A Gem of a Legacy

Purple Calcium Fluoride

Did you know that President Andrew Jackson once owned land in the fluorspar mining region of western Kentucky?  Fluorspar is a mineral used primarily in steel-making.  The wealth of fluorspar in the region also attracted Benjamin E. Clement, a high school science teacher and entrepreneur, to Western Kentucky.

Fluorspar mining was an industry just starting to pick up momentum when Clement organized his first of four fluorspar companies in the mid-1920s.  Mining for Fluorspar began as early as 1818, but it wasn’t until 1890 that the use of fluorite began to increase due to the availability of greater purification technologies.  It was used in steel, aluminum and glass production as well as chemical and nuclear processes. At its peak, Kentucky’s regional mines provided over 40 percent of the world’s needs for the mineral.

Clement was acutely aware of the historical impact the fluorspar industry would have on industrial history.  In 1920, Clement began saving what became one of the largest collections of mineral samples and associated historical records in the world.  Clement’s expertise with fluorspar and knowledge of its importance in the manufacturing of steel and atomic weapons were evident when he served during World War II as a member of the War Production Board and the President’s Tariff Commission. The western Kentucky fluorspar industry began to sharply decline in 1950 with an influx of access to inexpensive foreign fluorspar and overseas industrial production.

Find more interviews about Benjamin E. Clement and fluorspar miners through Pass the Word, Kentucky’s oral history discovery tool.

Pass the Word Challenge #7

Find 2 collections about mining in Kentucky on Pass the Word.


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