Archives Exhibit Moves to Lake Linden

Calumet & Hecla Smelters, Lake Linden & Hubbell, ca. 1910. Photograph by J.W. Nara, image #Nara 42-017.
Calumet & Hecla Smelters, Lake Linden & Hubbell, ca. 1910. Photograph by J.W. Nara, Image #Nara 42-017.

People, Place and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara, a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, is currently hosted in the main museum building of the Houghton County Historical Society in Lake Linden. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and is open to the public through July 6, 2010 during the museum’s regular hours.  

John William Nara was born in Finland in 1874. He later immigrated to the United States and established a photographic studio in Calumet, Michigan, in the heart of America’s most productive copper mining region. In addition to posed studio portraits, J. W. Nara’s lens also captured the people, place, and time he experienced in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Copper mining and industry are an important part of the story, but Nara also captured the Keweenaw’s rural landscape, including local farms, shorelines, lighthouses, and pastoral back roads.

The travelling exhibit, funded in part by descendants Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack Michigan, works from historical photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives. Interpretive panels highlight the people, places, and times that J.W. Nara experienced during his lifetime and include material on urban life, farming, and the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the Houghton County Historical Society  through July 6, 2010, and will then move to the Keweenaw County Historical Society in Eagle Harbor.  More informaton about the exhibit is available here, including details on hosting the exhibit at your location.


Archives Closed Some Days This Summer

The Michigan Tech Archives will be closed on the following days: 

Monday, May 31, in observance of Memorial Day.
Tuesday, June 15, for a staff retreat.
Monday, July 5, in accordance with the University’s Independence Day Recess.

Otherwise, the Archives’ summer hours for public research are:
Monday-Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Please call 906-487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu with any additional questions.


Online access to Calumet & Hecla Collection Finding Aid

Archives’ staff continue work on a project funded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission to create collection descriptions for each of our manuscript collections.  Although this will provide researchers with a better understanding of the breadth and coverage of our holdings, it won’t initially provide much detail about the contents of individual collections. It is our plan, over time, to continue to create detailed inventories and “finding aids” for each collection which will provide detailed information about the contents of the boxes and folders within each collection.  With a collection of more than 7,000 cubic feet of material, however, this will take a little time.

That said, we do have finding aids available for some of our collections. Researchers may visit our finding aids web page for links to a grouping of some of the more established inventories. During our cataloging project, we’ll also be posting announcements about newly cataloged collections to this blog site.

We’ve recently added a version of the finding aid to Collection MS-002, Calumet & Hecla Mining Companies Collection.  Many thanks to researcher and scholar Eric Nystrom for taking an awkward set of word processing files made years ago in WordPerfect and converting them into a usable web-readable document.


What’s cookin’ today in the reading room.

I worked with a researcher in the Archives today who was interested in any records or documentation of foodways. What are “foodways,” you may ask. Well, that’s academe-speak for what people eat, the social implications of what, how, and with whom they eat; basically, how people interact with food. Food is love, right?

The researcher, Casey Rudkin, an RTC doctoral student, was looking for things like cookbooks and any records that might contain recipes. She was particularly interested in the Brockway Diaries Collection (MS-010), thinking that perhaps Lucena Brockway had noted “receipts,” as recipes were sometimes referred to in the early 19th century and prior. Lucena kept a pretty terse journal, but there are plenty of details to be gleaned of early life on the Keweenaw by the dedicated researcher.

Casey did the hard work, but occasionally we puzzled together over the meaning of some of the text in the diaries; Lucena was not the most legible scribe. We struggled over an entry that recorded the canning of a bushel of cherries, and eventually learned that on one autumn afternoon she and two other women put up 13 cans of cherries by 7 o’clock! No mean feat even on a modern gas range. I can only imagine what that was like on a wood stove in a kitchen without electricity or running water.

Kitchen, circa 1913
This is the kitchen of the Putrich residence in Seeberville (Painesdale), Michigan. It dates to about 40 years later than Lucena Brockway's day of canning. The merchant family Brockway's kitchen may have been a bit larger than the working class Putriches, but the appliances and equipment were quite likely similar.

Lucena seemed to have been ill frequently. Many of her recipes deal with home remedies. One entry notes a “cure for small pox.”

