HHomeBackground Color:He
LiBeRadium Pictures PageBlack White GrayBCNOFNe
NaMgRadium Technical DataAlSiPSClAr
KCaRadium Isotope DataScTiVCrMnFeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr
RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAgCdInSnSbTeIXe
CsBaLaCePrNdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTmYbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTlPbBiPoAtRn
FrRaAcThPaUNpPuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRfDbSgBhHsMtDsRgCnUutUuqUupUuhUusUuo
Radium     

Radium

Atomic Weight 226[note]
Density 5 g/cm3
Melting Point 700 °C
Boiling Point 1737 °C
Full technical data

Radium was widely used in self-luminous clock and watch hands, until too many watch factory workers had died of it. This antique watch is still quite radioactive, and will stay that way for thousands of years.

Scroll down to see examples of Radium.
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Radium The Radium Book

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The Radium Book.
The Radium Book is something I've been trying to acquire for a long time, if only to confirm once and for all that it doesn't actually contain any radium (which would have been far too expensive to use in a book like this). Yes, it is completely non-radioactive.
I paid a lot for this book, which is almost impossible to find, because while it's not radioactive, it is a a wonderful artifact from an era where that would have been considered a problem along the lines of false advertising, while giving a child a radioactive book to read would have seemed perfectly normal.
Source: eBay seller kathy456
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 25 April, 2009
Text Updated: 25 April, 2009
Price: $180
Size: 12"
Purity: 0%
Radium Radium bath house postcard

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Radium bath house postcard.
Postcard about a radium bath house.
Source: eBay seller beckyj29
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 25 April, 2009
Text Updated: 25 April, 2009
Price: $1.25
Size: 6"
Purity: 0%
Radium Radium NOT starch

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Radium (NOT) starch.
The is "Radium Lump" brand starch. It contains no radium.
Source: eBay seller markieo51
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 28 March, 2009
Text Updated: 29 March, 2009
Price: $47
Size: 7"
Purity: 0%
Radium Extra-radioactive clock

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Extra-radioactive clock.
This clock has an unusually large amount of radium paint on its numerals and hands, making it more radioactive than the average antique luminous hand clock. Although I have not tried this, the seller claims that if you look at the hands with a magnifying glass in a dark room you can see individual flashes of light, which says more about how decayed the phosphors are than about the amount of radioactivity. (When new the hands would have glowed too brightly to see individual flashes, but over time the phosphors in these clocks degrades. The radioactivity will stay for thousands of years.)
Source: eBay seller vonhoho
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 8 February, 2009
Text Updated: 8 February, 2009
Price: $159
Size: 4"
Purity: <0.1%
Radium Small Revigator

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Small Revigator.
This is a smaller model of Revigator, but more complete than my other model (also listed under radium). See that sample for more details for what a Revigator is and why it's listed under radium. Trust me, it's worth the read.
Source: eBay seller seaboo49
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 13 November, 2002
Text Updated: 2 December, 2008
Price: $425
Size: 10"
Purity: <0.1%
Sample Group: Medical
Radium Radium boot polish

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Radium boot polish.
This boot polish never had any radium in it, of that you can be 99% sure. The word "radium" was widely used in the early to mid 1900s as a sort of designation of quality and brightness, based on its use in luminous paints. Just as today we have "titanium" padlocks that contain no titanium, or "titanium" clocks made of gray plastic that looks at best vaguely metallic, in the past there were countless "radium" products that contained no actual radium.
Source: eBay seller northernkollector
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 14 June, 2008
Text Updated: 14 June, 2008
Price: $25
Size: 3"
Purity: 0%
Radium The Hammer Radium Spinthariscope

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The Hammer Radium Spinthariscope.
I'm not sure what "The Hammer" means, but this is a fairly nice little radium spinthariscope. Spinthariscopes are explained in more detail here.
Source: eBay seller watsgotslots
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 19 May, 2007
Text Updated: 19 May, 2007
Price: $86
Size: 1.25"
Purity: <1%
Sample Group: Spinthariscopes
Radium Scary Object

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Scary Object.
This thing scares me. Maybe I'm just a ninny, but when a Geiger counter literally screams at me, I find it unsettling. Let me explain. My Geiger counter, a very fine modern thin-window model, has a maximum count rate of 350,000 counts per minute. If you exceed that rate, it emits a high-pitched tone indicating either "out of range" or "get the hell out of here now", depending on your point of view.

