All posts by alneely

Flashback Friday: Mining History at Copper Falls Mine

Break time underground. (MTU Neg 03074)

Happy Flashback Friday! We hope that you all had a howling good time at the Haunted Mine tour put on by students at Michigan Tech and hosted by the Quincy Mine Hoist Association! Undoubtedly, the deep, dark recesses of a mine like Quincy is the perfect backdrop for a fright fest and a great opportunity to get a sense of what life in the mines was like. Can you imagine what it was like to be a miner? What sights or sounds do you think you’d see an hear?

Anyone who has taken the tour up at Quincy has heard of Michigan Tech’s longstanding relationship with the mine, which once served as a learning facility for mining engineers, giving students hands on experience in what it was like to work underground. However, what you might not have heard is the true story about how some ambitious Tech students got a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually work like miners and resurrect a piece of Copper Country history in the process. Take a drive up the Keweenaw with us this Flashback Friday and learn more about how a bunch of Tech students raised a historic hoist from the depths of the Copper Falls Mine in 1954!

 

Headline from the Daily Mining Gazette, May 26, 1956.

The Copper Falls Mine was established near Owls Creek in Keweenaw County in the 1840s at the site of a prehistoric mining pit. The mine operated for over 40 years and produced, according to a Daily Mining Gazette article from 1956, “12,843 tons of ingot copper,” and employed “mostly Cornish, Finnish, and Irish” workers until its closure in 1901. The old hoist at the Copper Falls Mine was located by Michigan Tech geology student  Robert “Speed” Burns in the early 1950s and eventually he and Dr. Joseph P. Dobell, geology professor at Michigan Tech, proposed a project to remove the 11-ton steam hoist. The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, which then owned the property on which the hoist resided, agreed to the project following a safety inspection. The company also supported the project through the donation of safety equipment such as hard hats and headlamps.

The adit entrance to the Copper Falls mine. (MTU Neg 03072)

Over the course of 8 months from October 1954 to spring 1955, students from the Sigma Rho Fraternity lived the life of miners working to remove the 19th century hoist from its placement eight and a half levels (nearly 900 feet) below the surface. According to a DMG article about the project, access was made through an “air ventilation adit that intersected the main Owls Creek shaft at the second level.” However, the students faced two big problems: no skip, and the need to lay 600 feet of track. Ingenious Tech students that they were, the Sigma Rho students constructed a skip with wheels out of scraps found at the site and laid the 600 feet of track themselves after backbreaking work that involved filling in washouts, erecting trestles, and replacing rotten ties.

 

Part of the hoist as it looked before being dismantled. (MTU Neg 03071)

Despite battling the mile and a half trudge from the highway through snow to reach the work site and eventually combating rising waters in the subterranean levels of the mine during the spring melt, the students had risen the ancient hoist above ground in its near entirety by spring. Miraculously, not a single person was injured throughout the project and only a few pieces of equipment were lost or damaged. What the students were left with, beyond the prize of the hoist itself, was an invaluable hands on experience of “mining out” the old hoist from the depths of a historic mine.

So what become of the hoist itself? The Daily Mining Gazette article from 1956 merely states that at that time the Sigma Rho Fraternity was waiting for an offer from the “college or any group interested in having it for display purposes.” Do you know what became of the hoist? Share your story here!


Flashback Friday: Cliff Mine

Henry Warren’s stamp heads at Cliff Mine, September 16, 1926. Photograph by J. T. Reeder (Michigan Tech Archives, MS042-057-999-W699)

Flashback Friday to a view of the stamp heads at Cliff Mine in Keweenaw County, 1926.
Owned and operated by the Pittsburgh & Boston Mining Company, the Cliff Mine was established in 1845 and quickly became the first profitable copper mine in the region. By 1849 the mine had paid out its first dividend and grew to become one of the most successful mines in the region during the mid 1800s. Cliff Mine operated consistently until 1854, but by the early 1870s the mine was in a financial decline and was sold. The land at Cliff was eventually taken over by the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, but by the early 1900s all mining interests in that region were abandoned for more profitable pursuits.