Casey shared her notes with me from the final page of Lucena Brockway’s 1869 diary, written opposite the back cover page (Coll. #MS-010, The Brockway Diary Collection, Box 1, Folder 5). I’m posting it here with a disclaimer that the excerpt is intended for informational purposes only.

Cure for Small Pox

Sulphate of zinc one grain;
Foxglove (digitalis) one grain;
half a teaspoonful of sugar;
mix with two tablespoonfuls of water.

When thoroughly mixed add—
four ounces of water.
Take a spoonful every
hour. Either disease
will disappear in twelve
hours. For a child smaller
doses according to age.
If counties would com
pel Physicians to use
this there would be no
need of Pest houses.

Lucena notes that the remedy worked for Scarlet fever too.

As work continues on our NHPRC-funded project to create collection level descriptions for all of our manuscript collections, we are truly “revealing hidden collections.” Cataloging archivist Beth Russell was able to suggest another source that contained recipes or descriptions of food. In the collection of Perkins Burnham Correspondence (Acc. # 01-103A), a healthy young clerk in the Eagle Harbor general store describes meals at his boarding house with great gusto.

Mmmm, I’m getting hungry….


Library Hosts Book-Signing Events

Company housing and Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Agent Street near Calumet, Michigan. The background is dominated by smokestacks, shafthouses, and other industrial workings of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.
Company housing and Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Agent Street near Calumet, Michigan. The background is dominated by smokestacks, shafthouses, and other industrial workings of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. Image MS042-039-T-045 (Detail A), Collection MS-042 Reeder Photographic Collection.

Two new publications about the history of the Copper Country will make their debut on April 16 and 20 at Michigan Tech.

Professor Larry Lankton of Michigan Tech’s Social Sciences Department will premiere Hollowed Ground: Copper Mining and Community Building on Lake Superior, 1840s-1990s, at 4 p.m., Friday, April 16. In the book, published by Wayne State University Press, Lankton tells the story of Lake Superior copper mining, including the full life-cycles of the Calumet and Hecla, Copper Range, Quincy and White Pine mines, their influence over their mining locations, and the lives of thousands of immigrant workers. Lankton traces the interconnected fortunes of mining companies and communities through times of bustling economic growth all the way through to periods of decline and closure. Author-signed copies of Hollowed Ground will be available for purchase at the event.

Kim Hoagland, professor emeriti at Michigan Tech, presents Mine Towns: Buildings for Workers in Michigan’s Copper Country, at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 20. In this study of domestic life in Copper Country communities during the boom years of 1890 to 1918, Hoagland uses the architecture of the region to understand the complex relationship between mine managers and their employees. Published by University of Minnesota Press, the book examines houses, churches, schools, bathhouses, and hospitals to understand the nature of everyday life in this mining region. Author-signed copies of Mine Towns will be available for purchase at this event.

Both events will be held in the East reading room of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library on the Michigan Tech campus and will include remarks from the authors about their research and writing processes. Lankton’s and Hoagland’s work draws heavily from the historical records of the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, a department within the Library. The events, which are open to the public with free refreshments, are sponsored by the Library, the Michigan Tech Archives and the Michigan Tech Department of Social Sciences.

For further information contact the Michigan Tech Archives at (906) 487-2505 or via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu, or visit the website at www.lib.mtu.edu/archives.

Update: Photos from the Lankton book signing, which attracted a crowd of about 100 people.

lankton1

lankton2


Consortium Meeting Held in Ishpeming May 22, 2010

Underground miners at the Cliff iron mine in Ishpeming, ca. 1890s.  Image #MTU012-008-032, Collection MTU-012 Mining Engineering Photo Collection
Underground miners at the Cliff iron mine in Ishpeming, ca. 1890s. Image #MTU012-008-032, Collection MTU-012 Mining Engineering Photo Collection

The Northland Historical Consortium held its Spring 2010 meeting on Saturday, May 22, 2010, at the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum in Ishpeming, Michigan.

The meeting featured a presentation by Dr. Terry Reynolds on the history of the Cleveland Iron Mining Company and the Iron Cliffs Company, their activity in Ishpeming and at the Cliffs Shaft site, and their role as predecessors of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company on the Marquette Iron Range.

The day was rounded out with tours of the Cliffs Shaft museum’s buildings, grounds, and interpretive exhibits. Many thanks to Mary Skewis and the volunteers from the museum for a great day!

