The Manhattan Project was a top secret research and development project during World War II. It began in 1942 and produced the world’s first nuclear weapon. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. The Project employed more than 130,000 people and cost nearly 2 billion dollars in 1945 money.
History was made on July 16th, 1945. At the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico, the world’s first Atomic Bomb was detonated. The bomb, a result of the Manhattan Project, was named the “Trinity Gadget.” When it was detonated, it sucked up all the desert sand, earth, vegetation, animals, insects and anything else in its path into the cloud. The heat generated inside the cloud reached millions of degrees Fahrenheit. Hotter than the surface of the sun. It formed a mushroom cloud 7 ½ miles high and was the equivalent of 18,000 tons or 36 million pounds of TNT. Everything pulled into the cloud was turned to liquid and rained down onto the desert floor. As it cooled, it formed a green glass, later named, “Trinitite”.
Trinitite is all that is left of the first atomic bomb. This historic material is now preserved at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and various museums throughout the world. In 1951 the US Government made it illegal to collect trinitite. The only material still available is in the hands of a few collectors. There are some well documented collections where the material was collected before 1950. The Wallace T. Smith collection, the Harry Baldwin collection and the Ralph E. Pray collection. These collections were written about in the book, “Trinitite, The Atomic Age Mineral” by W. M. Kolb.
Trinitite is mostly light to dark green in color. Red trinitite is rare and contains copper from the wiring from the bomb. Black trinitite is also rare and contains iron from the 100 ft. steel tower used to suspend the bomb over the test site. Blue trinitite is the rarest and no explanation has been found yet for the blue color. Other special features of trinitite include: Spheres, fallout surface dust, black crust from the specimens collected at ground zero, magnetic specimens and feldspar inclusions.
Between 1947 and 1950, Wallace T. Smith collected approximately 200 pounds of trinitite from the Trinity site. Wallace passed away in 1965. The trinitite sat in a bunk house in New Mexico until his wife passed away in 2008. The niece who inherited the property, then gave the trinitite to a lady in New Mexico that had worked for the family on the ranch. In August, 2019, I drove to New Mexico to purchase a quantity of trinitite from her for a museum display I am working on. The display is done and I am offering the other specimens I have to fellow collectors rather than see it boxed away and eventually lost.
Photos: Top Left, the first 0.16 seconds of the atomic age. Top Right, 12 seconds after detonation. Middle Left, this monument stands at the Trinity site to designate this historic location. Middle Right, this 100 ft. steel tower was erected at the Trinity site to suspend the Gadget bomb over the test site. The tower vanished in the explosion. Bottom Left, the Trinity Gadget Atomic Bomb before detonation. Bottom Right, the Trinity Gadget Atomic Bomb before detonation.