Flashback Friday: Say Cheese!

Wheel of Gorgonzola cheese from the Stella Cheese Company, undated

Just in queso didn’t know, some of the staff at the Michigan Tech Archives really love cheesy puns. So for this week’s Flashback Friday we couldn’t resist highlighting a piece of cheesy Copper Country history: the establishment of the Stella Cheese Company in Baltic, Michigan.

What would later be known as the Stella Cheese Company was initially established as a farming enterprise near Superior, Wisconsin in 1917. Within a short period of time the operation outgrew the size of the farm and the company was forced to expand to its first unit at Lake Nebagamon near what is now the Brule River State Forest and named Nebagamon Cheese Company. Unfortunately, correct pronunciation of the company’s name proved tricky for its Italian owners and the name was changed to Stella. According to an article printed in the Daily Mining Gazette in 1935, the new name was derived from the Italian word for star and a “special and popular cheese called stellarosa.” As far as we can tell, the stellarosa must have been nacho ordinary cheese among the Italian community.

Daily Mining Gazette, August 27, 1935.

Stella’s big cheese was Count Guilio Bolognesi, an Italian immigrant born in 1879 in Luzzara, Italy, who controlled operations from his posh Gold Coast home in Chicago. Bolognesi’s brother, Emilio, served as secretary. Attilio Castigliano served as production manager and vice president. Himself an Italian immigrant, Castiglioano started his American life in Calumet at the turn of the 20th Century. As the business continued to grow, additional units were developed in locations such as Mass City (1929), Baraga, Campbellsport and Perkins and by 1935 Stella had grown into an installation processing 40 million pounds of milk from 10,000 cows and cooperating with roughly 2,000 farmers.

The company’s crowning achievement was the installation of its premier unit in Baltic, Michigan in August of 1935. Bolognesi prophesied that they were placing “in the hands of this district one unit” that was “destined to be the largest in the United States in the particular kind of cheese made.” Stella’s president wasn’t wrong as over the next 18 years the plant in Baltic proved that there wasn’t another unit cheddar than it.

Daily Mining Gazette, August 27, 1935.

Managed by Joseph Basso and Jacob Onkalo, the Baltic unit employed as many as 110 men and women and at its height was processing “100,000 pounds of milk into 300 22-pound loaves of Parmesan and 200 25-pound loaves of Romano in a single day.” According to a retrospective article in the Daily Mining Gazette from 1981, “in a normal year, 15 70,000-pound shipments of Parmesan cheese alone left the Stella plant.” Additionally, “as Italian cheese must be aged for nine or 14 months, South Range and Baltic would normally have as much as $2 million of cheese in its four warehouses,” though the old Baltic School, Derby Hall and South Range wine cellars were also used for storage. Cheese produced at the plant were often sold under the Kraft and Chef Boyardee labels.

The Baltic operation thrived from 1935 until 1953. By 1950, new health regulations and industry standards forced companies such as Stella’s to purchase expensive new equipment, which proved a hardship for smaller operations that fed the Stella plant. Combined with milk supply competition from Copper Country cooperatives, many plants began to close. Baltic outlasted its sister plants in Mass City and Baraga with operations funneled to Baltic. Cheese was last produced in Baltic in February 1953, though warehousing of cheese continued until 1968. Stella was sold to L. D. Schreiber Co. of Green Bay, Wisconsin and in 1963 acquired by Universal Foods.

Stella Cheese workers at the Baltic plant, 1939. Daily Mining Gazette, July 16, 1992.

We hope that you enjoyed this look back at a piece of cheese industry in the Copper Country — we think its pretty grate. Have a Gouda weekend and Labor Day!

 


Employment Opportunity: Join Our Team!

