 800 tons daily, in addition to refining some higher-grade brine from the Potash Reduction Company. Other companies that achieved some importance were the Home Potash Company, the Omaha Potash Refining Company, the Standard Potash Company, and the Commonwealth Potash Company.

More, and still more plants were rushed to completion and during 1917 the Antioch section alone chalked up an even dozen, new producers. This hurried expansion continued to the end of the war: in fact, at the Armistice, five plants were under construction.

From this jumble of plants in Nebraska most of them small and many of them equipped with makeshift apparatus came the greatest total of our wartime supplies, but the largest single source was at Searles Lake in California. When, in 1913, the Hornsey-process plant failed to effect economical separation of the Searles Lake brines, the American Trona Corporation shut down abruptly, and if the war had not created a golden opportunity to exploit potash, might have abandoned the project. The management, experienced in mining and having ample resources, acted promptly. In New York City, engineers worked out the Grimwood process and tested it in a pilot plant. During 1915 this new method was installed at Searles Lake and put into production early in 1916, with a daily output of 30 tons.

On top of the operating difficulties, solved only partially by ignoring any attempt to recover soda or borax, the Company was harassed by “bitter disputes amounting almost to warfare, that resulted from the attempts to secure title to the potash-rich lands of Searles Lake. These claims were finally resolved by the passage of the Potash Leasing Law of 1917. Although this litigation held up expansion, the Company did raise the daily output to 50 tons in 1917. It also built the San Pedro refinery from which it shipped a purified potassium chloride that still retained sufficient traces of sulfates and borax to be criticized by chemical users.

Up to 1918 it was estimated that at least $2,500,000 had been spent developing the property, building plants and housing facilities, and a sum of $4,500,000 was anticipated. More than half a million had been put into the 30-mile railway joining the plant to the Southern Pacific lines. The Company-built town of Trona was a model of good construction and modern facilities. By the end of 1918, potash output moved up to 1,800 tons of crude salts monthly, by long odds the biggest American potash enterprise.

This thriving venture, buried deep in desert country, did not escape the attention of the Germans. Even in the thick of the war, the Cartel leaders took time to inform themselves of the progress at Trona and their representative, Paul Freudrichsen, kept turning up every three or four months. On one of these periodical visits he was at pains to issue an ultimatum wrapped up in a friendly warning to two of the company officials, Harry O. Tucker and Ernest Gordon.

“How foolish are your stockholders/’ he said, “to invest money in any potash enterprise in the United States. Don’t you know that as soon as this war is finished, the Kali Syndikat and the Imperial Government will absolutely destroy the whole American industry by selling German potash in this country at such low prices as to crush all competition?”

And he pictured in detail the strength of the Syndikat, controlled as it was by the Government and commanding unlimited stores of the best, cheapest potash in the world. He added unequivocally that neither the German Government nor the Cartel would brook any competition or hesitate to employ any means to annihilate it.

The Trona officials were not scared off by these hints. Within a year after the war’s end, they added borax recovery and by the end of 1919 were turning out 40 to 50 tons daily. During this period the process was again revamped. The so-called, Morse quick-cooling method  to get better separation of potassium chloride and sodium borate was adopted, but better yields, clearer separation, and lower costs were still sought.

During the war another company produced potash at Searles Lake. The Solvay Process Company had a double interest in these brines, as possible competition in soda ash and as a source of potassium salts. Having worked out a process, Solvay joined forces with the Pacific Coast Borax Company in building a $700,000 plant at Borosolvay, for the recovery of potash, soda ash, and borax. This deceptive separation again proved stubborn and the 1917 production was not impressive. By the first of 1918, however, it had been worked up to 200 tons a month.

In both towns Trona and Borosolvay the plants operated at maximum capacity throughout 1918, shipping salt running 60-70% KC1 and 15% borax. Experimentation continued at both plants after the war, but in 1920 the joint enterprise was abandoned as no longer interesting to its principals. Potash was again in the control of the Germans. New, cheaper sources of borax had been discovered. The recovery of soda ash was not economic. The Borosolvay plant was accordingly shut down and never reopened. Solvay’s interest in Western brines was not confined to Searles Lake. This company had been quietly prospecting many salt deposits and lakes, and it selected as most likely the Salduro Marsh, an area of 125 square miles covered with brine in winter and a 3-foot crust of salt in summer. Analysis revealed workable quantities of potash in a brine high in chlorides and notably low in sulfates NaCl, 81.04%; MgCl2, 9.07%; KC1, 7.03%; CaCl2, 0.88%; Na2SO4, 1.98%.

