Monday, October 17, 2011

Sign of the (Old) Times

I am fond of my signs, especially if they are made of iron like this one. The company is rather older than the date that appears in the photograph. As far as I can find out, the company was previously called Ross, Stephens and Walpole. an iron and brass founding concern that made railway bridges. The riveting is something we don't see to the same extent nowadays, but a riveter used to be quite a comparatively highly paid manual trade. Symbolically, the riveter's trade would subsume a group of qualities allied to iron - durability, toughness, hardness and hellish strength. Iron comes from the Underworld and is of the unconscious. Some even reckoned that as a base metal it should be kept separate from other more noble elements. There is an active principle in iron that is always connected to change. The plough and the many cutting implements like chisels are used to change substances and of course iron weaponry exerts its own change on the world. Iron has been found in artifacts as old as 3500 BC, probably mined from meteoric iron. So iron came first from the heavens whereas our iron sign has its roots in more recent times - the post Industrial Revolution. But I do like the technical term "passivated iron" because of the active principle inherent in iron. Passivating entailed dipping the iron into a concentrated solution of nitric acid. This formed a protective layer of oxide that retarded further corrosion.