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Reading the ruins

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Title:
Reading the ruins a field guide for interpreting the remains of western hardrock mines
Creator:
Twitty, Eric Roy
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xvii, 455 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Mines and mineral resources -- History -- West (U.S.) ( lcsh )
Mining engineering -- History -- West (U.S.) ( lcsh )
Industrial archaeology -- West (U.S.) ( lcsh )
Antiquities ( fast )
Industrial archaeology ( fast )
Mines and mineral resources ( fast )
Mining engineering ( fast )
Antiquities -- West (U.S.) ( lcsh )
United States, West ( fast )
Genre:
History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 378-455).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Eric Roy Twitty.

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
44100049 ( OCLC )
ocm44100049
Classification:
LD1190.L57 1999m .T85 ( lcc )

Full Text
READING THE RUINS: A FIELD GUIDE
FOR INTERPRETING THE REMAINS
OF WESTERN HARDROCK MINES
by
Eric Roy Twitty
B.A., San Jose State University, 1989
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
1999


1999 by Eric Roy Twitty
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Eric Roy Twitty
has been approved
by
^}n hi
Date


Twitty, Eric Roy (M.A., History)
Reading the Ruins: A Field Guide for Interpreting the Remains of Western Hardrock
Mines
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
During the Gilded Age hardrock mining companies riddled the West with
underground workings in pursuit of precious and industrial metals. In the process,
they brought the Industrial Revolution and urbanization into the American
wilderness. Comparatively few mining operations proved to be veritable bonanzas
that produced millionaires; the majority of outfits went bust after a short and
unproductive life. Every underground operation, large and small, required support
from a mine surface plant. Miners and engineers established surface plants to fulfill
five basic needs of hardrock mining. First, the surface plant had to include a stable
and unobstructed entry into the underground workings. Second, the plant had to
include a facility for tool and equipment maintenance and fabrication. Third, the
plant had to allow for the transportation of materials and waste rock out of the
underground workings and supplies into the workings. Fourth, the drifts, crosscuts,
and stopes underground had to be ventilated, and fifth, the plant had to facilitate the
storage of waste rock generated during underground development.
When prospect operations, miners, and engineers erected surface plants, they
did so within the environmental, economic, and geographic factors that governed
plant form. Specifically structural geology, the climate, the operations geographic
location, technological and economic conditions, and most importantly the presence
or absence of ore and the available capital heavily influenced how miners and
engineers arranged and equipped the surface plant. Despite having fallen into ruin,
the historic mine sites left in the West after 130 years of hardrock mining exhibit
characteristics that speak of the above formative forces. Historic mine sites have
important stories to offer historians and archaeologists regarding the nature of the
IV


mining company, its miners, their work environment, and an areas indigenous
mining industry. To unravel the stories hidden within historic mine sites, historians
and archaeologists must read the ruins and view the reconstructed mine through the
lens of the influential factors discussed above, as well as within the frameworks of
local, national, economic, and social historical contexts. In so doing, historians and
archaeologists can make meaning out of the historic mine sites that have been
undervalued and misunderstood for too long.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The quality and scope of this work would not have been possible were it not for the
invaluable assistance of a handful of generous individuals. In specific I wish to thank
the notable historians Jay Fell, Ph D, Tom Noel, Ph D, Mark Foster, Ph.D, and Robert
Spude, Ph D for taking the time to review this work. I am grateful to J. Scott
Altenbach, Ph D for taking the time to guide me during my field research in New
Mexicos Lake Valley district, and for discussing his experiences building a
headframe. I also offer thanks to consulting geologist Lane Griffin for offering
guidance to important historic mine sites in the Goldfield, Echo, Schurz, and Garfield
districts in Nevada. Last, I am grateful to Jim Watson, mayor of Victor, Colorado,
known as the City of Mines, and the owner of famous Strong Mine.
Several private and governmental agencies proved to be absolutely crucial to the field
research I conducted in association with this work. I am deeply indebted to John
Hardaway and the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company for granting me
access to numerous historic mine sites on company land in the famous Cripple Creek
district. The extensive research I conducted, courtesy of the Cripple Creek & Victor
Gold Mining Company, provided curcial information. Matt Zietlow and the
Homestake Mining Companys Ruby Hill Mine displayed similar hospitality and
granted me access to several important mine sites in Eureka, Nevada which provided
formative data for this work. I also wish to thank Homer Milford at New Mexicos
Abandoned Mine Lands program for granting access to historic mine sites in the Lake
Valley Mining District. Last, I am grateful to Paragon Archaeological Consultants,
Incorporated in Denver for permitting the use of materials pertaining to the
companys work in Cripple Creek.