This little puck, about an inch in diameter, sets off this scream any time it's closer than about an inch from the meter. Through 1/8 inch of lead it still reads many thousands of cpm.

According to William Kolb, my reference for all things radioactive, the measurements I sent him indicate that it is probably a 100 micro-Curie radium source. Unfortunately the lettering has mostly worn off so I can't make out what it used to have stamped on it (I didn't want to spend too long pointing it towards my eyes at close range, trying to make out what it says).

He describes its intensity by analogy: Held up against your cheek for one minute would roughly equal one modern dental x-ray. After several hours you would get a reddening of the skin due to radiation exposure. Whether you would also die of cheek cancer ten years later is harder to say, but I figure one or two x-ray equivalents to my hands is not an unacceptable risk, especially since the hands are not overly sensitive to radiation. I would not carry it around in a pocket, that's for sure. And I'm probably not going to keep it either, once I'm sure I have no more desire to photograph it, I'll turn it in to the local radiation safety office. A thing like this should not be rattling around loose in the world.

This puck came as part of a nice, well-made set of slides made from various thicknesses of aluminum and lead, obviously meant as an educational tool to teach people the difference between alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Generally speaking, gamma radiation will be partially stopped only by the thickest lead slides, beta will be stopped by the aluminum or lead slides, and alpha will be stopped by a wet noodle, sheet of paper, or a few inches of air.

The price listed here was for the whole set, which included several other sources and the nice boxed set of slides: These will be added shortly.

Source: Juan Jimenez
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 16 March, 2007
Text Updated: 19 May, 2007
Price: $200
Size: 1"
Purity: <1%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Radium 1903 Crookes Spinthariscope

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1903 Crookes Spinthariscope.
This is a beautiful solid machined brass spinthariscope engraved with the words Spinthariscope, W. Crookes, 1903. 1903 is the year William Crookes invented this device and decided to name it the spinthariscope. This article about spinthariscopes gives details of the origin and function of this fascinating device.

What I don't know is whether this one was actually made in 1903, or only later. And I don't know whether Crookes himself had anything to do with its manufacture, or whether whoever made it was just using his name for promotional or descriptive purposes. It's certainly old, and it's certainly very nicely made, solid and still in perfect operating condition after a hundred years.

To use a spinthariscope start by sitting in a completely dark room for about ten minutes to get your eyes fully dark adapted (this step is one thing that made the device so popular at Victorian parties where ladies were present). Then look through the lens (on the left in this picture) and pull the barrel in and out to focus on the screen fastened to the opposite end. On this screen you will see a swirling sea of light flashes: Each flash of light represents the decay of one single atom of radium. The energy in each flash comes directly from the energy released by the decay of the one atom responsible for it. Which is pretty amazing.

A fancy spinthariscope like this one comes equipped with small thumb wheel (visible on the back side if you look at the rotation video for this sample) that lets you move the spec of radium inside back and forth across the screen. (The radium is mounted on an arm that looks a lot like a watch hand, mounted about 1/16" above the screen.)

This is by far my most radioactive spinthariscope (see above for several other examples, as well as this sample of a modern spinthariscope available today). Measured from the outside, the closed unit reads significantly above background, but is not all that hot. But open it up and out spills a lot of radioactivity, on the order of 50,000 counts per minute. And most of that radioactivity probably isn't directly from the spec of radium that is the active ingredient of this device, because the radium is mounted on the bottom side of the watch hand, and is thus at least partly shielded from the open end of the tube.

Most of the radiation is coming from decay products that have built up on the inside of the barrel over the last century. As the radium decays it turns into radon gas, which builds up inside the closed tube, and in turn decays within a few days into a variety of other elements and isotopes. The whole decay chain is long and complex, ending up mostly in stable lead. Wiping (under carefully controlled conditions) the inside of the tube with an alcohol swab yields a dark smudge that is strongly radioactive, no doubt a combination of lead and mixed still-hot decay products, plus possibly some of the original radium that might have flaked off the hand.

