Mining History Association

8th Annual Conference, June 5-8, 1997

Houghton, Michigan

The 8th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Houghton, Michigan, June 5-8, 1997.  Houghton is at the center of the “Copper Country” and the home of Michigan Technological University.  The copper-rich Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, juts 40 miles into Lake Superior from its south shore.  Although the copper mines are now silent, the natural elements including forests, low rolling hills, Lake Superior and countless inland lakes and streams, cool summer temperatures, and hay fever-free days make this area one of the nation’s overlooked gems.  The friendly “Yoopers” (the residents of the Upper Peninsula) are always ready to share their knowledge of local history and tourist attractions with visitors from “down below” (the rest of the world below the Straits of Mackinac).

Michigan’s copper mining legacy dates from the prehistoric period.  Early pioneers found copper implements and mining pits left behind by the native Americans.  Jesuit missionaries and federal explorations of the Upper Great Lakes Region helped spread rumors of mineral riches.  Douglass Houghton’s geological survey of 1840 described the copper deposits in scientific detail.  After the initial native copper discoveries near Fort Wilkins, prospectors and miners flocked to the Copper Country.  Eastern and overseas capitalists invested heavily to develop the mining and transportation infrastructure.  Fortunes were made and lost.  Companies like the Quincy, Tamarack, and Calumet and Hecla would rise to worldwide prominence.  Waves of immigrants found their ways to copper mines.  Dividends paid by the successful companies would prove vital to the development of western mines.  Many excellent books have been written about the history of the Copper Country, the people, the mines, the companies, and the geology.  The Readings and References list below provides a few recommendations.


In the 1960’s, after a century and a half, the high cost of underground mining forced the last of the mines to close.  Michigan Tech, the modern incarnation of the historic Michigan College of Mines, now anchors the local economy in Houghton, nearby Hancock, and other towns throughout the Copper Country.  The Keweenaw National Historical Park, formed since the time of the 1997 MHA meeting, along with area historical groups and the Michigan Tech Archives, are playing important roles in preserving the impressive heritage of this great historic mining region.


Fortunately, the mining history of the Michigan Copper Country has been well documented.  The READINGS AND REFERENCES list below provides a starter set of excellent books and other publications.  There are dozens more and new titles appear frequently.  Several excellent websites specialize in Michigan copper mining history.  The Michigan Tech Archives includes the Copper Country Historical Collection which has thousands of digitized photographs and other documents pertaining to copper mining and processing, the mining cities and towns, and the melting pot of people who lived there during the mining era.  The Copper Country Explorer focuses on the heritage of Michigan copper mining and allows the web user to browse through recent and historic photos, maps, and descriptive materials that document the remains of the industry that still exist.  It is a must for anyone interested in visiting the Copper Country and exploring the historic mining sites, many of which are rapidly going back to nature.


(Adapted from the April 1997, Mining History News.  Photos courtesy of Johnny Johnsson, Mike Kaas, and USGS.)

Downtown Houghton, Michigan.


Keweenaw Copper Miner Statue, Houghton.


Quincy Mine Rock House/Headframe and Hoist House, Calumet (ca1900).


Map of the Central Mine workings, Central (ca1880).





Welcoming Reception, June 5, 1997, the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection and the Seaman Mineral Museum, Houghton

Reception, June 6, 1997, Franklin Square Inn, Houghton (Sponsored by Inmet/Copper Range)

Awards Banquet, June 6, 1997, Franklin Square Inn.  Speaker: Larry Langton, Michigan Tech, “Life on the Copper Mining Frontier”


Presidential Luncheon, June 7, 1997, Franklin Square Inn, Houghton




Quincy Mine Tour, June 6, 1997

Jane’s Magical Mystery Tour for Mining Widows and Widowers, June 7, 1997, Houghton

Tour of the Keweenaw Peninsula, June 8, 1997






Copper Country Explorer


Copper Country Trail, National Byway


Delaware Copper Mine Tour, Delaware, MI


Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Copper Harbor, MI


Houghton County Historical Museum, Lake Linden, MI


Isle Royale National Park, accessible from Copper Harbor or Houghton, MI


Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau, Calumet, MI


Keweenaw County Historical Society, Eagle Harbor, MI


Keweenaw National Historical Park, Calumet, MI


Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI   


Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, Houghton, MI


Painsdale Mine and Shaft [Preservation of Champion #4 Rock House], Painsdale, MI


Quincy Mine and Hoist, Calumet, MI


Quincy Smelter [Historic Preservation], Calumet, MI


Seaman Mineral Museum, Michigan Tech, Houghton, MI




C. Harry Benedict, “Red Metal: The Calumet and Hecla Story,” (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1952).


B. S. Butler and W. S. Burbank, “The Copper Deposits of Michigan,” U. S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 144, (Washington: GPO, 1929).


William Byram Gates, “Michigan Copper and Boston Dollars,” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951).


Larry D. Langton, “Cradle to Grave: Life and Work and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).


Larry D. Langton and Charles K. Hyde, “Old Reliable: An Illustrated History of the Quince Mining Company,” (Hancock, MI: Quincy Mine Hoist Association, 1982).


David Krause, “The Making of a Mining District: Keweenaw Native Copper 1500-1870,” (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992).




Erik and Jane Nordberg


Program:  Duane Smith, Lynn Langenfeld, and Clark Spence




Quincy Mine Tour


Quincy Mine No. 2 Rock House/Headframe operated from 1908 to 1931.  (2008 Photo)

Quincy Mine No. 2 Hoist House. (2008 Photo)

(Above)  The Nordberg steam hoist at the Quincy Mine was constructed in 1920.  It was the world’s largest.


(Left)  The Quincy Mine No. 2 inclined shaft was 9200 feet in length (6400 feet vertical).  A water bailing skip in the left shaft compartment was used to remove water from the mine.  The miners’ man car in the right compartment transported the men to their assigned level of the mine.


MHAers riding the Quincy and Torch Lake Cog Railway downhill from the rock house get an excellent view of Houghton, Hancock, and the lift bridge over Portage Lake.

Disembarking from the cog railroad, the MHAers head for the East Adit (7th level) of the Quincy Mine and an underground tour.

MHAers follow the East Adit nearly half a mile to the underground mining areas.

A tour guide demonstrates underground drilling and blasting.

Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson and Mike Kaas

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