Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/248

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Let us return to our own age, and see what is the present annual production of tin. In a recent book on the Industries of the Netherlands, M. de Ramaix gives as the production of the Dutch East Indies, ten thousand tons; of Cornwall, eight thousand tons; and of Australia, seven thousand tons; in all, twenty-five thousand tons. These figures show that the English mines have fallen off since the days of the Phœnicians, when Cornwall was the principal center of production. They have been left behind by the Dutch East Indies, and will soon be overtaken by Australia, if the number, seven thousand tons, given as the present production of its mines, is not exaggerated. Saxony and Bohemia, which still figure in the cyclopaedias as sources of tin, are not mentioned in M. de Ramaix's estimate. A graver omission is that of the Malaccan mines, which I have mentioned as the most ancient, and also perhaps the most productive. According to Mr. Patrick Doyle's Tin-Mining in Larut (London, 1879) the Malay states of the Malaccan Peninsula exported to Penang in 1877, in round numbers, 2,500 tons of tin, and the Siamese states of the same country, 7,000 tons, making 9,500 tons in all. From personal information, I estimate the exportation from the single Malay state of Pérak, in 1881, at 6,139 tons. The production of the peninsula having grown steadily since 1876, I believe I can assert that it now takes the lead among tin-producing countries, and that the world's total present annual production of this metal is not less than 45,000 tons.[1]

Yet this production is hardly sufficient to supply the needs of existing industry, for the price of tin before the crash in copper, by which it was also affected, had reached the high figure of $800 a ton. This is because, while the applications of the metal have varied much at different periods, it has always been applied to numerous uses. There is hardly a house so humble that has not its utensils of tin-ware. Wherever woman has advanced beyond the crystal of the fountains, of which Seneca boasts, we are sure to find, if not a looking-glass, a mirror; and there is hardly a country so savage that European glasses silvered with the amalgam of tin have not reached it. It is used in all the applications of soldering, in tin-foil for wrapping preserved foods, and in printing-types. Some of the uses which our forefathers made of it are matters of much interest.

In the middle ages tin passed from the Gauls to the Merovingian Franks; and, according to Gregory of Tours, basilicas were roofed and tombs were covered with it. It was extensively used

  1. I believe that these figures understate the facts. In a book on the Political Geography and Economical Situation of the Malay Peninsula, in 1888, published by the French Minister of Public Instruction, M. de La Croix gives the production of the peninsula, from official documents, as over 24,000 tons, or more than half that of the entire globe.