Zinc sulfide screens eventually break down under the assault of radiation, loosing their luminosity. In this spinthariscope one side of the screen is distinctly weaker than the other, which indicates that the hand was left pointing towards that side for most of the last hundred years. The radium itself has changed very little: with a half-life of about 1600 years it's going to stay radioactive for a long time to come.

Source: eBay seller salvart
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 10 February, 2007
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: $412
Size: 1.25"
Purity: <0.1%
Sample Group: Spinthariscopes
Radium Radium scintillation slide

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Radium scintillation slide.
This is a microscope slide designed to let you view the streaks of light given off when the alpha particles produced by the radioactive decay of radium strike a zinc sulfide luminous screen. It's basically a spinthariscope (see several examples above) without a built-in magnifying glass. I haven't tried look at it in a microscope, but I would be surprised if it still works: Old zinc sulfide screens decay after a decade or so, and loose their luminous properties except under strong UV light (which is how this sample was photographed: UV on one side, normal light on the other).
Source: eBay seller tamagno
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 25 October, 2005
Text Updated: 9 May, 2007
Price: $60
Size: 3"
Purity: <0.1%
Sample Group: Spinthariscopes
Radium Broken wristwatch

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Broken wristwatch.
You can buy anything on eBay. I once bought some burned out light bulbs (listed under tantalum and carbon). This is one of a batch of five broken wrist watches I got for $10. What makes them worth trading is that they are antique radium-hand watches, with numbers and hands painted (by hand) with luminous radium paint. Truth in photography: The glow you see is actually generated by a black light placed near the watch. Antique radium watches no longer glow on their own, not because the radium has decayed, but because the zinc sulfide phosphorescent paint no longer responds to the radiation. They are actually just as radioactive as they ever were, you just don't get any light for it.

I chose this sample to represent its element in my Photographic Periodic Table Poster. The sample photograph includes text exactly as it appears in the poster, which you are encouraged to buy a copy of.
Periodic Table Poster

Source: eBay seller topwatch
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 12 May, 2005
Text Updated: 4 May, 2007
Price: $2
Size: 1.25"
Purity: <0.1%
Radium Spinthariscope

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Spinthariscope.
This is an antique spinthariscope: I'm not sure how old, but I would guess it's from the 1930s or so. Look a couple samples up for a longer discussion about spinthariscopes, which are amazing little gadgets. This one registers quite strongly on my Geiger counter, indicating it is probably made with real radium.
Source: eBay seller dahl1az
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 10 March, 2004
Text Updated: 9 May, 2007
Price: $81
Size: 0.6"
Purity: <0.1%
Sample Group: Spinthariscopes
Radium Concentrate from Uranothorianite

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Concentrate from Uranothorianite.
A student in Austria isolated about 0.5 micrograms of radium from a sample of uranothorianite (much as the Curies first did) and sealed it in this well-made glass ampule. The powder you see is mostly BaSO4: That much pure radium would be worth a fortune and would also have to be kept in a separate room well away from any living things.
Source: Anonymous
Contributor: Anonymous
Acquired: 4 March, 2004
Text Updated: 8 December, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 2"
Purity: 0.0000005%
Radium Check source

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Check source.
This calibrated beta source is intended for checking the operation of Geiger counters and the like. Sale of buttons like this would ordinarily be fairly regulated, but this one neatly avoids the issue by being constructed out of several antique radium paint watch hands, which are widely available and generally speaking legal:


The seller sternly warns against removing the cover paper, which reveals the watch hands. I'm not sure if this is mainly because they don't want people to know that this is how the button is made, or mainly because they are genuinely worried about the hazard of exposure to radium paint chips and dust. In any case, I would head their warnings: Radium, like any alpha emitter, is much safer in a well-sealed container than it is loose, because if any gets in your lungs it will tend to stay there until you die of lung cancer.
Source: eBay seller geoelectronics
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 20 November, 2003
Price: $20
Size: 1"
Purity: <1%
Radium Luminous dial gauge