The Michigan Tech Archives serves as coordinating organization for the Northland Historical Consortium, an informal association of local historical societies, archives and historians in Northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Central and Western Upper Peninsula.  Questions about the group’s activities can be directed to Erik Nordberg at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at enordber@mtu.edu

Here are a few photographs from the event:

The Cliff Shaft Mining Museum was host for today's meeting of the Northland Historical Consortium.
The Cliff Shaft Mining Museum was host for today's meeting of the Northland Historical Consortium.

 

Michigan Tech history professor Terry Reynolds speaks to the consortium attendees about the history of iron mining in Ishpeming.
Michigan Tech history professor Terry Reynolds speaks to the consortium attendees about the history of iron mining in Ishpeming.
Joanne "Josie" Olson was selected for the Harold and Marcia Betnhardt Award, given by the Northland Historical Consortium for her work in the local heritage community. Josie is active with a number of initiatives and groups, particularly the Ontonagon County Historical Society and the Rockland Historical Society.
Joanne "Josie" Olson was selected for the Harold and Marcia Betnhardt Award, given by the Northland Historical Consortium for her work in the local heritage community. Josie is active with a number of initiatives and groups, particularly the Ontonagon County Historical Society and the Rockland Historical Society.
 
Attendees at the meeting had a wonderful guided tour of the buildings and exhibits operated by the Cliffs Shaft mining museum. The Cliffs company built two reinforced concrete shafthouses early in the Twentieth century. They have a unusual Egyptian obelisk architecture.
Attendees at the meeting had a wonderful guided tour of the buildings and exhibits operated by the Cliffs Shaft mining museum. The Cliffs company built two reinforced concrete shafthouses early in the Twentieth century. They have a unusual Egyptian obelisk architecture.
 
The museum includes three shaft houses. The B shaft is a mirror duplicate of the reinforced concrete A shaft. This photographs shows the more modern C shaft, which operated in the mid-Twentieth century.
The museum includes three shaft houses. The B shaft is a mirror duplicate of the reinforced concrete A shaft. This photographs shows the more modern C shaft, which operated in the mid-Twentieth century.
 
Our tour took us through underground tunnels connecting the "dry" to the C shaft. Tunnels provided nice protection from the harsh winter climate.
Our tour took us through underground tunnels connecting the "dry" to the C shaft. Tunnels provided nice protection from the harsh winter climate.

 

Right near the shaft entrance was a small room which housed a safety man and this rack of brass tags. As the men headed underground they took their numbered tag with them. As they finished their shift and came to the surface they returned their tag to this rack. During an emergency this was the easiest way to note any missing men.
Right near the shaft entrance was a small room which housed a safety man and this rack of brass tags. As the men headed underground they took their numbered tag with them. As they finished their shift and came to the surface they returned their tag to this rack. During an emergency this was the easiest way to note any missing men.

 

 

 

Touring "the dry" building - where miners changed clothes (and left their work clothes to dry until their next shift). Baskets on pulleys were used to store clothes amongst the rafters.
Touring "the dry" building - where miners changed clothes (and left their work clothes to dry until their next shift). Baskets on pulleys were used to store clothes amongst the rafters.

Archives Exhibit Travels to Marquette

naraportrait
J.W. Nara Self-portrait, Image #Acc-05-097A-012

People, Place and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara, a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, is currently hosted at the Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center, located on the campus of Northern Michigan University. The exhibit explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and is open to the public through May 21, 2010 during the center’s regular hours.  

On Friday, April 30, the Beaumier will host a public reception and program in conjunction with the exhibit installation. Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Technological University, will give an illustrated presentation, “Michigan¹s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara” featuring dozens of historical photographs of the Keweenaw. The reception will begin at 2:00 p.m., with the program to start at 3:00 p.m.

John William Nara was born in Finland in 1874. He later immigrated to the United States and established a photographic studio in Calumet, Michigan, in the heart of America’s most productive copper mining region. In addition to posed studio portraits, J. W. Nara’s lens also captured the people, place, and time he experienced in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Copper mining and industry are an important part of the story, but Nara also captured the Keweenaw’s rural landscape, including local farms, shorelines, lighthouses, and pastoral back roads.

