etienne h. gilson


Gilsonite is the registered trademark for a form of natural asphalt found in large amounts in the Uinta Basin of Utah; the non-trademarked mineral name is uintaite or uintahite. It is mined in underground shafts and resembles shiny black obsidian. Discovered in the 1860s, it was first marketed as a lacquer, electrical insulator, and waterproofing compound about twenty-five years later by Samuel H. Gilson. By 1888 Gilson had started a company to mine the substance, but soon discovered the vein was located on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Under great political pressure Congress removed some from the reservation on May 24 1888 to allow the mining to proceed legally. Gilsonite mining became the first large commercial enterprise in the Uinta Basin, causing most of its early population growth.

This unique mineral is used in more than 160 products, primarily in dark-colored printing inks and paints, oil well drilling muds and cements, asphalt modifiers, foundry sand additives, and a wide variety of chemical products. The trademark, registered in 1921, belongs to the American Gilsonite Company.

Gilsonite-brand uintahite's earliest applications included paints for buggies and emulsions for beer-vat lining. It was used by Ford Motor Company as a principal component of the Japan Black lacquer used on most of the Ford Model T cars.


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