The Gypsum Files

Notes on the Rock Nobody Knows

Archive for the ‘gypsum’ Category

Lovely photo of Ukrainian gypsum mine

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Ukrainian gypsum mine by Yaroslav Segeda

“This is probably my best find, a gypsum mine in eastern Ukraine. An inconspicuous door led to an underground city with its own traffic, street signs and 20-metre-tall caves,” says Yaroslav Segeda.

via BBC News – The urban explorers of the ex-USSR.


Written by Elizabeth McCullough

June 26, 2014 at 10:20 am

Building the American Dream

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I love these vintage films. This one captures the urgency and opportunity created by the post-World War II housing shortage and boom. It’s true, as the actors say, that house construction before the war was largely done by small contractors. Levittown and similar developments are examples of the dominance of large vertically-integrated construction companies that began in the 1950s and continues today — what the film-within-the-film calls “the dynamic catalyst.” Note how the narrator ties the explosion of suburban developments to the “pioneers” on the “prairie.”

The impact on the American landscape was enormous. From fewer than 200,000 new homes in 1945, housing starts grew to one million a year during the boom that started in 1948.  (By contrast, housing starts in 2009 were fewer than 600,000 and are just now breaking one million a year.)

And, of course — gypsum was there!

HT: USG on Facebook

Building the American Dream ca. 1956 – YouTube.

Written by Elizabeth McCullough

June 2, 2014 at 5:00 am

From power plant to corn field

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Shaping The Future with Gypsum Wallboard

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I wish I knew more about this video. I can date it back to 1969, but I think it might be older than that. This is another industrial film from the Gypsum Association, and uses clips that I’ve seen in some of their other videos. There’s a shot of a living room set towards the end of the video that is particularly groovy.


Written by Elizabeth McCullough

May 22, 2014 at 12:45 pm

It isn’t called White Magic for nothing, you know

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Here is a charming and informative little video from the Gypsum Association. It dates from the early 1950s and was shown on television and in movie theaters to promote the industry.

For contrast, here’s the Gypsum Association’s current promotional video: The Miracle Mineral. I think it’s interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same over the years.

Written by Elizabeth McCullough

April 24, 2014 at 8:00 am

The food additive nobody knows

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Did you know that gypsum is used in foods we eat every day? You might be surprised to hear that you’re eating rocks, but consider salt. Like gypsum, salt is a sedimentary rock — specifically, an evaporite, meaning that it is created by the evaporation of water. We use salt in some form every day, but unless we’re putting rock salt on our sidewalk, or growing salt crystals for a science project, we think of it more as a seasoning than as a rock or mineral.

Gypsum doesn’t sit on our tables in little shakers, but it does have dozens of culinary uses. This article from the Gypsum Association mentions a few:

  • dough strengthener
  • flour treating agent
  • leavening agent
  • nutrient supplement
  • pH control agent
  • stabilizer and thickener
  • synergist

The article goes on to state that the FDA permits gypsum to be used in “baked goods, confections and frostings, frozen dairy desserts, gelatins, puddings, pasta, and other food categories.” It’s also used to make tofu, beer, and wine.

Remember when we almost lost Twinkies to bankruptcy? Twinkies contain gypsum. Check out the table of contents for Twinkie, Deconstructed. There it is: Chapter 23, “Calcium Sulfate.” That’s gypsum!

Written by Elizabeth McCullough

April 22, 2014 at 8:00 am

The ups and downs of gypsum

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This is a chart I put together using data on new residential construction from the US Census website and data on gypsum consumption from the US Geological Survey. There’s nothing scientific or statistically sophisticated about this chart, but I think it does give you an idea of how closely the fortunes of the gypsum industry follow the housing market (pdf). You can see the most recent housing boom-and-bust cycle, beginning in 1991 and peaking in 2005, alongside the growth and peak of gypsum consumption. After 14 years of growth, both lines bottom out four years later in 2009.



Written by Elizabeth McCullough

April 17, 2014 at 8:00 am

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