Commercially, the location was advantageous, being on the Western Pacific Railroad 110 miles west of Great Salt Lake. Here, in the fall of 1916, plant construction began and as usual the first attempts to separate and crystallize the brine constituents were not successful. Abandoning artificial heat methods, a process of solar evaporation was devised, employing a series of circular, concentric canals through which the brine was circulated toward the center over dikes, till a concentration was attained from which the potassium chloride precipitated. The first potash was produced in May 1917, and this operation continued till the Armistice. Solvay thereupon organized a subsidiary, the Utah-Salduro Potash Company, which took over this property, only to be forced by German competition to suspend.

Two other, well-known corporations, Diamond Match and Virginia-Carolina Chemical, ventured into the recovery of potash from natural brines. Both organized operating subsidiaries: the Utah Chemical Company and the Salt Lake Chemical Company. Both selected Great Salt Lake, whose waters contain a little potash (KC1, 3.16%). The Utah project, launched in February 1916, worked up bitterns obtained as a by-product in the solar manufacture of salt by the Inland Crystal Salt Company. The Salt Lake plant started a few months later, working directly on the Lake water. Both plants were active during 1917-18; both closed down when the war emergency ended.

Not far from Searles Lake, to the northwest, is Owens Lake whose heavy brine had excited chemical curiosity even before the war. A process to recover the soda and potash by solar evaporation and fractional crystallization had been invented by Carl Elschner, and the Inyo Development Company, backed by the Stauffer interests of San Francisco, had been formed. A plant was built during the summer of 1915, and under the management of E. B. Davis began producing late in September. Fundamentally this was a sodium carbonate recovery and as such was profitable during the high-price era of the war, but potash was also recovered in small quantities.  Late in 1917, Thomas M. Skinner, Jr., was at Owens Lake building another brine-reduction plant, but this started too late and was never completed. Scores of similar small brine operations were undertaken during the war.  Some never materialized. Others made unimportant contributions to our potash supplies. All vanished when German material came back into the market.

As a source of wartime potash, kelp was second to brine, a bad second. Though this industry was established in 1912 and 11 kelp plants were operating in 1914, their number declined to 9 in 1916 and to 8 in 1918. As technique advanced from simple kelp ash to refined salts and other chemical by-products, the competitive pace quickened. Thus this development transcended technically the ignored prophecies of David M. Balch who, in 1905, envisioned kelp’s chemical potentialities,* yet commercially it fell far short of the hopes of the official experts.

The earliest company, the Coronado Chemical Company, which began experimenting in 1906 and was in production in ^1 91 2, was united with the Pacific Chemical Company to form the American Potash Company in 1914, and at once began a new plant at Long Beach under the management of Leslie H. Thompson, t The next year this operation was taken over by the American Products Company, which in turn shortly became the Lorned Manufacturing Company.

Hailed as the first concern “to make any serious attempt to produce kelp fertilizers, the Kelp Products Company of Point Loma, California, marketed in 1915 a material containing 15% potash, 2% nitrogen, and 0.5% phosphorus, which had been developed by E. Blancken-berg. Processing costs were disproportionate to the concentration of available plant food J and this attempt failed in 1917. It was repeated more effectively at the San Diego plant of the Swift Fertilizer Company in 1916 and the powdered product shipped to the Company’s own Eastern factories.  Though a quarter of a million dollars were spent on this plant and much research conducted, joint recovery of potash and ammonia, even by a large fertilizer maker for self-consumption, was not economical. Most of the two-score companies which came into the kelp field during the war and dropped out again with bewildering alacrity, made no such ambitious attempts. They operated a simple process consisting of drying the kelp in direct-fired rotary kilns and burning it to an ash containing roughly 30% potash.

Hornsey Plant - Furnace end of column,  California Trona Co. Borax Plant, May 1909.

Hornsey Plant – Furnace end of column, California Trona Co. Borax Plant, May 1909.

First exploited in 1873 for its borax content, Searles Lake had eventually passed into control of the California Trona Company, formed with a capital of $1,000,000, by C. E. Dolbear and seven others. The original financing was inadequate, so the Company negotiated a loan from a Foreign Mines Development Company, an affiliate of the English-controlled Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa, Ltd. The reorganized Trona purchased the plant and mining rights of the dormant Bernardino Borax Company, but ran into operating troubles and was unable to repay the loan. Thrown into bankruptcy in 1909, 90 per cent of the common stock was bought in by Guy Wilkinson, American manager of the Gold Fields interests, and S. W. Austin was appointed receiver. He kept the property alive, even fighting off an invading organized band of forty claim-jumpers led by engineers and supported by gunmen.  Austin,, who was Register of the Land Office in this district, continued his connection with the Searles Lake development, later becoming manager of the Los Angeles office, of the American Potash & Chemical Corporation, eventual successor to the receivership.