The travelling exhibit, funded in part by descendants Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack Michigan, works from historical photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives. Interpretive panels highlight the people, places, and times that J.W. Nara experienced during his lifetime and include material on urban life, farming, and the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the Beaumier Heritage Center through May 21, 2010.  Future stops for the exhibit include the Houghton County Historical Society in Lake Linden and the Keweenaw County Historical Society in Eagle Harbor.  More informaton about the exhibit is available here, including details on hosting the exhibit at your location.

Update:  Here are some photographs of the exhibit installation at the Beaumier Heritage Center.

truckey4

truckey5

truckey2


Archival Speaker Series: U.P. Architect D. Frederick Charlton

Steven Brisson, Chief Curator for Mackinac State Historic Parks, gave a public talk on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, as part of the Archival Speakers Series sponsored by the Michigan Tech Archives. His topic was D. Frederick Charlton, the first professional architect to reside permanently in the Upper Peninsula.
Steve Brisson speaks on the life and architectural work of Frederick Charlton.
Steve Brisson speaks on the life and architectural work of Frederick Charlton.
Over four-hundred buildings are credited to Charlton, including important public and private commissions and the buildings for four state institutions.  His office designed structures in a variety of popular styles of the last phase of Victorian architecture.  These included Romanesque, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Classical Revival.  Three of Charlton’s most important works are the Marquette County Court House, the John M. Longyear House in Marquette (moved and rebuilt in Brookline, Massachusetts), and the Upper Peninsula State Hospital for the Insane at Newberry. Brisson’s research at the Michigan Tech Archives focused in particular on material from the Herman Gundlach Collection.

This research was supported by a Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant, funded by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library. Since 1998, this program has helped scholars advance their research by supporting travel to the manuscript collections at the Archives. The program is intended to encourage research using the Archives’ lesser known collections or promote new methodological approaches to well-known collections. From a competitive field of applicants, the grant committee selected four scholars this year whose research typifies the spirit of the grant program. They join the ranks of twenty-two past recipients in this most recent round of awards.

The grant supports travel to the Archives with stipends of up to $750. Once a research proposal has been selected, the amount awarded is determined according to an applicant’s distance from Houghton, Michigan, and the degree of financial need. A full-time graduate student working to complete her or his dissertation is an example of the kind of applicant considered to have a high level of financial need. Although the majority of award recipients are associated with academic institutions either as students or facility, applicants need not come from an academic environment. The program recently supported a strong research program in ethnology by funding two genealogy practitioners exploring Calumet’s 19th and 20th century Polish community.

In addition to the research topic, the award committee considers a person’s track record for completing projects in a timely manner. A strong applicant will demonstrate an ability to publish their research, create a public web page, or otherwise make available the results of their work at the Michigan Tech Archives. The Archives houses a rich collection of historic resources  that we want people to know about. And we don’t want the distance someone might have to travel to the Upper Peninsula to discourage them from coming here. The travel grant helps us achieve both of those goals.

Four researchers were selected to receive a Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant for the current year. This year’s recipients will investigate a diverse array of topics in the Archives’ manuscript collections. Research subjects include the practice of 19th and 20th century medicine in a remote industrial community; the relationship between representations of three-dimensional data and the flow of information within an organization; the regional work of Michigan architect D. Fred Charlton; and the politics and economics of community development during an era industrial decline.

For information about Brisson’s research, architect D. Frederick Charlton, or the Michigan Tech Archives and its collections, email us at copper@mtu.edu, call us at 906-487-2505, or visit us on the web at www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives.

U.P. Architect D. Charleton
Announcement used for Brisson’s talk.

Collections Highlight: Store Ledgers

Henry Opal Store, Hubbell (MTU Neg 03596)
Henry Opal Store, Hubbell (MTU Neg 03596)

We’ve been working with a graduate student researcher seeking references to the Bammert Farm which was active 1880s-1920 between Phoenix and Gratiot Lake in Keweenaw County.  She is thinking that store records may indicate the Bammerts as customers — or maybe even selling farm products for sale through local stores.

We compiled the following list of some obvious collections which include records relating to stores. In some cases, these records are called “blotters” or “merchandise ledgers,” but researchers should to be careful because mining companies may also use these phrases to mean other things. Not all of these relate to opeations in Keweenaw County – many are for stores in Houghton, Ontonagon and Baraga counties as well.

