A New Method for getting Gold from Wheat

In 1884, Harry Fell of South Norwood Park was granted Patent No. 14,204 by the British Patent Office for a "New Method for getting Gold from Wheat". This begs the question, what was the old method of getting gold from wheat?

I haven't been able to find a copy of the patent, since 19th-century British patents (unlike American ones) aren't readily available online. However, the March 5, 1997 issue of Science offered a full transcript of Fell's patent, "including the peculiar use of punctuation marks".

That in the steeping of the mixture of half, measure, 'the whole wheat straw cut info fine square snips the width of the straw and half' the grains in a jar of ordinary cold water "I let the steep remain still for ten hours at a temperature of fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit varying with temperature, and then straining off the liquor into a shallow pan of some such cool substance as china or earthenware, I leave this liquor to stand in this pan for yet twenty-four hours at sixty degrees also varying with temperature; these durations of times of ten hours and twenty-four hours speaking for a very inferior brown straw much knocked about and the grains those, of a very good quality, of red wheat; and then catch up the skim on a cylinder of some such cool substance as china or earthenware," and then let this skim dry, so getting some results of films of Gold.

The April 24, 1885 issue of The Photographic News offered an easier-to-understand summary of Fell's method:

The material (whole-wheat straw) is steeped in slightly warm water for ten hours, and strained off into a shallow pan; the pan being allowed to stand in a moderately warm place for twenty-four hours, a scum appears on the surface of the liquid, and this is caught on a cylinder of some cool substance, as china or earthenware. "Then let this skim dry," says the alchemist, "so getting some results of films of gold."

Of course, what Fell had failed to mention was that the wheat would first have to be grown in soil containing a lot of gold. Then, yes, I think it would be possible to get gold from wheat using his method. Though it would probably be easier to get it by directly filtering the gold out of the dirt.
     Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 21, 2022
     Category: Patents | Nineteenth Century

The old method was to lock a beautiful girl in a tower and hope a particularly gifted dwarf came along...
Posted by crc on 03/21/22 at 04:48 PM
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