Howard Balsley is known in history books as a Moab uranium pioneer. In the book “The Moab Story: From Cowpokes to Bike Spokes,” author Tom McCourt writes that Balsley is “considered by many to be the father of the uranium industry in the United States.”
McCourt’s account says that Balsley came to Moab in 1908 and primarily made his living as a forest ranger, but also prospected and assisted others in their mining endeavors, even before the WWII uranium boom.
Balsley contracted with a number of small-scale miners across the Colorado Plateau to regularly make 50-ton shipments of uranium and vanadium ores to the Vitro Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the early 1930s, the company used the ores to make pigments for glass and pottery manufacturers. During WWII, Balsley used a similar business model to supply the government with vanadium needed for the war effort.
After the war, Balsley went to Washington, D.C., and advocated for studies on the uranium potential in the Colorado Plateau, which “lit the fuse for the Uranium Boom of the 1950s,” according to McCourt.
But Moab resident Lily Ann Balsley didn’t need a history book to know this history. She was Howard Balsley’s daughter-in-law, and in the decades since his passing, she has safeguarded an extensive collection of documents, pictures and artifacts that Balsley kept.
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