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Michigan Item: Part of Something Big

Issue #2

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Gypsum (jip-sum) is a mineral (min-er-ul). A mineral is naturally formed under the ground. Gypsum can be found in small pieces or large chunks. It comes in many colors, such as white, gray, red, brown, or yellow.

Only a few places in Michigan have gypsum. The western part of the state contains the biggest amount. This natural resource (natch-er-ul ree-sors) was discovered, or first found, around 1827 near a creek in Grand Rapids. Mining of gypsum began around 1841. Tunnels were dug to get to the gypsum. Loads and loads of the mineral were hauled to the surface every day.

Gypsum is used to make plaster of Paris, which is a white powdery material. When plaster of Paris is mixed with water it becomes clay-like and hardens quickly. Plaster of Paris was used to make moldings for walls, decorations, or statues. Even though it is hard when it is dry, it still can be scratched with a fingernail. Gypsum is also used to make cement, paint, chalk, and glass.


The photo of white gypsum is from © The photo of colored gypsum is from the Historical Society of Michigan. The photos of the plaster molding are from ©
top left is white gypsum and bottom right is red, green, and white gypsum

Gypsum (jip-sum) comes in many shapes and colors.

two pictures of molding from plaster being made

The photos above show how moldings were made long ago using plaster of Paris. Molding is a decoration that is used on walls and ceilings.