The Michigan Technological University Van Pelt and Opie Library is pleased to announce that it is currently hiring for a Library Assistant 4 position within the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.
This position supports the Archives with excellent customer service, patron support, collaboration, and creative problem solving. Outstanding communication, referral, and reference services are provided through face-to-face, electronic and telephone means to library patrons, staff, local partners, and community members. High school diploma or an equivalent combination of education and experience from which comparable knowledge and abilities can be acquired is required. Apply online at https://www.jobs.mtu.edu/postings/8351 . A comprehensive list of all open positions at Michigan Tech are available at https://www.jobs.mtu.edu/postings/search

Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer, which includes providing equal opportunity for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.


Flashback Friday: Reunion Edition

Michigan College of Mines reunion picnic, 1931. (MS042-055-999-W420-8)
Happy Flashback Friday and welcome back Michigan Tech Alumni! We’re celebrating the annual alumni reunion this week with a couple of photographs from past alumni reunions.
Downtown Houghton decked out in banners for the alumni reunion, undated (MTU Neg 00338)
Michigan College of Mines alumni reunion, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, 1936. (ACC 09-099-07-26-2010-20)
Alumni banquet, Douglass House, 1913. (Book LD3328H3-60-1)
Alumni reunion reception, 1911. (Book LD3328H3-57-5)
Group photograph of the Classes of 1959 and 1969, August 1999. (MTU004-202-12088-11)
Glen Mroz and alumnus at reunion lunch, 2009. (MTU-118-2014-10-30-027)
Alumni reunion pasty picnic, 2009. (ACC 10-010-089)

We hope that you are having a great time at this year’s alumni reunion and enjoyed this little peek into past reunions. Didn’t spot a photograph from your time here at Tech? The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Collections invites all alumni and guests to travel down memory lane today with a visit to the archives during the campus-wide open house. The Michigan Tech Archives will be open today, Friday, August 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for our regular research hours with special behind-the-scenes tours available to individuals and small groups from 1-4 p.m. Happy reunion!


Flashback Friday: Hubbell Hall Remembered

The Michigan Tech Archives welcomes the Hubbell Family during their campus visit today. In celebration of their visit, our Flashback Friday this week features a closer look at a piece of campus history tied to the Hubbell Family — Hubbell Hall.

At the time of its establishment in 1885, the Michigan Mining School (later named Michigan College of Mines, Michigan College of Mining and Technology, and finally Michigan Technological University) occupied part of the Continental Fire Hall in downtown Houghton.

Michigan Mining School’s first campus building was the Continental Fire Hall in downtown Houghton.

As class sizes grew, additional space was needed to support the new school. To solve this issue, the Michigan Mining School developed plans for a new, larger building close to downtown that would be able to provide the additional space the school needed. In 1887 John Scott & Co. was hired as principle architects for the new building with contractors from Wahlman & Gipp and I. E. Swift Company. By 1889 the new building was completed at the intersection of Hubbell Avenue and College Avenue.

The new Romanesque-style building featured new lecture halls, gymnasium, and library. It was constructed with Jacobsville sandstone walls and featured a distinctive central tower. The building was initially referred to as State Hall or just “first school building,” according to sources, but following the death of the building’s principal benefactor, Jay A. Hubbell, its name was changed in his honor. Hubbell was a well-known politician and judge for the state of Michigan, serving as a district attorney for the Upper Peninsula and prosecuting attorney for Houghton County prior to becoming a member of the House of Representatives.

Hubbell Hall, circa 1895-1901.
Hubbell Hall eventually became the building devoted to the math and physics departments until the late 1960s when both departments relocated to another building on campus. While Hubbell Hall was a central, distinctive feature on the Michigan Tech campus for nearly 80 years, by 1968 the building was in somewhat of disrepair and demolished.
Today the 11-story R. L. Smith (MEEM) building stands in the Hubbell Hall footprint, taking its place as one of the most distinctive buildings on campus. While Hubbell Hall is no longer a feature on the campus landscape, its importance to the history of Michigan Tech is well-preserved in the memories of those who attended school while it still stood and in the records preserved by the Michigan Tech Archives.

