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A Recognised Collection of National Importance

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International Exhibitions

International Exhibitions

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1851 1862 | 1865 | 1867 | 1869 | 1873 | 1875 | 1876 |
| 1878 | 1880 | 1885 | 1886 | 1888 | 1889 | 1890 | 1901 | 1910 |


1851 - London


A novelty has been circulated through the Palace in the shape of a black candle made from the bitumen that oozes through the fissures of the rock in the Binney Quarries, near Edinburgh.

Hereford Times, 4th October 1851


In 1850 Mr James Gowans, contractor, Edinburgh (Now Lord Dean of Guild of that city and chairman of the Exhibition Executive Committee), was engaged making a railway line to Bathgate, and when executing a cutting on the Drumshoreland estate he came across some substance which he thought was very oily. He conveyed a bit of it to Edinburgh, and he and his friend, the late Professor George Wilson, in the house of the latter in Chambers Street, Edinburgh, melted it in a kail pot. They made into black candles, and he exhibited them at the Exhibition in London, 1851, and was awarded a medal for them among other things.

Glasgow Herald, 31st May 1886


1865 - Dublin


The paraffine manufactures will be well represented in the approaching Exhibition by Messrs James Young & Co., chemical works, Bathgate.  This firm has a large warehouse at Lochrin, where the articles for Dublin are on view.  The contributions embrace specimens of the different commodities sold by the firm, so arranged  as to give a general idea of the various products of the paraffine works, both in their finished state, and during the various steps of their manufacture.  The case containing the specimens will afford to strangers an opportunity of judging the qualities of the products of one of the most recently established but important of our Scotch industries.  First in order will be a large sample of Torbanehill coal in the state in which it is produced from the pits, previous to the oil being extracted.  This specimen block of brownish-black lustreless mineral will enable the visitor to form some conception of the elaborate process through which the coal is put before so dull and black a substance is made to yield transparently clear oil and paraffine whiter than wax.  The coal shows the raw material used at the Bathgate works; and ranged next in order in the case are bottles containing samples of oil as it appears at the different stages of production.  One phial contains a thick greasy black liquid, not unlike tar, which is the product of the coal after having passed through the retorts, and undergone its first purifications.  Another is filled with a darkish green fluid, exhibiting the change which has taken place in the oil after its first distillation, when it has lost a considerable portion of its impurities.  A third shows a pale sea-green oil, produced by means of a re-distillation of the dark green liquid.  Other bottles display oil which has been further operated upon and purified.  These are placed in order, according to the gradation of colour that the oil assumes in the last stages of its manufacture.  Parties interested can therefore note   that the pale green oil, on being subjected to further purification, changes its colour to yellow; and this again, after undergoing other operations, gradually alters its appearance as the processes advance, till in the last bottle of the row may be seen the pure oil in its marketable state.  In this marketable state.  In this condition it is clear and transparent, and offers a most striking contrast to the dirty liquid in the early stage of its manufacture.  The samples are designed to show the magical change from a black liquid to one almost colourless, achieved by an elaborate and ingenious system of distillation.  The contrast between the crude and the refined oil is brought thus simply under notice, and the appearances which it wears during the intervening stages are thoroughly illustrated.  The paraffine department of the Messrs Young's business will also be fully represented.  The case, in addition to a solid block of paraffine, two feet high by about three feet square, contains busts of Sir Walter Scott, Professor Wilson, Juno, “The Madonna and Child,” and “Morning and Evening” all cast from the same material.  There are also two models of trunks formed of paraffine, which are intended to represent the trees that had formerly flourished around Bathgate, whose decay has produced the coal from which the paraffine is manufactured.  The paraffine of which the various articles are made resembles pure white wax.  It is of a shining lustrous appearance, and at first sight it seems somewhat difficult to imagine that so clean and beautiful a substance is the produce of coal.  The remaining articles to be exhibited by this firm are a number of paraffine lamps of different varieties.  The collection embraces night and vase lamps manufactured from terra-cotta, parian, bronze, opal, porcelain, and Bohemian glass, some of which are designed upon the antique pattern, and are decorated with figures copied from the ancient marbles.

The Scotsman, 26th April 1865



The solid paraffine of which I spoke to you on the opening day, supposing it to be produced from Irish peat, which has been proved to contain it, though perhaps not in quantity sufficient to pay commercially, turns out to be the product of the same works which produce Mr. Young's well-known paraffine oil. Scotch 'or Irish, however, it is a marvellous specimen of one of the marvels of chemical science.