——————————-

“The Roy Drier Collection” (MS-020) includes two store ledgers from Keweenaw County:
Item 4065: Day book of the Foley and Smith store, Eagle, Harbor, 1886
Item 4066: Foley and Smith store ledger, Eagle Harbor, 1884-1890

The “Keweenaw Historical Society Collection” (MS-043) includes several good leads, too:
Box 32, Item 481: Houghton Ledger
Box 32, Item 482: Blotter of C. Kibbee
Oversize Box 45, Item 483: Caren and Shelden Day Book
Oversize Box 45, Item 484: Day Book  
Oversize Box 45, Item 485: Order Book 1873
Oversize Box 45, Item 486: Minnesota Mine Store Blotter
Oversize Box 45, Item 487: Merchandise Ledger
Oversize Box 46, Item 488: Day Book 1873
Oversize Box 46, Item 489: Blotter 1856
Oversize Box 46, Item 490: Blotter S. D. North 1861         

Seth North (“S.D. North”) also operated a well-known store on Quincy Hill.
Some relevant records in “The Quincy Mining Company Collection” (MS-001) include:
Item 434- Quincy Store — Merchandise Ledger, May 1865 – Apr 1866
Item 435 – Quincy Store — Merchandise Ledger, May 1866 – Aug 1866
Item 436 – S. B. Harris account book with S. D. North and Son, Jul 1898 – Jan 1899
Item 437 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Nov 1864 – May 1865
Item 885- Quincy Store — Day Book, Aug 1864 – Feb 1865
Item 438 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Feb 1865 – May 1865
Item 439 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1865 – Aug 1865
Item 440 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Sep 1865 and Christmas 1866 & 1867
Item 441 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1866 – Aug 1866
Item 442 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1866 – Aug 1866

“The Daniel Brockway Family Collection” (Collection MS – 016) includes records from several stores operated by the Brockway family. Upon his return to the Lake Superior district in 1872, Daniel Brockway entered a mercantile business with his son, Albert.  The partnership lasted for twenty-five years, with formal dissolution and division of assets occurring on December 24, 1896 when Daniel retired to Lake Linden.  It appears that the store moved locations with some regularity; the records indicate operations at Cliff Mine (Mar.-Jul. 1872), Eagle River (Feb. 1875), Phoenix (1877-1883), and again at Clifton (1883-1895).  Entries for the year 1896 are made for Lake Linden.  The collection includes half a dozen boxes of store records:
Box 13: Records of Brockway & Perry Store, 1865-1866
Boxes 7-9, 12, 13: Records of D.D. Brockway & Son Store, 1872-1901

Entry from November 1873 detailing sales from Brockway Store to the Cliff Mine.
Entry from November 1873 detailing beef sales from Brockway store to the Cliff Mine. (The Daniel Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 1)

The “Perkins Burnham Collection” (Collection 01-103A) includes store information from Eagle Harbor.

A collection titled “General Store Daybooks” (Collection 236) includes photocopies of two store daybooks with various types of entries.  Donor file says one appears to be from L’Anse area, and the other is unidentified.

The Archives also holds small collections entitled “Personal Store Account Books (Collection 01-015A and Collection 98-137A) which record the purchases and monthly settlements that individual customers had stores including the Harris Seeber store in Ripley, Graham Pope’s store in Houghton, and Hendrickson & Mantta Company in Hancock.  Several others stores are included in these smaller collections.

This is not intended to be a comprehesive listing of all store records at the Michigan Tech Archives, but does provide some starting points for such research. Please contact the Archives for additional assistance.

Oh, and although this isn’t a great photo, we did find reference to Jonas Bammert (spelled Bommert in this document) buying a plow from the Brockway store on June 20, 1881. He paid $20.00 cash for a #20 Dodge Plow Complete, with extra “points, wings, and bolts.”

The Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 9.
June 20, 1881, entry for Bammert's purchase of a plow from the Brockway store. (The Daniel Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 4)

Archival Instruction:The Working Man

Today I led an archival instruction session for Michigan Tech Instructor and doctoral student Gary Kaunonen’s Revisions class. Kaunonen encourages his students to incorporate primary sources into their research, and we’ve introduced several of his classes in the past to working with archival material. This semester the class research project emphasizes “the working man.”