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Luminous dial gauge.
This is an oxygen pressure gauge with a luminous radium dial. See the first radium sample for a discussion of radium luminous paint.
Source: eBay seller aztecjaguarwarrior
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 20 August, 2003
Price: $5
Size: 2"
Purity: <1%
Radium Polish Coin

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Polish Coin.
This extremely beautiful, extremely shiny silver coin was issued by the Polish government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery, by Madam Curie and her husband, of radium and polonium. Poland...Polonium, get it? In terms of technical data, this has got to be one of the most informative coins ever.
Source: eBay seller arturkr
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 20 June, 2003
Price: $27
Size: 1.5"
Purity: 0%
Sample Group: Coins
Radium Sample from the Everest Set

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Sample from the Everest Set.
Up until the early 1990's a company in Russia sold a periodic table collection with element samples. At some point their American distributor sold off the remaining stock to a man who is now selling them on eBay. The samples (except gases) weigh about 0.25 grams each, and the whole set comes in a very nice wooden box with a printed periodic table in the lid.

Radioactive elements like this one are represented in this particular set by a non-radioactive dummy powder, which doesn't look anything like the real element. (In this case a sample of the pure element isn't really practical anyway.)

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description and information about how to buy one, or you can see photographs of all the samples from the set displayed on my website in a periodic table layout or with bigger pictures in numerical order.

Source: Rob Accurso
Contributor: Rob Accurso
Acquired: 7 February, 2003
Text Updated: 18 January, 2009
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: 0%
Radium Sample from the RGB Set

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Sample from the RGB Set.
The Red Green and Blue company in England sells a very nice element collection in several versions. Max Whitby, the director of the company, very kindly donated a complete set to the periodic table table.

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description or the company's website which includes many photographs and pricing details. I have two photographs of each sample from the set: One taken by me and one from the company. You can see photographs of all the samples displayed in a periodic table format: my pictures or their pictures. Or you can see both side-by-side with bigger pictures in numerical order.

The picture on the left was taken by me. Here is the company's version (there is some variation between sets, so the pictures sometimes show different variations of the samples):


Source: Max Whitby of RGB
Contributor: Max Whitby of RGB
Acquired: 25 January, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: <0.2%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Radium Spinthariscope

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Spinthariscope.
The spinthariscope was a popular amusement at academic parties in the early 1900s, or so I am told. It consists of a short tube with a lens at one end and a zinc-sulfide coated screen at the other, with just a touch of radium mounted near the screen. You look through the lens and see tiny flashes of light on the screen, each one caused by the impact of a single alpha particle created by the decay of a single atom of radium.

This is a rather cheaply made one from a Chemcraft chemistry set made in the 1950's. Unfortunately while the radium will remain radioactive for millennia, the zinc-sulfide phosphor does not last very long, and most spinthariscopes, including this one, do not work very well anymore. By turning off all the lights, covering myself in a thick blanket, and letting my eyes adjust to the dark for a good 5-10 minutes, I was able to convince myself that I saw real flashes of light, one every couple of seconds and sometimes a burst of half a dozen all at once. Whether this was due to radium decay or oxygen deprivation I'm not entirely sure.

Here is an article about spinthariscopes.

Amazingly, there is a revival of spinthariscopes on eBay: Check out my modern spinthariscope for details.

I got the 1950's chemistry set on eBay after consulting this trusty reference book about radioactive collectables. According to its table of going rates for these things, I got a good deal on the chemistry set, though it is not in perfect condition and is missing some components. Modern chemistry sets are pretty wimpy, but I have to say that, aside from the uranium ore and the radium, this set is pretty tame as well. It even proudly claims to contain "no dangerous or explosive chemicals". I mean really, where's the fun in that? Here's a picture of the set:
Chemcraft Chemistry Set

Source: eBay seller 6tomcat
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 10 January, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: $58/chemistry set
Size: 1"
Purity: <0.1%
Sample Group: Spinthariscopes
Radium An actual Revigator

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An actual Revigator.
Revigators sell on a regular basis on eBay. (See above for a description of what a Revigator is.) I've seen them go for almost $500 for one in perfect condition. That's outside my price range, especially for samples that don't even have the element in pure form. But fortunately I found this ragged old one, missing its lid and spigot, for a much more reasonable price.