CONTENTS
Figures........................................................ix
Tables.........................................................xv
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.................................................1
2. BUILDING THE SURFACE PLANT...................................5
The Men of Mining.........................................5
The Roots of Mining......................................21
Factors Influential to Mining............................23
Developing the Mine .....................................26
Equipping the Mine.......................................31
3. THE SURFACE PLANTS FOR MINE TUNNELS.........................36
Summarizing the Surface Plant: An Overview...............39
Surface Plants for Prospect Adits........................41
Surface Plants for Deep Prospect Adits and Mine Tunnels..52
The Adit Portal.......................................55
Constructing the Mine Shop...........................57
Production-Class Ventilation..........................84
Air Compressors.......................................96
Moving the Materials of Mining: Production-Class Transportation
Systems..............................................139
Ore Storage..........................................149
Aerial Tramways..................................... 157
4. GEAR OIL AND STEAM POWER: THE SURFACE PLANTS FOR
SHAFTS........................................................171
vii


Surface Plants for Prospect Shafts........................174
Hoisting Vehicles and Shaft Form.......................179
Horse Power to Steam: Hoisting Systems for Prospect Shafts.192
Production-Class Surface Plants for Shafts................233
Production-Class Hoisting Systems......................235
Western Mining Architecture............................303
5. IN THE SHADOW OF THE FORTUNE SEEKERS: MINING DURING
THE GREAT DEPRESSION.............................................319
The Depression-Era Mine Shop..............................321
Ventilation Systems.......................................325
Compressed Air Systems....................................327
Transportation: Ore Cars & Steel Rails....................335
Hoisting Systems..........................................337
Mining Architecture During the Great Depression...........350
6. RICHES TO RUST: INTERPRETING THE REMAINS OF HISTORIC
MINES............................................................354
Reading the Mine Site.....................................356
Interpreting the Mine Site................................364
Conclusion................................................376
ENDNOTES................................................................378
viii
BIBLIOGRAPHY
429


FIGURES
Figure
2.1 Production-Class Machine Foundation........................................34
2.2 Temporary-Class Machine Foundations........................................35
3.1 Blacksmith F orges.........................................................46
3.2 Drill-Steels...............................................................47
3.3 Plan View of Blacksmith Shop at Surprise Mine..............................49
3 .4 Plan View of Temporary-Class Shop at Prospect Adit.........................49
3.5 Interior of Blacksmith Shop at Small Mine..................................59
3.6 Vernacular Production-Class Forges.........................................60
3.7 Common Shop Appliances.....................................................60
3.8 Steam Engines for Driving Shop Equipment...................................63
3.9 Production-Class Shop Appliances...........................................64
3.10 Power Shop Appliances....................................................64
3.11 Rockdrill Drill-Steels...................................................71
3.12 Hand-Tools for Sharpening Rockdrill Drill-Steels.........................72
3.13 Backing Block for Sharpening Rockdrill Drill-Steels......................72
3.14 Drill-Steel Sharpening Machine...........................................75
3.15 Oil Forge..............................................................78
IX


I
3.16 Piston Drill as Power Hammer...........................................78
3.17 Plan View of Production-Class Shop.....................................82
3.18 Plan View of Production-Class Shop.....................................82
3.19 Centrifugal Blower.....................................................88
3.20 Foundation for Centrifugal Blower......................................94
3.21 Foundation for Centrifugal Blower......................................94
3.22 Moderate-Sized Straight-Line Compressor...............................107
3.23 High-Capacity-Sized Straight-Line Compressor..........................107
3.24 Small-Sized Straight-Line Compressor..................................108
3.25 Breakdown of Straight-Line Compressor.................................108
3.26 Duplex Compressor.....................................................109
3.27 Plan View of Duplex Compressor........................................109
3.28 Multi-Stage Duplex Compressor.........................................110
3.29 Production-Class Compressor Foundation...............,...............119
3.30 Compressor Being Installed............................................119
3.31 Interior of Compressor House..........................................120
3.32 Duplex Compressor.....................................................124
3.33 Geared Duplex Compressor..............................................124
3.34 Belt-Driven Straight-Line Compressor................................ 125
3.35 Plan Views of Straight-Line Compressor Foundations....................132
X