Hubbell Hall in winter, 1968.
Demolition of Hubbell Hall, 1968.

Flashback Friday: Copper TRACES

Park Supervisor, Mac Frimodig and daughter, Karen, observe an old “skip” which was used in a Keweenaw mine to bring the rock to the surface. It is one of the hallowed relics of the old Fort museum area, May 29, 1953. Daily Mining Gazette Photograph Collection (MS-051)

This week the Michigan Tech Archives had the privilege of once again taking part in the Copper TRACES event at the Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet. This field day for area 4th graders has provided hands-on learning opportunities since 2016. Topics covered during the event focus on Technology, Research, Art and Music, Community, Environment, and Service, or TRACES. Funded by the National Park Foundation through the Open OutDoors for Kids Grants program, students get to learn everything from area geology and Great Lakes shipping to mining and immigration history.

The Michigan Tech Archives and the archival staff from KNHP have hosted a station on primary sources since the beginning of the program. Students get to learn what the different is between primary and secondary sources, how they help us learn about history, and discover how they contribute to the creation of primary source material.
In honor of this unique collaborative venture, our Flashback Friday photograph highlights the learning opportunities children and adults have thanks to programs like this and our regional heritage sites. Pictured here is Fort Wilkins State Park Supervisor, Mac Frimodig and daughter, Karen, observing an old mining skip at the Fort Wilkins museum in 1953. Used to bring rock to the surface at one of the many mining operations here in the Keweenaw, the skip now serves as a historic artifact and teaching tool.
Want to discover more about the history of the Copper Country? Visit the Keweenaw National Historical Park or any of the other amazing Keweenaw Heritage Sites this summer. More information is available on the Park website at https://www.nps.gov/kewe/learn/management/keweenaw-heritage-sites.htm.
You can also visit the Michigan Tech Archives throughout the summer, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., no appointment need.
If you want to know more about the Copper TRACES program, you can find additional information on the KNHP’s website at https://www.nps.gov/kewe/learn/education/classrooms/copper-traces.html 

Flashback Friday: Deep Roots: Unearthing the History of the Forestry Department at Michigan Tech

Happy Arbor Day, Copper Country! We’re observing today’s holiday with a Flashback Friday post commemorating the Michigan Tech Forestry Department.
Michigan Tech’s Forestry Department has deep roots on campus. Under the leadership of President Grover C. Dillman, then president of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology, the Forestry Department was initiated in 1936 with a two-year degree program led by U. J. Noblet and R. B. Miller and housed in Hubbell Hall. In addition its general curriculum, the department also offered students a Forestry Club. By 1942, the department moved to the nearby Hubbell School and five years later the Institute of Wood Research was created. In the 1967 the department had expanded enough to require new facilities and in that year the U. J. Noblet Forestry and Wood Products Building was opened. That year also saw the beginning of the University’s first graduate program in forestry.
Throughout the 1970s and into the 1990s the department saw major growth in terms of student numbers and changes in technology and course curriculum. Forestry enrollment climbed to 151 new students in 1970 with female enrollment reaching 25 percent by 1975. Microcomputers replaced the department’s calculator lab in 1984 and in 1986 the department opened its first PhD program. Curriculum had now expanded to include wood and fiber utilization, land surveying, and other majors and certificates including ecology, environmental science, and wildlife ecology and management.
With all this change comes additional facility needs. In 1999 the university broke ground on a new building expansion project (pictured here) that would become home to Hesterberg and Horner Halls in 2000. Today, the Forestry Department thrives on the Michigan Tech campus. Students at the undergraduate, graduate, and PhD levels have excellent curricula to choose from and amazing facilities to learn and study in.
Celebrate Arbor Day at Michigan Tech today by attending the University’s student-led Tree Campus USA initiative event. Meet at the Husky Statue from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. for an opening ceremony followed by a student-led campus tree walk and tree planting from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. with a reception to follow at the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building Atrium. During the reception, be sure to check out the informational tables from community and student organizations that support environmental sustainability and ecology or attend one of the tours of the U.S. Forest Service’s underground research facility, the Rhizotron.
Want to know more about the Forestry Department at Michigan Tech? Visit the Michigan Tech Archives during our regular research hours, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more.
Happy Arbor Day from the Michigan Tech Archives!

