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Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences

First Advisor

Alison K. Hogland


The copper industry of the Keweenaw supported thousands of families at its height in the 1890's, yet not much has been written about the operation of the Keweenaw copper mines during the twentieth-century except in regard to the growing strain between management and labor and the eventual demise of the industry. It is true that by the early twentieth century, even the best mines of the Keweenaw had a hard time competing with production from larger mines of Montana, Arizona, New Mexico and increasing copper imports from overseas. The smaller local mines were closed or consolidated into larger, more successful companies. Previously independent companies such as Ahmeek, Allouez, Centennial and Osceola, were brought together in 1923 under the larger Calumet & Hecla.1 At the same time, the larger companies, such as Calumet & Hecla and Quincy Mining Company, came to the realization that the copper lodes on their properties were producing less copper per ton each year.2 To combat strong competition, low market prices, and increasing production costs as the shafts of the Keweenaw mines grew deeper and more dangerous, companies looked for less expensive sources of copper, both underground and under the waters of Torch Lake.

The focus of this thesis is to document the prominence of tailings reclamation in the economic pictures of two companies, Calumet & Hecla Mining Company and Quincy Mining Company, from 1914 to 1967. This paper examines the developments of milling processes and the tools and machines used by the mines of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

1 Larry Lankton, Cradle to Grave: Life, Work and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 251.

2 Annual Reports of Quincy Mining Company and Calumet & Hecla Mining Company from 1907 to 1936 show a gradual reduction of copper production, but an increase in the tonnage of rock processed.