3.36 Plan Views of Belt-Driven Straight-Line Compressor Foundations.......133
3.37 Diagram of Large Duplex Compressor Foundation........................134
3.38 Plan Views of Steam-Driven Duplex Compressor Foundations.............135
3.39 Plan Views of Belt-Driven Duplex Compressor Foundations..............136
3.40 Trestle for Dead End Line............................................148
3.41 Trestle for Permanent Rail Line......................................148
3.42 Plan View of Ore Sorting House.......................................155
3.43 Plan View of Upper Bleichert Tramway Terminal........................167
3.44 Plan View of Lower Bleichert Tramway Terminal........................167
3.45 Comparison Between Hoist and Tramway Cables..........................169
4.1 Windlass and Crab Winch.................................................178
4.2 Hoisting Vehicles......................................................184
4.3 Cornish Pump in Shaft House............................................187
4.4 Cornish Pump Foundation................................,...............188
4.5 Shaft Form Commonly Used Prior to the Late 1870s.......................190
4.6 Shaft-Set Timbering....................................................190
4.7 Shaft-Set Timbering....................................................191
4.8 Cornish Horse Whim.....................................................194
4.9 Horse Whim System..................................................... 194
4.10 Malacate Horse Whim....................................... ..........195
XI


4.11 Single Drum Duplex Steam Hoist.......................................201
4.12 Single Drum Steam Hoist with Off-Set Cylinders.......................201
4.13 Locomotive Boiler....................................................204
4.14 Upright Boiler.......................................................207
4.15 Pennsylvania Boiler..................................................207
4.16 Donkey Hoist........................................................ 209
4.17 Petroleum Hoist......................................................213
4.18 Sinking-Class Two-Post Gallows Headframe.............................216
4.19 Large Sinking-Class Two-Post Gallows Headframe.......................216
4.20 Sinking-Class Four-Post Gallows Headframe............................217
4.21 Joints for Timbers...................................................217
4.22 Horse Whim Foundation................................................223
4.23 Steam Hoist Foundations..............................................228
4.24 Petroleum Hoist Foundation.......................................... 228
4.25 Plan View of Concrete Petroleum Hoist Foundations....................229
4.26 Plan View of Timber Petroleum Hoist Foundations......................230
4.27 Plan View of Two-Post Headframe Foundations..........................232
4.28 Production-Class Duplex Steam Hoist..................................241
4.29 First-Motion Steam Hoist.............................:..............242
4.30 Double Drum Geared Steam Hoist.......................................242
XU


.243
.248
.248
.251
.253
.253
.265
.271
271
.276
,277
.278
.279
280
281
.292
.293
.293
..294
.295
4.31
4.32
4.33
4.34
4.35
4.36
4.37
4.38
4.39
4.40
4.41
4.42
4.43
4.44
4.45
4.46
4.47
4.48
4.49
4.50
Double Drum Geared Steam Hoist...........................
Double Drum First-Motion Steam Hoist.....................
Flat Cable Hoist.........................................
Cornish Boiler...........................................
Return Tube Boiler.......................................
Return Tube Boiler with Half Facade... ..................
Water Tube Boiler........................................
Single Drum Electric Hoist...............................
Double Drum Electric Hoist...............................
Geometry of Production-Class Headframe...................
Production-Class Four Post Derrick Headframe.............
Production-Class Four Post Derrick Headframe.............
Montana-Type Headframe...................................
Steel A-Frame Type Headframe..........................
A-Frame for Inclined Shaft...............................
Foundation for Single Cylinder Steam Hoist...............
Plan View of Single Drum Steam Hoist Foundations.........
First-Motion Steam Hoist Foundation......................
Plan View of Double Drum Steam Hoist Foundations......
Plan View of First-Motion of Double Drum Hoist Foundation
Xlll