And it's just as radioactive as the others! Holding the probe outside it registers only about 2-3000 counts per minute, but if you stick the probe down into it, you get almost 100,000 CPM. Of course neither of these measurements is a meaningful reflection of the total body dose you would get from standing near it, let alone drinking water out of it. That's an experiment I may yet do. (I.e. let water stand in it for a couple of days, then pour it out and measure the radioactivity, if any, of the water as a function of time. I am not going to drink that water!)

I've listed the item under radium as well as uranium, because although it's lined with uranium ore, the Revigator is glazed with the words "Radium Ore Revigator". This is largely due to the fact that at the time "Radium" was the popular name that represented any kind of (good) radioactivity. And radium is, in fact, found as a small component in uranium ores, so it's no doubt present in some quantity in this Revigator too.

Here are some fascinating close-ups of the lettering glazed on the outside of this old pot:




Source: eBay seller bettyboop
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 13 November, 2002
Text Updated: 11 March, 2007
Price: $90
Size: 12"
Purity: <0.1%
Sample Group: Medical
Radium A Most Amazing Booklet about Revigators

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A Most Amazing Booklet about Revigators.
This book is just incredible. I can't even begin to describe how hilarious it is in places, knowing what we know now about radioactivity. The beautiful thing is, it could have been written today, if you just substitute your favorite current alternative health fad for the substance they are extolling (known in the book as "niton" or "emanation"). All the same arguments, proofs, and fundamental confusions about how the world works are there, right down to the claim that it can't possibly be harmful because it's not a drug or medicine, it's all natural. The "it" being radon gas, which is now known to be one of the most powerfully toxic substances in the world, so toxic that even barely measurable concentrations from natural sources are a problem in many people's houses.

This 20-page booklet is an ad for a product called the "Revigator", which charged your drinking water with radon gas, in case you were missing the benefits of this all-natural substance in your daily life. And it really did emit radon: The product was, unfortunately for its users, not a fraud. It was lined with carnotite (Hydrated Potassium Uranyl Vanadate), a uranium ore which, like any uranium or thorium ore, emits radon gas at a steady rate as a decay product of the uranium.

I've listed the item under radium as well as uranium, because although it's lined with uranium ore, the Revigator is glazed with the words "Radium Ore Revigator". This is largely due to the fact that at the time "Radium" was the popular name that represented any kind of (good) radioactivity. And radium is, in fact, found as a small component in uranium ores, so it's no doubt present in some quantity in this Revigator too.

I have scanned the book and prepared a PDF file for your reading pleasure. There are two versions, a plain one for reading on screen and a double-sided one where the pages seem to be out of order until you print it out double-sided and saddle-staple the result. The second file is ideal if you want to create your own copies of the booklet to hand out to your new-age friends. (This book is technically copyrighted, but so far as I am aware the company that owns the copyright is long defunct, so I really doubt anyone cares.)

If you're interested in radioactive things, here is a book I strongly recommend.

In December of 2002, this booklet was de-accessioned from the table: This is the first time I have ever parted with a sample, and may be the last, as it was something I did only after weeks of agonizing deliberation. The reason for parting with it was that I was offered, by a highly reputable collector who wishes to remain anonymous, nearly a pound of solid machined uranium metal (see uranium) in exchange for it. Depleted uranium is something that simply isn't available at any price, and after seeking advice and council from learned individuals, I decided that all I really care about is the PDF version of this booklet anyway.

Source: eBay seller daddio
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 8 November, 2002
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: $44
Size: 9"
Purity: 0%
Sample Group: Medical
Radium Proper radium watch hands, Bestfit 6R4 kit

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Proper radium watch hands, Bestfit 6R4 kit.
After being burned by the "radium" paint described above, I was a bit nervous about these watch hands, also from eBay. Fortunately, all but 3 of the glass vials full of watch hands turned out to be highly radioactive. None of them glow (the zinc sulfide phosphors break down after only a few years, so old radium hands don't glow even though the radium itself has a half-life of 1600 years).

