|Summary / Abstract
||The production of soda ash from natural sources is one of the United States' oldest industries. The London Company, which financed the settlement of Jamestown, in the fall of 1608 exported in its first cargo from Virginia " . . . trials of pitch, tar, glass, frankincense, and soap-ashes."1 This last product, a crude mixture of sodium and potassium carbonates obtained by the burning of wood in iron pots, was the commercial soda ash of its day, used in the infant soap, glass, and bleaching industries. Besides having a good cash value, its production helped to clear the land, and it was a compact, easily shipped commodity. The extra high potassium content of these American "pot-ashes" gave them an added market as a fertilizer, a field that they dominated until the opening of the Strassfurt deposits in 1860.
This form of natural soda ash disappeared forever from commercial importance with the introduction of the Le Blanc process (1791), and later the Solvay process for manufacturing soda ash. The Solvay process was rapidly accepted in the United States, and has accounted for most of the country's soda ash production since 1884. It was not until the western part of the country began to be developed that natural soda ash was again produced. A number of lakes, playas, and springs west of the Rocky Mountains were found to be rich in this mineral, and climatic conditions were ideal for its easy recovery by solar evaporation. The production of natural soda ash from these deposits has become a steadily growing industry in the United States.
A summary of the production and value of natural sodium carbonates in the United States is presented in Table 1. Prior to 1927 the principal output came from several different companies at Owens Lake, California. Then production at Searles Lake, California, began to
increase until it became the most important source. In 1948 the sale of crude trona from Green River, Wyoming, commenced and since that time production from these latter two areas has been about equal. Table 2 lists the four