Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Monday, October 6, 2014

Copper History and a Mine Tour - Fri., Oct. 3, 2014

Bob went out for a short run this morning and came back very, very cold. Today we plan to visit both units of Keweenaw National Historical Park: The Calumet Unit features social, ethnic, commercial and company-planned aspects of of the Calumet & Hecla mining community; the Quincy Unit focuses on the above- and below-ground technologies of copper mining and includes the Quincy Mine Tour. I drove the 12 miles to Calumet so Bob could get some work done on the phone.

As we headed to Calumet, I stopped at the Quincy Mine to buy tickets for the 4:30 mine tour. We continued on.

I wanted to tour the Calumet Theatre which opened in 1900. Greats such as Lillian Russell performed there in 1909 and Sarah Bernhardt performed there in 1911. Also performing in the early years were Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Lon Chaney Sr., Wallace Beery and John Phillip Sousa. Bob wasn't interested so he stayed in the truck and made phone calls for work.

Calumet Theatre stage and Five Muses of the Arts murals
Acoustically perfect without modern amplification.
Box seats to left and right of stage.
Close up of Muse mural
Sarah Bernhardt playbill
The self-guided tour cost $4. I thought it was worth about $2, but I understand they're raising money to continue the refurbishment of the theatre.

Next, the history of copper mining drew us to Coppertown USA Mining Museum. That, too, was $4 per person admission. This museum was small, but had so much interesting stuff in it that we deemed it worth the $4 per person.

The following scoop shovel rock remover is relatively new. In the 1800s, men called "trammers" would push the tram car loaded with rocks along the tracks. Heavy, heavy labor...especially considering their shift was 12 hours underground!

In the following art depiction, you can see a couple of levels of the mine. Don't be deceived, the mine was 92 levels deep. At the lowest level, the temperature is 100 degrees with 100% humidity. Not much work was done in the lower levels.

Simple art diagram of the copper ore mine workings.
The underground telephone below was installed on every level of the mine and connected to the Engine House for emergency communication. The casing made from cast iron protects against rockfall.

The 36" bandsaw pictured below was used by the Calumet and Hecla (C&H) Mining Company pattern makers. The cast iron C-frame saw was manufactured by Chicago Machinery Exchange Company of Chicago, Illinois circa 1900.

The highly-skilled pattern makers were well regarded. The museum was in the old pattern-making shop. Just think, any metal casting in any factory anywhere required a pattern to make it.

Patterns made for the mines
Patterns made in Calumet
The following conveyance, Sheffield Pump Car, was manufactured by the Sheffield Car Company of Three Rivers, Michigan about 1880. Four men could lift this car off the track out of the way of oncoming trains. Looks awfully heavy to me. Those guys must have been very strong.

Sheffield four-man pump car
Steam laundry
The electric-therapeutic treatment machine pictured below made our heads reel. Wait until you hear how it was used.

Called a Waites-Bartlet machine, a hand crank (seen on the right side of the photo) when turned at a high rate of speed, would build up enough current to pass through various probes and electrodes (see second photo below). These instruments were inserted into the body orifices or placed externally on the patient's afflicted areas.

Waites-Bartlet machine will cure what ails you.
Probes and electrodes
Care had to be used to regulate the current according to the need of the specific problem and when properly used it was claimed that many ailments, from warts to cancer, could be cured or greatly relieved with a specific number of treatments in each case. (If it worked that well for so many ailments, why isn't it still in use today?) When a low vibratory voltage was used, it was said to improve muscle tone. The machine also could produce X-rays.

An antique wheelchair
The Copper Rush

After spending quite some time in the Coppertown USA Mining Museum, we headed to Hancock for the Quincy Mine Tour. For a senior rate of $17 per person, you receive a guided tour of the hoist building, a cog railway ride overlooking Houghton, and a ride down into the copper mine.

In 1843, six years before the California Gold Rush, one of the nation's first mineral rushes occurred here. Prospectors came to the Keweenaw not for gold, but for copper. Established in 1848, Quincy Mining Company was an early mine in the Portage Lake area. The Civil War increased the demand of copper for munitions and allowed the Quincy Mining Company to grow. This mine became known as "Old Reliable" because of the dividends paid to its investors. Labor unrest and a strike in 1913 combined with open pit strip mining elsewhere started Quincy's slow decline. After nearly 100 years, mining operations ceased in 1945.

The tour takes you into the seventh level of the mine where you explore a 2,400' section. Here's what we saw on our tour...
No. 2 Shaft-Rock House
No. 2 Hoist House (left); Old No. 2 Hoist House (museum)
To transport men into the deepest levels of the mine, Quincy Mining Co. commissioned construction of the Nordberg Steam Hoist in 1918. This was the world's largest steam hoist. The hoist and its reinforced concrete building with brick veneer and Italian tiled walls, cost over $370,000 but was used for only 11 years.

Our guide in front of the Nordberg Steam Hoist
The man who ran the steam hoist had a prestigious job that paid well. Usually the job would pass down from grandfather, to father, to son. He would sit in a chair at the top of the spiral staircase and watch the circular dials. There is a red hand that shows exactly where the car is located. He would have to start slowing down the car well before it got to the floor where it was needed. Because people working in the mines came from many foreign countries, they couldn't yell to each other (language barrier, you know), so they used colored lights and whistles to communicate with each other.

Staircase to hoist operator's chair
Bob ready to head into the mine
Look at how massive that piece of copper is below.

Mass copper (see photo below for valuation)

Old mine cars
Only cog rail tram in the Midwest (and we get to ride it)
View of Houghton and liftbridge from the cog tram
Entrance (adit) to mine's seventh level
How we rode into the mine, pulled by a John Deere tractor
Mass copper worth $2,496.00 (as of 9/30/14)
Tram car for moving rock
"Nothing runs like a Deere"
Cog tram car for moving people (like me)
We finished our tour back where we started at the Old No. 2 Hoist House (museum). Just a hint: If you go on this tour, wear really warm clothes. I had my heaviest coat on and I was freezing. Temperature in the mine is 43 degrees, but the area where we stood for most of the time in the tunnel was in a drafty, windy area that made it seem much colder. Plus the mine below the seventh level has completely filled with water so it's a damp cold!

For dinner we had pizza from Pizza Works in downtown Houghton. We ordered by phone, Bob picked it up, and then we devoured it in the 5th wheel. Great pizza!!

The park attached to the City of Houghton RV Park has a play area based on the children's game "Chutes and Ladders." It looks like a lot of fun!

Chutes and Ladders play area.

 That's all I've got. Travel Bug out.


  1. Wow...what a great tour! I am not too keen on that electric healing machine whatis... No thank you! I think we did that tour when I was a kid, so long ago, dont remeber many of the details... Glad you are habing such a good time.

  2. good tip on the Quincy Mine tour, it is on my list already so good to know I better bring gloves and a good coat.


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