4.51 Plan View of Flat Cable Hoist Foundation.............................296
4.52 Plan View of Boiler Setting..........................................299
4.53 Plan View of Shaft House.............................................307
4.54 Plan View of Shaft House.............................................308
4.55 Relationship of Machine Foundations to Plank Flooring...............309
4.56 Interior of Hoist House.............................................309
4.57 Square-Set Timber Framing for Shaft Houses..........................310
4.58 Plan View and Elevations of Steel Shaft House.......................310
5.1 Shop Typical of Depression-Era Mines....................................322
5.2 Shop Typical of Depression-Era Mines...................................323
5.3 Foundation for Centrifugal Ventilation Fan.............................327
5.4 Angle-Compound Compressor..............................................330
5.5 Angle-Compound Compressor Foundation...................................330
5.6 Plan View of Double Drum Electric Hoist Foundation.....................339
5.7 Plan View of Double Drum Electric Hoist Foundation.....................339
5.8 Plan View of Hoist House...............................................342
5.9 Skip.................................................................. 347
XIV


TABLES
Table
3.1 Compressed Air Consumption of Piston Rockdrills..............................101
3.2 Air Compressor Specifications: Straight-Line Single Stage Steam, 1880s-
1920s.........................................................................110
3.3 Air Compressor Specifications: Straight-Line Two Stage Steam, 1890s-
1920s.........................................................................Ill
3.4 Air Compressor Specifications: Straight-Line Single Stage Steam, 1880s-
1890s.........................................................................Ill
3.5 Air Compressor Specifications: Duplex Single Stage Steam, 1880s-1890s.112
3.6 Air Compressor Specifications: Duplex Single Stage Steam, 1890s-1920s.112
3.7 Air Compressor Specifications: Duplex Two Stage Steam, 1890s-1920s............113
3.8 Air Compressor Specifications: Straight-Line Single Stage Belt-Driven, 1900s-
1930s.........................................................................122
3.9 Air Compressor Specifications: Straight-Line Two Stage Belt-Driven, 1900s-
1930s.......................................................................122
3.10 Air Compressor Specifications: Duplex Single Stage Belt-Driven, 1900s-
1940s.........................................................................123
3.11 Air Compressor Specifications: Duplex Two Stage Belt-Driven, 1900s-
1940s.........................................................................123
3.12 Air Compressor Specifications: Straight-Line Single Stage Gasoline-Powered,
1910s-1940s..................................................:...............123
XV


3.13 Air Compressor Specifications: Type, Popularity, Timeframe, and Capital
Investment.................................................................130
3.14 Air Compressor Specifications: Type, Duty, Foundation.........................131
3.15 Dimensions and Duty of Mine Rail..............................................140
4.1 Boiler Specifications: Locomotive Boilers with no Dome...........................204
4.2 Boiler Specifications: Locomotive Boilers with Dome..............................205
4.3 Boiler Specifications: Upright Boilers...........................................205
4.4 Hoist Specifications: Steam Donkey Hoists, Single Steam Cylinder 1880s...........209
4.5 Hoist Specifications: Steam Donkey Hoists, Standard Duplex Cylinders 1880s-
1900s...........................................................................210
4.6 Hoist Specifications: Single Drum Gasoline Hoists, 1890s-1930s...................213
4.7 Hoist Specifications: Single Drum Geared Steam Hoist, Single Steam Cylinder,
1880s............................................................................238
4.8 Hoist Specifications: Single Drum Geared Steam Hoist, 1880s-1920s................243
4.9 Hoist Specifications: Double Drum Geared Steam Hoists, 1880s-1920s...............245
4.10 Boiler Specifications: Type, Duty, Age Range................................. 250
4.11 Boiler Specifications: Flue Boilers...........................................254
4.12 Boiler Specifications: Return Tube Boilers with no Dome.......................254
4.13 Boiler Specifications: Return Tube Boilers with Dome..........................255
4.14 Quantities of Red and Firebricks Required for Return Tube Boiler Settings 262
4.15 Specifications of Headframes: Type, Material, Class...........................281
4.16 General Hoist Specifications: Type, Duty, Foundation..........................291
vin


