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  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    Not used for fixing or developing, but was sometimes used in the process for silver-plating the dag plates.
    ... but now I stand corrected. Serves me right to research such an interesting question:

    http://cool.conservation-us.org/jaic...-01-002_9.html

  2. #12
    Pioneer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    Hard to believe they didn't clue in real fast.
    And how good a photographer could you be if you only had one chance.
    Of course the old live fast, die young and become a tragically lost photographer was invented then.
    Well, sodium cyanide in solution is relatively harmless if you keep your PH at 10 or above. That is unless you are in the habit of drinking your developing and fixing solutions. I suspect that the people who were using cyanide in their photography knew how to handle it. After all, a lot of photographers were pretty good chemists.

    As someone already mentioned, the remaining cyanide in solution that is dumped into the sewers is very dilute and no-one will even know it is there. It is a relatively unstable salt and breaks down pretty quickly and becomes harmless with exposure to sunlight.

    At least cyanide was quick. If you made a mistake with cyanide you knew it immediately. Mercury was, and still is, far more dangerous than cyanide. Mercury works slowly and it does not break down quickly nor can the body dispose of it very quickly. Instead it stays there and continues to build in concentration as long as you are exposed. Of course the photographers, and others, who worked with mercury were quite well aware of the dangers, they just did not know how to protect themselves.

    Most of the pioneers in photography who worked back in the 1800s were not dumb, nor were they poorly informed. My great-grandfather, and yours, was pretty bright, and was a very handy man. In fact, he knew how to do a great many things that I could not even consider doing. It was a different time, with different technology, but they were still doing amazing things.

  3. #13
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    The problem with cyanide in wet-plate photography was not the cyanide, it was the ether and the grain alcohol. Most photographers' deaths involving consumption of cyanide came about because they were nipping on the Everclear a bit too much and picked up the wrong bottle at the end of the day.

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  5. #15

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    Page 19

    "A photographer reported that he visited a druggist to buy some cyanide and the chemist found one lump was too large to enter the neck of the bottle – so he bit it into two pieces! “Nothing but very prompt measures saved his life."

  6. #16

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    What a nucklehead!

  7. #17

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    .....
    Last edited by jnanian; 08-31-2012 at 12:11 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: whatever

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prof_Pixel View Post
    Page 19

    "A photographer reported that he visited a druggist to buy some cyanide and the chemist found one lump was too large to enter the neck of the bottle – so he bit it into two pieces! “Nothing but very prompt measures saved his life."
    He had probably bitten a lump of laudanum in half earlier in the day so was feeling no pain.

  9. #19
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    Here's my favorite passage from Jay's essay:



    “The Ballad of Billy Baker.” In this ballad, sung to the tune “One-horse shay,” William Baker “Carte-de-visite taker,” falls in
    love with one of his sitters, Jemima Jenkins. She will have nothing to do with poor Billy Baker, who decides to take cyanide:


    To suicide intent,
    darkroom then he went;
    But instead of cyanide he swallowed th’ hypo.
    Although it gave him pain,
    He soon got well again,
    But never flirted after in his stu-di-o.


    The moral was clear: keep bottles properly labelled, otherwise when you want to kill yourself you may drink the wrong solution. When Jemima rejected Billy Baker’s love she said: “Take such black paws as those/with heart that’s quite as black, for anything I know,” and struck a blow at every
    19th century photographer’s weak spot. The reason why Billy had “black paws” was that his hands were stained with silver solutions...




    Poor old Billy Baker trying to put the "stud" in studio...

  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
    Well, sodium cyanide in solution is relatively harmless if you keep your PH at 10 or above.
    Cyanide becomes deadly toxic in acid conditions (your stomach) so ingestion is very dangerous. The essay I read long ago in university that caused me to write this post described many many photographers dying due to cyanide ingestion.

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