Potash had been noted in the Searles Lake brines as early as 1898 by Whitman Symmes, a mining engineer who at the time was in charge of the local plant of the California Borax Company. He surveyed and analyzed the whole lake area and tried without success to interest his employers in exploiting the property for potash and soda, as well as borax. The potash agitation of 1910 revived interest in these forgotten ideas, and under the Austin regime, C. E. Dolbear, F. S. Pearson, and the Solvay Process Company all sampled and analyzed the Lake brine. The prospect of potash now gave an additional incentive to press the conflicting land claims, and the Government entered the dispute by sending Dr. E. E. Free of the Bureau of Soils and H. S. Gale of the Geological Survey to investigate.

Accompanied by Wilkinson, they took six samples on March 6, 1912. These were analyzed at the Mackey School of Mines, Reno, and the Geological Survey Laboratories at Portland, Oregon and the results published for the first time. The average composition was: sodium chloride, 51.6%; sodium sulfate, 19.22%; sodium carbonate and bicarbonate, 12.79%; sodium borate, 3.37%; potassium chloride, 12.07%; and sodium arsenate, 0.17%.  Dolbear protested that eight months previously he had written a report displaying full knowledge of the potash content and that this information had leaked from his office. He claimed to have received acknowledgment of priority from the Geological Survey whose report had maintained that previous analyses had ignored the element potassium or reckoned it as sodium.

A new flock of speculators took claims on unowned portions of the Lake and then sat tight waiting for someone to buy them out. When the Government set aside the whole of the area as a potash reserve, the California Trona Company held claims to some 26,000 acres. Victor Barndt, president of the Railroad Valley Company, protested these claims and urged a new allocation under a federal leasing system. California Trona dropped less advantageous claims one by one untill in 1918 the Government patented to it clear title to 3,320 acres. The remaining 16,000 acres were immediately leased to eight or ten different interests, none of which ever produced any potash.

In June 1913 the California Trona Company was taken over completely by the American Trona Corporation, organized with a capitalization of $12,500,000 for this purpose. The incorporators were J. A, Brown, Richard Bennett, Jr., and William K. Dupre, Jr.,39 and most of the money was found by the Gold Fields group. American capitalists, who had a minority interest, refused to “take a larger share “mainly owing to the apparently antagonistic attitude of the Government at Washington. The plan was to produce potash by the Hornsey process of carbonating the brine to remove the sodium carbonate as Bicarbonate, which was filtered and calcined to soda ash. The filtrate was then successively evaporated, filtered, and crystallized to recover the potash, borax, and sodium sulfate, possible because of their different solubilities.

A four-year contract was entered into with the Pacific Coast Borax Company, giving each the minor product of the other: American Trona to sell Pacific Coast all borax it produced and to get all/soda made by the other party to this sensible alliance. At this time Pacific Coast owned 2,240 acres in Searles Lake, purchased years before from the old Searles-Smith borax interests. The soda ash produced by American Trona was to be exported to the Orient from West Coast ports. Potash (in the form of the chloride) was to be sold to Southwest markets in quantities which it was not anticipated would draw the fire of the German cartel. Commercially, this was a well thought-out program. It tripped up technically. The new plant was completed in 1914, but its trial run was a discouraging failure. The separation of the salts, which worked like a watch in the laboratory, did not work at all in the plant, so that commercial production was not achieved until September 1916.

Potash from kelp, the only other American source actually exploited prewar, was a return to the age-old practice of using seaweed as fertilizer and the primitive chemical operation of making pot-ashes from the same material. It was a pet project of the Department of Agriculture which, in 1912, surveyed the shore from Puget Sound to Cedros Island off southern California. Some 230 square miles of kelp groves were charted and on paper an annual yield of 22,000,000 tons of wet weed, equivalent to a million tons of potassium chloride, was calculated.

Abundance of raw material and the chemical possibilities of working up such by-products as iodine, ammonia, acetic acid, glue, sizing materials, and activated carbon, were enticing. Much laboratory work was done and later, in 1916, the Department built an experimental kelp products plant at Summerland, California, with Dr. John W. Turren-tine, one of our foremost potash authorities, in charge. Turrentine had been fertilizer resources chemist for the Department of Agriculture since 1911.

For many years farmers had been harvesting this giant seaweed for fertilizer on their own land, but the potash panic of 1910 inspired many attempts to commercialize the product either by burning or by drying and chopping it for direct application to the soil. As early as 1912, two California companies, the Coronado Chemical Company of Cardiff and the Pacific Kelp Mulch Company of Terminal Island, were engaged in this business and a year later eleven such firms were reported by the Geological Survey. Among these was one which courageously essayed to employ these long, slimy festoons of seaweed as a chemical raw material. In 1914 the American Potash Company built a plant at Long Beach, California, designed to recover iodine and potassium salts and to treat the residue to produce cellulose pulp.