5.1 Air Compressor Specifications: Angle Compound Two Stage Belt-Driven, 1920s-
1940s...........................................................................329
5.2 Hoist Specifications: Double Drum Geared Electric Hoists, 1910s-1940s...........340
5.3 Hoist Specifications: Single Drum Geared Electric Hoists, 1910s-1940s...........340
5.4 Hoist Specifications: Gasoline Donkey Hoists, 1920s-1940s.......................344
6.1 Datable Structural Artifacts....................................................362
6.2 Datable Industrial Artifacts....................................................362
6.3 Datable Domestic Artifacts......................................................363
xvii


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Between the 1870s and 1930s precious metals mines in the West seemed to
spring up from every hill, meadow, and mountain where prospectors searched for
wealth. The same story is told time and again about how grizzled gold-seekers made
lucky finds, staked their claims, and began producing gold or silver bullion. Missing
from the popular accounts are the technical aspects of how a claim evolved from raw
earth into a metals-producing mine, and an account of the elements that shaped the
development. From the moment prospectors first pierced the soil with their picks,
their claims began undergoing stages of improvement and upgrades, including both
the underground workings and the support facilities located around the mine entrance.
From the 1870s when our story begins, men involved in the mining industry, from
financiers down to miners, recognized those facilities collectively as the surface
plant. The function of this fundamental facet of every hardrock mine was to
administer to the needs of driving underground workings in a concert of men and
machinery. Surface plants, as they developed in the West from the Gilded Age to the
Great Depression, ranged in size and complexity from tiny ramshackle operations to
huge smoke-belching mechanized facilities that approached the scale of factories.
The West hosted a hardrock mining industry on a scale greater than anything
seen in the world. Mines abounded in districts that were scattered across the
mountains and deserts, from British Columbia in the north to the Sierra Madre in
Mexico to the south, and from the Coast Range overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the
Rocky Mountains looming over the high plains. Hardrock mining began booming in
the West immediately following the discovery of placer gold during the mid-
l


nineteenth century. It reached a crescendo around the tum-of-the-century, and
declined abruptly after World War I. Today, the gold and silver is largely gone.
Many of the mining districts are empty, but these wealth seekers left behind a legacy
of historic townsites and mines which modern culture celebrates as the physical
remnants of this fascinating bygone era.
The ravages of time and human activities have taken a heavy toll on the
Wests historic hardrock mining sites. Today many buildings and other structures are
gone, the machinery and equipment have been removed, and the mines and townsites
are overgrown. To the untrained eye, little apparently has been left of the mines
except for dark and dangerous holes in the ground and blasted piles of rock. Yet, in
actuality, much remains of the long-forgotten mining operations and associated
townsites. The evidence is there; it is merely subtle. Many historic mine sites still
feature the remains of a lost industry in the form of artifacts, structural remains,
foundations, and topographic features. These material remains await examination by
todays mining history researchers. This thesis seeks to empower the readership with
the tools to read the ruins of the historic hardrock mine sites found in the West. In the
following pages they may find information that can help them reconstruct a defunct
mining operation, and view it in terms of technological, financial, temporal, and
industrial contexts. While the material presented here focuses on hardrock mining in
the West, by the late nineteenth century mining technology had become fairly
standardized throughout North America, and the reader may extrapolate the ideas
presented here to hardrock mining regions elsewhere.
The remains of hardrock mine sites in the West hold much importance for the
field of history. They constitute an untapped cultural resource that offers unique
information regarding the rise of Gilded Age America and the Industrial Revolution
in the far West. Hardrock mines drew skilled and unskilled laborers, capitalists,
industrialists, politicians who created cities and towns which boomed, flickered, and
died when the mining companies ran out of ore. Traditionally historians and
2