London Standard, 18th May 1865


1867 - Paris


Gold Medal, Paris Exhibition, 1867. This Company has been awarded the Gold Medal for its safe Illuminating Oils, and for its hard Paraffin Candles, as supplied to the Royal Palaces in this country. YOUNG'S PATENT PARAFFIN OIL is uniform in quality, and is guaranteed perfectly safe, YOUNG'S HARD PARAFFIN CANDLES, Beautifully Transparent and highly Illuminating; from their hardness do not bend in heated rooms.

Birmingham Gazette, 16th November 1867


1873 - Vienna



Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, Glasgow, are to send about forty specimens of the articles manufactured by them from shale. The collection will comprise samples of burning and lubricating oils in various stages of manufacture; paraffin, refined and crude; candles made from refined paraffin; sulphate of ammonia and various articles, showing the uses of refined paraffin wax.

The Scotsman, 2nd April 1873


1878 - Paris


PARIS EXHIBITION AWARDS - On account of the splendid collection of shale oil and other products of the distillion of bituminous shale exhibited by Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company a gold medal has been awarded.

The Glasgow Herald, 10th September 1878


1880 - Melbourne


Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company (Limited) have obtained at the Melbourne Exhibition, as they did at the Sydney Exhibition, a first-class award for the excellence of their paraffin and other products.

The Scotsman, 21st March 1880


1886 - Edinburgh


Saturday was the busiest day at the Exhibition since the opening, the building and grounds being thronged during the afternoon and evening. The number of visitors was 24,267, of whom 10,365 were season ticket holders, and had 2,599 had children's tickets. The others paid in one or other of the modes available. Up till Saturday night visitors had gone in since the opening.


A large part of the success of the Health Exhibition London was due to the fact that it appealed to the widest possible constituency attempting to place in juxtaposition the different processes of the manufacture of food and production of heat and light. Though one cannot expect a thoroughly representative collection of lighting and heating appliances in a general exhibition, such as that now being in Edinburgh, the selection may be taken fairly illustrative of the advancement made in our own country in this direction. Visitors may study from the production of the homely candle to the powerful electric light, with all the go-betweens of oil, paraffin, and coal gases, and the different methods of measuring, testing, and controlling electricity and gas. In the Central Court the Broxburn Company exhibit the simple process of candlemaking. The block paraffin, as white in colour as the shale from which it is produced is black, is thrown into large pans, and melted till it is clear water. It is then poured into a series of moulds, up the centre of which runs the wick supplied from bobbins placed in the lower part of the machine. A current of cold water allowed to flow round the moulds soon congeals the oil, and in about a quarter of hour the candles are made and ready for packing. The colouring matter is introduced into the pans while the oil is melting and the result is that any hue can be easily obtained. From the shale is made a substance for coating matches instead of sulphur; and a lathe is exhibited by which spiral candles are formed. Near the west end of the machinery section ingenious little apparatus is seen weaving candlewicks, so that all the stages may be studied.

Edinburgh Evening News, 17th May 1886




The Executive Committee dined together last night in the Waterloo Hotel in honour of the opening of the Exhibition. The Lord Dean of Guild (Mr Gowans) presided, and was supported on the right by Councillor Clapperton, John Smart RSA, Councillor McDonald, W E Lockhart, RSA Councillor J Robertson, WD McKay RSA, Robert Adam, City Chamberlain; Hippolyte J Blanc, Councillor Kinloch Anderson, J Marchbank, SSC; Mr A Carey, engineer; Mr R Cranston, Jr, and Mr R Shillinglaw; and on the left by John Waddell, John Grieve, D W Stevenson, ARSA; Councillor Dunlop, JB Howard, Councillor Pollard, DF Lowe, HA Hedley manager of the Exhibition; T Gaff, treasurer; John Simpson, solicitor, Dundee; and R P Miller. The croupiers were Bailie McFarlane, Glasgow, and Bailie Walcot.