When we conduct instruction sessions for undergraduates, along with the ins and outs of what to do when you come to the Archives, we select samples of archival material that demonstrate the inter-relatedness of different records. Being able to touch and read actual historical material often sparks interest in students that weren’t particularly interested in history before (hard to believe, I know!). It also gives us a chance to talk about inherent bias of manuscript records and critical evaluation of sources.

I approached this particular session with an eye toward revealing the lives of ordinary people, and I thought I’d share some of the resources I presented to Kaunonen’s Revisions class. I focused on four broad themes: Worker Housing, Copper Miners, Communities, and Non-mining Activity. What follows is a very cursory overview of material selected.

Copper Range Companies Collection

CR 212, 10-9

Record of House Repairs, Painesdale

c. 1943-1950

This document includes photos and blueprints of company housing in Painesdale, Michigan. It shows the range and variety of housing provided by Copper Range to its workers, from a simple 4-room dwelling to the more well-appointed physician’s residence.

Browne, Mary Jo Rowell. A Comparative Study between Miner’s Homes in Cornwall, England and the Miner’s Homes of the Cornish in Michigan. University of Minnesota, unpublished thesis, 1986.

Mine Worker Housing in Calumet, Michigan: 1864-1950; Historic and Architectural Survey. Keweenaw National Historic Park, Calumet, Michigan. 2000.

From the Copper Country Vertical Files:

Agriculture – Losses and Troubles: (Although the topic is a serious one, I had to smile at the grim-sounding subject heading for this file.)  In it are such things as a newspaper article entitled “Grasshoppers gobbling up U.P. crops,” and coverage of unusual periods of drought in the Keweenaw. A photocopy of the table of contents for the March/April 1984 issue of Michigan History magazine indicates that it was devoted to Michigan farming, including the Upper Peninsula.

Cities & Towns – Company Towns

Copper Miners – Accidents

Lumbering

From the Copper County Photo Files:

Agriculture

Building – Houses – Exterior

Cities & Towns – Calumet

Copper Mines & Mining – Underground Scenes

Lumbering – Camps Scenes

Social Life & Customs

Social Life & Customs – Celebrations

Social Life & Customs – Picnics

Mining Company Employment Cards

Houghton County Mine Inspector Reports

I selected a few representative samples of employment cards from both the Quincy Mining Company and the Calumet & Hecla Minnig Company. In particular, I used the C&H employment card of John Lakner, who was unfortunately killed on the job, because the Mine Inspector’s Report for Houghton County includes the incident in which Lakner met his demise on November 13, 1905. I wanted to illustrate to the students that with some sleuthing, a researcher can sometimes find documentation of an event or person in more than a single source. It is often the piecing together of different primary accounts that creates a more complete picture of a person, place, or event from the past.

Quincy Mining Company, Spy Reports

Box 341

There is a set of correspondence in the Quincy Collection that reveals how the mining company planted company spies among their workers in order to find out about any seditious activity brewing. Spies were obtained through several detective agencies, among them the famed Pinkerton Agency. Such men worked as miners and laborers, living like the men they observed. They reported back to the agency, who sent anonymous reports to the mining companies. They reports provide a glimpse into the daily activity of the working man, on and off-duty. Quincy wasn’t alone in this practice; C&H also employed company spies.

Houghton County Jail Records

Circuit Court Chancery Journals

These two volumes journal all matters that came before a judge of the court for a particular period of time, and document jail activity. It is possible to see evidence of labor unrest during periods of mass arrests for disorderly conduct, or to find out what kinds of behavior were considered socially disruptive. Some things don’t change much; assault and battery are still a crime. “Insanity” and “bastardy,” however, are dealt with in entirely different ways today than spending a night in the slammer. Some things change for the better.

A series of reports on Congressional Hearings on Conditions in the Copper Mines of Michigan were convened in response to the 1913 copper miners’ strike. These reports contain eyewitness testimony of life in and out of the Keweenaw copper mines, and are a real treasure trove of information about the lives of mine workers and their families almost 100 years ago.

These are just some of the sources found in the Archives that yield information about “The Working Man.” If you’d like to find out more, our reading room is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or feel free to drop us a line at copper@mtu.edu.