archaeologists have focused attention on the townsites in mining districts. However,
a survey of the surrounding landscape will often reveal an abundance of historic
mines that have been abandoned in various stages of development.
These important cultural resources constitute the remains of industrial work
environments that are foreign to todays society. Miners spent half of their days
drilling and blasting rock in dank underground workings while firemen, engineers,
trammers, and pipemen attended to a variety of whirling, hissing, and clanging
machines around the mine entrance. The work amid the surface facilities was
difficult and dirty, the physical conditions ranged from the intense heat experienced
while feeding fuel to boilers in the summer to the arctic climate experienced by
workers outside of the buildings on windy winter days. The work amid the facilities
that comprised the mine plant presented dangers that required vigilance of the work
crew. Each machine presented unguarded limb-wrenching hazards. Dynamite was
often thawed at the blacksmiths forge, miners rode open-topped ore buckets with no
safety equipment down shafts, and men pumped forge bellows in feeble attempts to
ventilate smoke-filled underground workings.
Historic mines also represent the ponderous application of heavy industrial
technology to extracting thousands of tons of rock from deep within the Earth. When
looking over the remains of Western hardrock mines, todays observer can not help
but marvel at how miners and engineers established and ran such Industrial facilities,
and how these men built and operated mines in the wilderness. Questions arise as to
where mining companies found the capital to buy and install the costly surface plants
and to develop extensive underground workings. And last, the visitor to todays mine
sites cannot help but wonder about the breed of engineer and laborer able to hew a
mine out of the side of a rock-strewn mountain.
Research for this thesis proved interesting and complex. I implemented a
strategy with the purpose of discovering how academic mining engineers
recommended mines be organized during the Gilded Age and during the Depression,
3


how mines were actually developed in the West, and the resultant remains that
visitors are likely to encounter today. In the first phase of work, I assembled models
of surface plant technologies from primary sources such as mining engineers texts,
articles in trade journals, and trade catalogs. For the second leg of research, I
analyzed the archaeological remains of approximately 300 mine complexes in over 50
historic mining districts in California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and
Utah. In many cases I contrasted the extant remains with mine-specific records to
synthesize accurate histories of the operations. Last, I compared my field findings
with technologies and methods discussed by mining engineers in literature. The
models I had constructed from literary materials and mine-specific documentation
helped me interpret the material culture I encountered in the field. The material
culture, in turn, demonstrated how mining engineers actually applied technology. In
employing an interdisciplinary research strategy, I determined how academic mining
engineers with access to sufficient capital recommended mines be developed and
equipped. I compared these results with how mining companies and seasoned field
engineers, working within the realities of scarce financing and a harsh Western
environment, actually established mines. Ultimately, this research strategy revealed
patterns and relationships of capital, investor confidence, geographic location, time
period, and geology, and how these factors influenced the building of a mine.
4


CHAPTER 2
BUILDING THE SURFACE PLANT
The Men of Mining
Mining in the West would have remained in a primitive labor-intensive state,
and possibly suffered an early demise had it not been for the interaction of five
central groups of people. Prospectors played an important role because they found
the ore deposits and subsequently organized the mining districts. Because they
lacked capital, most prospectors were incapable of developing to significant depth the
very lodes they discovered. As a result, they often sold their holdings to promoters or
investors. In some cases promoters and investors were one and the same individual,
but each played different roles in the opening and development of a mine. Promoters
and investors, in turn, relied on a fourth major group, mining engineers, who
possessed the technical expertise necessary to develop a prospect into a profitable
operation. Engineers relied on miners and laborers, the fifth important group of
people, to carry out the grueling physical work of building and working the mine.
These five human keystones of mining contributed the elements necessary to
develop a claim into a major operation. All of the groups shared a symbiotic
relationship, one needing, but not necessarily liking, the other. In reality, the
relationships of the five key groups of people were not as neat and well-defined as
noted above, and often their capacities overlapped. Engineers also acted as promoters
or miners, prospectors labored for wages as miners until their coffers had been
5


replenished for another search, and investors also acted as promoters. Regardless,
these five groups were necessary for the discovery, financing, and opening of mines
in the West.
After a prospector struck an ore body and had samples of the payrock assayed,
he contemplated whether to sell the claim or establish his own mining company.
Generally, when assay reports showed ore to be of low to moderate value, prospectors
attempted to sell their holdings because immense quantities of capital were required
to profitably extract low-grade ores. Some prospectors formed small mining outfits
when they knew their claim had high-grade ore, because such deposits were
profitable to mine on a small scale. To fulfill either decision, the prospector was
forced to seek out an investor who would purchase the property, or who would supply
the capital to develop it. (1)
Through honest representation, and occasionally through deceit and chicanery
such as claim salting, prospectors often interested investors. Hungry for profit and
caught up in the romanticism of Western mining, investors supplied the capital. Their
money made possible drilling and blasting underground workings, and erecting
surface plants. The impact investors had on mining in the West can not be
emphasized enough, and Joseph King, a Western historian, accurately summarized
this sentiment:
It was the financier, not the romantic old prospector or quick-talking
promoter, who ultimately built a hardrock industry in the rugged and
remote mountains of Colorado. What the prospector discovered high
in the Rockies and the promoter tried to peddle in towns and cities
across the country would have certainly remained an undeveloped
mineral resource without the millions of dollars invested by
Easterners, Middle Westerners, and other distant and diverse
capitalists, large and small alike. (2)
6


