I am back as a research assistant for part of this summer; so, hopefully this means some new and exciting lab blogs about things we are finding while cataloging my favorite material type: glass. This last week several fragments I knew to be lenses of some kind kept coming across my desk. Of course I have been pondering now for days about their true function. Several possibilities came to mind: flashlight lens, movie projector lens, medical/lab equipment lens. All of these were, and still are, viable possibilities, as there are several round lenses varying in thickness from ~1mm to ~3mm and in diameter from 4.5cm x 4.5cm and 5cm x 5cm that have been examined so far. However, the largest and thickest of the lenses appears to be associated with safety goggles (click the link for some recently sold antique photos of what the goggles may have looked like)!
Imagine how happy I was to finally come across a fragment, though warped from heat within the incinerator, that had an etched makers mark in them…delirious is the work that comes to mind. I started off on a research trail, and landed on the website of the only company I could find that had been open under that name during the timeframe we were looking at for Kooskia. Unfortunately, after contacting this company it was determined the lenses were not crafted by them. I will continue to search. The images below are associated with the same makers marks and timeframe, and I believe the glasses we have lenses for probably look something like this:
Please note: Stacey and I are working in between two labs, and she is preparing to go back into the field this summer with more students; so, with our resources spread out I have not yet been able to cross list our archival records with the purchase of safety goggles for more information. However, I have researched the subjects of health and safety within Kooskia’s archives prior to this summer, and I know they did order safety gear. I do not believe any other information than a basic description of “goggles” is listed, but I will continue to research this items and either edit this post or put new ones up on the subject, so bare with me a little while longer.Questions:
- Did CESCO make their own line of safety goggles during and/or prior to 1945? If so, did the lenses come in varying thicknesses, or was there just one general type?
- If yes to the first question, then was the company shipping nationally at this point (i.e. is it plausible for items to have been shipped to the Pacific Northwest during WWII or the preceding decade)?
- Were they awarded any federal contracts between 1933 and 1945 that would have requested safety (or other electrical) supplies for internment or conservation corps camps?
Background on Kooskia:
Kooskia Internment Camp (located just outside of Kooskia, Idaho-central panhandle region) was open from May 1943 to May 1945 and was the only all-male, volunteer-based work camp in the United States. Unlike other internment camps, as volunteers, the men at Kooskia had the agency to choose when to come and when to leave; they were able to have family visitors, earn wages, and petition for better healthcare standards during a time of imprisonment. They worked on the construction of what is now called HWY 12, between Lewiston Idaho and Missoula Montana. Prior to the internment camp, Kooskia was also a CCC camp, beginning in 1933.
- The lenses we have found so far vary in thickness greatly from ~1cm to ~3cm. This is why I asked the company if they made more than one type of protective lens.
- Other possible functions for thinner lenses may include: part of flashlights, medical/lab equipment, or movie projector.
- The number of workers at Kooskia averaged around 100 volunteers at any given time (fluctuating greatly as the men did come and go to other camps to be with their families or for other personal reasons), this number would relate to the volume of the possible order requested of the company at that time.
- Overall, it would seem likely that we find a high volume of safety glass lenses, at least in comparison to other possible lens types. It is also highly probable that an order would have been placed for safety gear via government personnel in May 1943 or the month that followed, but we can not rule out the possibility that safety goggles were also used and disposed of in the same area by the Conservation Corps.
- Any information we receive from CESCO can potentially help to source these artifacts and possibly address whether the items we are finding in the incinerator belong specifically to the internment camp, or can also be associated with the earlier CCC occupation.
Thanks for your time everyone. I hope to post on this again soon.
Note on References: Clicking on the eBay pictures provides links to the sites. All other references are from Kooskia archival records held by the Bower’s Laboratory and Dr. Stacey Camp at the University of Idaho.