THE CHAIRMAN, who was received with loud applause, said he was happy that night, for they had succeeded in opening an Exhibition which was allowed by all to be, if not the biggest that had been held in this or in other countries, at least the most complete and useful. ….Exhibitions had a great use. He was an exhibitor himself in 1851, and he would tell them a little incident which might be of interest to them. When he was making the railway across Drumshoreland Moor he struck the outcrop of the Broxburn shale, which was then little known. He saw it was a bituminous material, which might be useful. He brought some of it to his friend Professor George Wilson, and they melted it in a kail pot, and made some black candles and sent them to the Exhibition of 1851. The jurors in Class 1 awarded them a medal for "black candles made from a bituminous shale found in the county of Mid-Lothian," It was so little valued at that time that he (Mr Gowans) was offered the whole thing on the estate as long as the proprietor lived- and he was living yet- for £200, - but, like others, he knew nothing of its value, and as he was busy with his rails, he said he would have nothing to do with it. Now the Broxburn Company were paying £10,000 a year for royalities. He trusted many things in their Exhibition would turn out as useful as that little bit of shale, for they would see in the central court to what purposes it was now put.

The Scotsman, 22nd May 1886




In the International Exhibition at Edinburgh, the mineralogist and the geologist, and likewise the scientist, have brought before them some of the finest specimens of the products of the mine and quarry which have ever been collected in one building. The exhibition of the Mining Institute at Glasgow was, as might be expected, more compact; but the show at the International is more extensive, and consequently of deeper interest. It is only about 35 years since the first candles were made of black shale and it may be somewhat interesting to refer to that experiment in this article. In 1850 Mr James Gowans, contractor, Edinburgh (Now Lord Dean of Guild of that city and chairman of the Exhibition Executive Committee), was engaged making a railway line to Bathgate, and when executing a cutting on the Drumshoreland estate he came across some substance which he thought was very oily. He conveyed a bit of it to Edinburgh, and he and his friend, the late Professor George Wilson, in the house of the latter in Chambers Street, Edinburgh, melted it in a kail pot. They made into black candles, and he exhibited them at the Exhibition in London, 1851, and was awarded a medal for them among other things. The estate agent at that time offered him the whole of the minerals in the estate for £200 a year. Now the company working that very field are paying no less than £10,000 a year as royalty! Such was the foreshadowing of a mining industry which in Scotland is almost second to none. To return to the Exhibition, however, the first thing that strikes the visitor who interests himself in mineral products is the stand of the Broxburn Oil Company in the main corridor. The company have a very neat case containing a pure Gothic monument made of candles of different sizes, with a bust of Prince Albert Victor* on the basement. All round the monument are specimens of shale, paraffin was, paraffin oil in various stages of manufacture, and lubricating oils made from the shale. In order to give the public some idea of the modus operandi of the maufacture of candles, Mr Henderson, the manager, has placed three machines in the space in the centre of the corridor, where men are kept working every day turning out candles ready for use. The paraffin used in the manufacture of the candles is brought in blocks from the company's works at Broxburn, and melted in steam pans. It is then poured into the moulds, which are supplied with continous wicks, and in 15 minutes the candles are cooled and formed. The shale of the company, as is well known, is very rich. A ton of it yields about 32 gallons of crude oil, and about a thousand tons of shale are mined and distilled by the company per day. In the stand the employees also make spiral candles by means of a small turning lathe. The Burntisland Oil Company, the Linlithgow Oil Company, and the Pumpherston Oil Company also show specimens of their shales and the products manufactured therefrom. In connection with the oil industry, the exhibits by Mr Norman M. Henderson, of theBroxburn Oil Company, of drawing of various improvements in the manufacture and refining of mineral oils, may be worth a visit. These include retorts for distilling shale &c., for oils at low temperature, and utilising the spent shale as fuel; stills for ammoniacal liquors, and other stills showing a new system of continuous distillation and more perfect fractionation, as well as a cooling apparatus for extracting solid paraffin from mineral oils, with model. What may be said to have been actually the first start in the great oil industry was made when the Torbanehill shale was discovered. This interesting exhibit finds a place in Court 2, and consists of specimens and diagrams illustrating the mineral character of the Torbanehill field, in Linlithgowshire, and which was the occasion of the celebrated trial Gillespie v. Russell & Son, in which the question was raised, "What is coal?" and was also the first material used commercially in the manufacture of mineral oil for illuminating and lubricating purposes as well as paraffin. The case referred to was raised 30 years ago; the pursuer wished to break the defenders' lease, the latter having taken a coalfield, the product of which, however, proved that it was something more than coal – a valuable, oil-producing shale. The end of a lengthened litigation was that the lessee had to pay something more per annum than the agreed on rent. The seam was worked almost out, and has now become very nearly exhausted. Coals and mining machinery form striking features in Court 2. One of the finest specimens of gas coal in the collection is several large pieces of Boghead gas coal, from mines situated in Fruili, Italy, between Vienna and Trieste, and also oils extracted from it. The only drawback about the mineral is that from its situation it is almost unworkable. The Westburn Colliery Company, Glasgow, exhibit from their collieries on the Duke of Hamilton's estate a block of their famous ell coal, weighing 2 tons 11 cwt., which was got 50 fathoms from the surface. They also show a section of main coal, 7ft, thick, and weighing 3 tons 4 cwt., got 70 fathoms from the surface. Amongst the other articles exhibited are samples of splint coal, cannel coal, and washed nut washed pea coals. The nut coal is useful for stoves and ranges, and the pea coal for raising steam.

