Timeline of Michigan Copper Mining 1901 to 1950

Historic photo: People fill the streets of Red Jacket (Calumet) during the 1909 July 4th celebration. Adolf LaMuth Collection. Photo courtesy Jim LaMuth
People fill the streets of Red Jacket (Calumet) during the 1909 July 4th celebration.

Adolf LaMuth Collection, Courtesy of Jim LaMuth

 
 
On December 17th at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright pilots the Flyer for 120 feet into a freezing headwind. The achievement marks the first sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

1903
On December 17th, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright pilots the Flyer for 120 feet into a freezing headwind. The achievement marks the first sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

 
1913
On July 23rd, backed by the Western Federation of Miners, workers strike after company managers refuse to discuss demands for better pay and working conditions. A chief concern is the introduction of a "one-man" drill which will shrink the workforce. The Michigan National Guard arrives in the Copper Country to maintain order.
 
Historic photo: The horse-mounted unit of the Michigan National Guard assembles in Agassiz Park in Calumet during the 1913-14 Strike.
The horse-mounted unit of the Michigan National Guard assembles in Agassiz Park in Calumet during the 1913-14 Strike.

Keweenaw NHP Archives, Jack Foster Collection

 
A shout of "FIRE!" causes a panic during a Christmas Eve party at the Italian Hall in Calumet. The crowd rushes down the steep stairway to the doors. Unable to exit fast enough, those at the bottom are crushed by those on the top. Though there was no fire, 74 people, including 60 children, die in the calamity.
 
1914
Marked by episodes of violence and public division, the strike ends in April, almost a year after it began. Workers return to the mines on the companies’ conditions. Though the companies feel victorious, copper mines in the Western U.S. are now established as the primary domestic copper producers.

The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, starts a series of events that leads to World War I. A drop in copper prices at the start of the war causes mines to reduce their work forces or close. By the time the United States enters the war in 1918, the need for parts for vehicles, planes, ammunition, and shell casings raises prices and increases production, but the prosperity is only temporary.

Henry Ford offers a $5 per day wage, which more than doubles the pay of most of his workers. The move proves extremely profitable: instead of constant turnover of employees, experienced workers such as mechanics flock to the Ford Motor Company, raising productivity and lowering training costs.
 
Historic photo: Quincy Mining Company constructs the Hoist House for the Nordberg Steam Hoist - the world's largest.
1920
Quincy installs the largest steam hoist in the world to haul rock out of the mine. As copper prices remained low and mines had to dig deeper, technological fixes were relied on to try and reduce production costs and keep the mines going.
 
Historic photo: Suffragist parade in New York City in 1912.
Women receive the right to vote in the U.S. after 36 of the 48 states ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
 
1929
By the closing bell on October 29, known as Black Tuesday, the Wall Street Stock Market loses $14 billion in value, bringing the loss for the week to $30 billion - ten times more than the annual budget of the federal government at the time. Many industries, including area copper mines, close during the Great Depression that follows. Even with relief efforts sponsored by the federal government, the downturn in industry persists until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
 
1933
After over 80 years of activity, Quincy Mining Company temporarily closes down. With little demand and low copper prices, other Keweenaw companies also suspend operations or dissolve. Only C&H and the Copper Range Mining Company continue underground mining. After copper prices rise in 1937, Quincy will resume mining at shafts No. 6 & No. 8.
 

1938
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law establishes a national minimum wage, guarantees time and a half for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibits most employment of minors in “oppressive child labor.”

 
Historic photo: German troops parade through Warsaw, Poland on October 5, 1939.
German troops parade through Warsaw, Poland on October 5, 1939.
1939
In September, Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II.
 
Historic photo: The USS California sinking at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
The USS California sinking at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
1941
On December 7th, Japan launches an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 8th, the U.S. enters World War II after declaring war on Japan. Copper is placed under price controls to prevent war profiteering. Four companies on the Keweenaw Peninsula continue mining but they are only able to cover costs.
 
Historic photo: A row of vacant company houses in Lower Pewabic Location leads to the closed #2 Shaft-rockhouse at Quincy Mine. 1941 John Vachon photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A row of vacant company houses in Lower Pewabic Location leads to the closed #2 Shaft-rockhouse at Quincy Mine.

1941 John Vachon photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

1945
Quincy, the oldest active mine in the Keweenaw, stops mining operations after a government contract for copper expires and the demand for copper for war purposes ends. Soon only C&H and Copper Range remain.
 
Allied countries declare Victory in Europe on May 8. The war continues in the Pacific until the United States drops atomic bombs on Japan, first on Hiroshima on August 6, and then on the port city of Nagasaki on August 9. Japan surrenders on August 15. Estimates for the total casualties of the war vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.
 

Last updated: October 6, 2016

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