In the hunt for domestic sources, inspired by the German-American controversy of 1910, potash-bearing minerals were not overlooked. Extensive deposits of alunite (K2O’3A12CV4SCV6H2O) with the theoretical composition of 11.4% potassium oxide and 37% alumina, had previously been located in Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. In 1912 two scouts of the Geological Survey, B. S. Butler and H. S. Gale, described a great deposit of exceptional purity at Marysvale, Utah.

Prior to the war, C H. MacDowell (1910), president of the Armour Fertilizer Works, and Howard F. Chappell, t vice-president of the General Chemical Company, being vitally concerned with American potash independence, investigated this deposit and organized the Mineral Products Company to secure mining rights. A plant was completed at Marysvale the middle of September, and on October 20, 1915, the first carload, 28 tons of potassium sulfate, was shipped. Of this shipment, W. C Phalen said: “This is among the first output of potash from a mineral source in the United States, and so far as is known, it is the first production of potash salts from alunite in the world, as the foreign deposits have been worked primarily for the potash alum and not for the potash salts. The process used, originated by Chappell, himself, crushed the ore to the size of peas and then passed it slowly through rotary kilns at 750° C, after which the roasted alunite was digested with boiling water for several hours; filtered through Kelly presses; the cake (chiefly alumina) stored; and the potassium crystallized from the filtrate in multiple-effect evaporators. This was the only attempt to tap domestic mineral sources of potash dating prior to the stimulus of the German embargo.* In fact, throughout 1915, when it produced 1,518 short tons of KjO, this Mineral Products project was the only one to register any actual output.

That thousands of tons of potash were being ignored in the waste dust of American cement mills was pointed out by W. F. Hillebrand of the Geological Survey in 1904. That any profitable use of this bothersome waste would be advantageous was readily admitted by the industry. Some hit-and-miss experimenting had been done, but no simple, economical method evolved till 1912, At a meeting of the American Institute of Mining & Metallurgical Engineers, the chief metallurgist of the Bureau of Mines, Dr. F. G. Cottrell,t read a paper on “Dust Precipitation by Electrostatic Means, which set forth the method which under the expert engineering development of Dr. Walter Schmidt of the Western Precipitation Company of Los Angeles made this recovery practical. That same year, the Riverside Portland Cement Company, near Riverside, California, installed the first Cottrell unit and in 1913 added others to cover all its ten kilns.

This development had been more or less forced “progress by injunction,” as John Teeple once called such compulsory waste recoveries, since the owners of neighboring orange groves had sued the Company on the grounds that dust from its plant was a damage as well as a nuisance. The collected dust was rich in potash and the Company, with poetic justice, sold it as fertilizer to the same orchardists who had sued. Later, the dust was leached and high-grade potash salts recovered by crystallization. Yields were raised by adding small amounts of feldspar and salt to the cement raw materials. In 1915 the Riverside mills were making 504 short tons (K2O) of material with 20% available potash.

Across the continent at Hagerstown, Maryland, the second Cottrell system was installed by the Security Cement & Lime Company with the deliberate intent of potash recovery. This project just preceded the war and was hurried to completion by the prospect of the potash famine. The first trial run was made June 15, 1915, and three additional units were working by the end of the year. This proved to be a notably successful venture, and publication of its cost data and engineering details encouraged other cement companies to undertake potash recovery, an innovation in the industry which has had permanent effects, and one of the few wartime potash-frorn-waste projects that has persisted.

Dr. Cottrel’s discovery was equally applicable to the recovery of the considerable quantity of potash fed into blast furnaces, and when the Riverside cement experience was reported at an American Chemical Society meeting in Allentown, Pennsylvania, it caught the attention of R. J. Wysor, blast-furnace superintendent of the nearby Bethlehem Steel plant. His investigations were favorable to the idea and Bethlehem was the first in the potash recovery field.52

In Europe, potash recovery from sugar-beet refuse, molasses waste, and distillery slop had long been standard practice. Prior to the war such salvage had been neglected in this country, but the techniques were available and so effectively applied, that during the war stress potash from the beet-sugar refineries was second only to recovery from natural brines.

Thus the soundly berated German Potash Law of 1910, by stirring interest in our domestic sources of this essential element, had inspired a thorough survey of possible means of freeing ourselves of this foreign natural monopoly. Our resources from kelp, brines, and minerals had been well prospected. The various promising industrial wastes had been studied. Here and there in all fields tentative starts toward reclaiming potash had been made and quite a store of technical experiences had been accumulated-all of which were to become exceedingly useful in the famine of the war period.


The ebook Searles Potash Lands written in 1915 gives a great history of the companies that were involved in the struggle to develop potash production in Searles Valley.

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