Flashback Friday: Ice Out, Shanties In!

Happy Flashback Friday, Copper Country. This week we’re paying tribute to that age-old rite of spring when U.P. anglers switch from ice fishing to open water fishing.

Pictured here in L’Anse in 1977, ice shanties accumulate along the Upper Peninsula waterfront after being taken off the water for the season. Many anglers are sad to have to finally throw in the towel on ice fishing season, but there’s always the promise of another big catch in the streams and open water of the coming months.
The article that accompanied this photograph from the Daily Mining Gazette noted that “at least a few brave ice fishermen still had their shacks out on the big lake when this picture was taken” and we’re not surprised. Stay safe anglers and enjoy the change of fishing seasons!
The Michigan Tech Archives has plenty more photos like this waiting to be discovered. Interested in seeing more? Hop onto our Copper Country Historical Images database at cchi.mtu.edu and browse through just a fraction of our photograph collection.

Flashback Friday: Unexpected Change: Fire at the Metallurgy Building

The Metallurgy Building on fire, March 15, 1923.

For this week’s Flashback Friday we’re remembering how quickly change can happen overnight, sometimes when you least expect it.

 The early 20th century Michigan Tech campus looked vastly different than it does today, not only in terms of the courses and degrees it offers, but its physical landscape. Many of the earliest buildings on campus are gone, lost to changes in the needs of the university or unexpectedly by disaster. Today marks the 96 anniversary of the fire that destroyed one such building.
Metallurgical building at the Michigan College of Mines.

On this date (March 15) in 1923 fire blazed through the metallurgy building at the Michigan College of Mines. According to a report in The Michigan College of Mines Alumnus from that year, students who arrived first on scene were credited with saving much of the valuable equipment inside the building. First responders reported that the fire appeared to be contained on the second floor of the building, but “minutes later the fire broke out over the whole building.” The Houghton and Hancock fire departments arrived on scene, but by then the fire had spread “into the walls and ventilation ways.”

It was clear that the building was going to be a total loss ($250,000) and not just in terms of the classroom and office space. Students lost personal possessions, records and data for experiments were destroyed, and one particular professor lost a decades worth of research notes. In its wake, classes were moved to the Chemistry Building (which had incidentally burned in 1920) and the department was forced to conduct work “with make-shift apparatus.”

Metallurgy building after the fire, 1923.

However, by September 1923, the Alumnus reported that plans for rebuilding the metallurgy building were underway and by January 1925 the publication was asking alumni to weigh in on a name for the new structure. The new metallurgy building opened for students, faculty, and staff later that year and christened McNair Hall, the college’s former president who died tragically in an accident in 1924. While this building bears the same name as a current resident hall at Michigan Tech, these were two distinct buildings.

McNair Hall. This building replaced the Metallurgy Building.
Regardless of which building it has occupied, since the establishment of the Michigan Mining School in 1885, metallurgy in one shape or form has been integral to this campus. It has evolved from mineral dressing to metallurgy, to metallurgical engineering, to metallurgical and materials engineering, before finally becoming the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2000.
Building disasters and failures like the one at the metallurgy building show how change can happen in a blink of an eye. Luckily no one was harmed and rebuilding happened in its wake. It’s a reminder that our landscapes can change quickly, that they aren’t always able to be thoughtfully planned, but even with unexpected change this campus and community continues to grow and evolve.
If you would like to know more about the metallurgy building fire, visit the Michigan Tech Archives during our regular research hours, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or contact us directly by phone at (906) 487-2505 or email at copper@mtu.edu