Interestingly, while they all glow somewhat after exposure to bright light, the non-radioactive ones glow more than the others. Two possibilities come to mind: Perhaps they were never meant to be radioactive, and are a made with a newer, simple glow-in-the-dark paint. Or perhaps they were defectively manufactured, and the phosphor has simply survived better because it isn't being exposed to constant radioactivity. Given that they appear identical to the radioactive ones and are in exactly the same kind of container, I would tend to think the latter. The hands all constitute a single kit of replacement hands, so one would expect them all to be from the same era. On the other hand, perhaps the non-radioactive ones are the most popular sizes, and had to be re-stocked with newer hands at a later date, to keep the kit complete.

This excellent book has a photograph (on page 83) of a very similar full set (Bestfit 6R5), in its original box. I have the label that came with the set, but not the box.

Source: eBay seller dashto
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 4 November, 2002
Price: $37
Size: 0.5"
Purity: <1%
Radium Fitrite Radium Outfit

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Fitrite "Radium Outfit".
I'm not sure what they mean by "radium", but from the standpoint of radioactivity, this kit is as dead as a doornail. It obviously never contained any actual radium.
It is clearly old, and it is clearly marked by the original manufacturer as being a "radium" kit. The seller on eBay was selling it as exactly what it is, and I don't suspect any fraud whatsoever. In fact, I know of at least one other kit with a different brand name also sold as a "radium" outfit, which also contains no radium.
So what's going on? Well, no doubt someone knows this in great detail, but I haven't found them yet. If you know, please tell me!
In the mean time, I have several speculations.

1) It's just a rip-off. There were certainly just as many charlatans 80 years ago as there are today. But it seems unlikely because real radium paint would have been glowing, and any buyer would have seen before buying that the paint was not right.
2) It's from a later period of time and is meant as a radium-like replacement paint. "Radium" being more like a brand name that a description of the contents. The paint is phosphorescent when activated by bright light.
3) It's meant to refresh the phosphor of a radium-hand watch. Radium has a very long half-life (1600 years) but the zinc sulfide phosphors used at the time wear out and the dials lose their luminosity after a few years. Perhaps this paint was meant to be applied over an existing radium watch hand, refreshing the luminosity without actually needing to add any new radium.

After I wrote the above, I was of course informed of a fourth possibility I hadn't considered, by the co-author of a wonderful book about radioactivity:
There were several luminous paints used by watchmakers that contained short-lived isotopes such as promethium-147 and tritium. I don't recall if I have the particular "Radium Outfit" you show on your web page but I have several like it and most do not contain radium. You shouldn't be misled by the word "radium" on these and similar products. There's a section in the book that will give you some idea of the broad use of this word in early products and advertising. My personal rule is that I don't buy anything that "appears" to be hot just from its description unless the seller can verify it with a Geiger counter or will accept a return.
So, there's my answer.

Source: eBay seller watchman37
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 18 October, 2002
Price: $107
Size: 1"
Purity: 0%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Radium Great Radium Spring Water Co, Inc, Pittsfield, Mass bottle

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Great Radium Spring Water Co, Inc, Pittsfield, Mass bottle.
Just as we have a lot of quack medicines today, many of which are quite dangerous (e.g. ephedrine in high doses sold as an "herbal" remedy), soon after the discovery of radiation it started being used in health drinks and other remedies.
This might seem nutty now, and in fact many people died from these treatments. But it's no more nutty than, say, homeopathic remedies are today. (And homeopathic remedies are probably going to stay popular for a long time, because they have the great virtue of containing no actual ingredients other than water and sometimes alcohol. This means they are perfectly safe and free from side effects, which are what usually do in quack remedies eventually. You really have to hand it to an industry that makes vast amounts of money selling tiny little bottles of distilled water. But I digress.)

If you think back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the two most magical recent discoveries from the world of science were electricity and magnetism. Both were by then quite well known and useful, and had been around long enough that people knew they were, taken in moderation of course, quite harmless. No one died a slow and horrible death from exposure to magnets, or from years of sitting under electric lights. So when radioactivity was discovered, why should anyone have expected it to be so horribly dangerous, even in quantities that caused no obvious immediate harm, from lumps you could hold in your hand without any apparent danger? All the early researchers had no idea it was dangerous, and exposed themselves to staggeringly large radiation doses. Many, many of them died as a result, but not until years later, and it took some time before the connection was really understood.

