|Nearly full flask.
You're probably not going to believe this, but I've wanted one of these since I was in my early teens. Really wanted one. I remember reading that the international unit of commerce in mercury was the "flask" which contained 76 pounds of mercury. I imagined this was something like a big barrel. Then at some point I learned that, no, a "flask" of mercury was actually quite small. Mercury is very dense (70% more dense than iron, for example), so 76 pounds of it is only about as big as a loaf of bread. Well, when I learned that, I really wanted one!
This is war surplus mercury that had been at DePauw University since about the 1950's until Dave Roberts, bless his heart, decided to give it to me. I was there with Max installing the new periodic table display in their Julian Science Center when Dave gave us a bunch of elements he felt were surplus to DePauw's needs, including this flask and several more bottles of mercury to help top it up. It was really nice of him to let me walk off with the stuff, but really I'm probably doing them a favor. Mercury isn't very expensive if you ever want some, and it is so toxic that disposing of it probably costs more than buying it. So having an excess on hand, as DePauw did, can be a significant liability, and now it's my liability instead of theirs.
Even though this cylinder is only about 3/4 full (it weighs 61 pounds total while full it would be 76 pounds plus the weight of the cylinder) it's heavy enough to be quite hard to lift, and the sloshing mercury is quite entertaining.
Source: Dave Roberts
Acquired: 1 November, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007