Mr Angus Drummond, of West Calder, shows a large number of useful mining tools, boring machines, steel drills, jumpers, copper needles, stemmers, &c.

*The bust of Prince Albert Victor (1864-1892) – Eldest son of Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and grandson of the reigning monarch Queen Victoria.

Glasgow Herald, 31st May 1886



Workmen are still engaged removing the traces of the late Exhibition from the West Meadows. For some time past men have been employed taking down the Grand Hall, and now only the framework remains, while another day or two will see the last of the "model building". The concrete foundations where the machinery section was situated have not yet been wholly removed; while the ground where "Old Edinburgh" stood is now covered with lime, broken pipes, and bricks, in the midst of which the model of the old cross stands in a very battered condition. Altogether a considerable time must elapse before the Meadows will be ready for use.

Edinburgh Evening News, 26th March 1887


1890 - Edinburgh


NOWITHSTANDING the unfavourable weather on Saturday, there was a good attendance of visitors at the Exhibition; the number passing the turnstiles being 21,149, which brings up the total since the opening to 80,694.


The Distillation of Mineral oils is an important industry in Scotland, and it has been largely developed of late years in the Lothians, Lanarkshire, and other counties. Paraffin has provided a most valuable article of commerce, and since the shale products were first utilised in this direction in Scotland, forty years ago, a considerable advance has been made in the refining process and in the application of residuals. Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, Glasgow, have in the west corridor of the Exhibition buildings a splendid exhibit illustrative of the paraffin industry.

The Company was formed in 1866 to take over the Addiewell and Bathgate works of Mr James Young, who laid the foundation of the paraffin industry in Scotland. In 1883 the Company acquired the works of the Uphall Oil Company, and they are now the largest shale oil producers north of the Tweed. The raw material originally employed in the production of paraffin, oils, &c, was the well known Boghead coal, but the supply of that mineral having become exhausted, recourse was had to bituminous shale, which is abundant in the neighbourhood of the Company's works, in Mid and West Lothian. A large block of polished shale forms a pedestal in the centre of a highly attractive stand, and on it a bust in paraffin wax of the late Mr James Young, the founder of the industry, while ranged around are specimens of bituminous shale, the various descriptions of oil, and crude and refined paraffin. Some beautiful candelabra, filled with paraffin wax candles of different colours, make a very effective display, and cases of artificial fruit and flowers illustrate another purpose to which paraffin may be applied.

The Scotsman, 12th May 1890


The development of the mineral oil industry in Scotland merits attention in a display of British manufactures, and it is a little surprising that only one or two of the many companies which have sprung up in the Midland Counties of this country are represented. Perhaps the stagnant condition of the trade of late accounts for the small representations. While this is so, it is satisfactory to note that Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, Glasgow, the best known and largest shale oil producers in Scotland, have a stand of exhibits worthily upholding the honour of the industry. In the centre of a very attractive case a large block of polished shale forms the pedestal for an appropriate bust in paraffin wax of the late Mr James Young, the founder of the industry. The corners are filled in with busts of Sir Lyon Playfair and Mr David Landale, M.E. Starting with specimens of bituminous shale, crude oil, and crude paraffin scale, the company show specimens of the various kinds of oil and paraffin they manufacture. At the adjoining stand Price's Patent Candle Company, London, present in picturesque form specimens of the manufactures in candles, night lights, gylcerine, soaps, and oils, surmounted by a pretty statuette in stearine of the Queen.

Glasgow Herald, 21st June 1890


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