In fact, it was soon observed that the water from mineral hot springs, which everyone knew to be healthful, was radioactive. (It contains radon gas, which comes from the decay of uranium and thorium, which decay is responsible for the heat that makes the spring water hot in the first place.)

This pretty much clinched the argument that radioactivity must be not only harmless, but positively beneficial, and a health craze quickly ensued in the form of "Radithor" water irradiators, thorium drinks, radium drinks, and so on. It was, at the time, seemingly harmless and not nearly as crazy as it seems today. (Of course, it was crazy at the time too, as was the use of electricity and magnetism in quack devices. My point is just that the danger genuinely was not known at first: People were not more stupid back then, they just didn't have the information yet.)
It took the horrible and well-publicized death of the well-known industrialist Eben Byers in 1932, from daily doses of radium health elixir, to finally bring some caution to the craze. This article about the subject is fascinating and informative.

The history of this bottle (and a picture of one like it) can be found in this wonderful book about radioactivity. To quote from the picture caption on page 16:
From 1919 to 1922 the Great Radium Spring Water Company at 24 North Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts sold bottle water that ostensibly provided some of the same health benefits as radium springs in nearby places like Saratoga Springs, New York. The source of the water used in this product is uncertain but may in fact have contained dissolved radon. Radon levels, however, decline rapidly once water is removed from the ground and this "deficiency" in bottled and city water, gave rise to radon charging devices popular in the 1920s
(See my Revigator and Revigator booklet below for an example of one of those charging devices.)

Source: eBay seller elaine301
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 10 October, 2002
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: $5
Size: 9"
Purity: 0%
Sample Group: Medical
Radium Oil temperature gauge luminous dial

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Oil temperature gauge luminous dial.
This oil temperature gauge is out of a WWII bomber and it has a luminous dial made with radium paint. The luminosity has faded, which is known to happen due to the deterioration of the zinc sulfide phosphor. It is still definitely radioactive (half-life of 1600 years, so it's going to be that way for a long time). It was donated by Trish Craig of the Environmental Health & Safety department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Here's a great article about an object I'd sure like to find and enclose behind a huge amount of lead/

If you're interested in collecting radioactive things, here is a book I highly recommend.

Source: Trish Craig
Contributor: Trish Craig
Acquired: 28 May, 2002
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 3"
Purity: <1%
Radium Photo Card Deck of the Elements

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Photo Card Deck of the Elements.
In late 2006 I published a photo periodic table and it's been selling well enough to encourage me to make new products. This one is a particularly neat one: A complete card deck of the elements with one big five-inch (12.7cm) square card for every element. If you like this site and all the pictures on it, you'll love this card deck. And of course if you're wondering what pays for all the pictures and the internet bandwidth to let you look at them, the answer is people buying my posters and cards decks. Hint hint.
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 19 November, 2008
Text Updated: 21 November, 2008
Price: $35
Size: 5"
Composition: HHeLiBeBCNOFNeNaMg AlSiPSClArKCaScTiVCrMn FeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAg CdInSnSbTeIXeCsBaLaCePr NdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTm YbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTl PbBiPoAtRnFrRaAcThPaUNp PuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRf DbSgBhHsMtDsRgUubUutUuq UupUuhUusUuo
Radium Radiendocrinator

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Radiendocrinator. (External Sample)
This is a very scary device. It was seriously radioactive before the source was removed, and its intended purpose was to be placed near especially sensitive parts of the body, in the mistaken belief that exposing such parts to radiation was anything other than insane. Museum's listing of this item.
Location: Oak Ridge Health Physics Museum
Photographed: 14 April, 2009
Text Updated: 15 April, 2009
Size: 2"
Purity: 0%
Radium Radium condoms

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Radium condoms. (External Sample)
I'm not even going to say a word. Except no, they didn't actually have any radium in them, though plenty of similar products of the time did. Museum's listing of this item.
Location: Oak Ridge Health Physics Museum
Photographed: 14 April, 2009
Text Updated: 15 April, 2009
Size: 2"
Purity: 0%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!