Financing was absolutely necessary for all phases of discovering, opening,
and developing mines. Capitalists funded not only the mining, but also the railroads
and wagon roads that permitted the transportation of the crucial equipment and
materials. As important as it was to the mining industry in a broad sense, money was
equally crucial for the specific tasks of physically setting up a mine. The acquisition
of mining materials and the installation of machinery was quite simply a function of
capital. King aptly voiced the key role capital played in the installation of mine
plants, and dependent ore reduction mills:
In capital lay the means of properly opening a mine, sinking the shaft,
timbering it against sudden shifts of dirt and rock, and draining it dry.
And capital made possible the hauling, milling, and treating of tons of
ore, as well as a multitude of steps and processes required to produce
bullion from raw material. (3)
Between the 1870s and 1910s potential investors for Western mines could be
found across the United States. Old money and fortunes made from business and
manufacturing awaited in the East, capital associated with business and commerce lay
in the Midwest, and financiers with profits made in mining were concentrated along
the Pacific coast. Large and small investors alike gambled their dollars on Western
mines. Successful investors educated themselves on the economics of mining in the
West, the realities of running a mine, and about the properties and districts into which
they sank money. In some cases investors felt compelled to travel west and inspect
their mines.
David Marks Hyman exemplifies the segment of financiers consisting of
upper-middle class businessmen and professionals who discovered that education in
Western mining was necessary to retain ones initial capital, let alone profit from it.
Hyman was bom in Germany in 1846, emigrated to the United States in 1864, settled
in Chicago, and received a formal education in law and business. (4) After several
7


successful years as a lawyer, Hyman had accumulated a tidy sum of investment
capital, $5,000 of which he lent to a trusted business friend, Charles Hallam, who
sank it into Colorado mines.
Hallam had no formal experience in the industry, but by spending the time to
become acquainted with Denvers mining financiers and promoters he learned some
of the basics of mining economics and investment, and he found out which districts
were truly promising. Hallam targeted the Aspen area, which was being opened in
the early 1880s, and when he was offered the Smuggler and several other claims, he
contacted Hyman about the $5,000 loan. Hyman, in the pattern of many distant
investors, paid the $5,000 and concluded to trust in luck to see what I could do. (5)
Hyman grew anxious over Hallams investments, and he felt compelled to travel into
the field to ascertain exactly what his money had bought. Hyman met Hallam and
together the two financiers traveled to the burgeoning Aspen area. Unimpressed with
the primitive state of the properties, the partners realized that they needed more
capital to build a surface plant, develop the ore bodies, and extract pay rock.
Shortly afterward, coffin king Adel D. Breed, who acquired a fortune making
coffins and had gained considerable experience with Colorado mining investment at
Caribou, located above Boulder, took an interest in the Smuggler. Breed offered
Hyman $16,000 cash plus capital to develop the property, which included building a
proper surface plant, in exchange for one third interest in the mine. (6) Hyman went
for the deal, after which Breed saw to it that the Smuggler was fully developed.
Within a short period of time the mine began repaying its investment, and it
ultimately became one of the richest operations in Colorado.
Hyman and Hallam both represented a major constituency of mining
investors. They came from middle and upper middle class families which, while not
directly providing them with capital, gave the support and empowerment necessary in
the social climate of the nineteenth century to become upwardly mobile. Like many
financiers in this constituency, Hyman and Hallam were working professionals
8


earning enough income to allow for some savings, a portion of which they risked as
investment capital. While they were certainly above the working class, Hyman and
Hallam were not part of the wealthy class, and in accordance they were capable of
parting with only limited quantities of money at a given time for mining ventures.
Because people like Hyman and Hallam had to earn a living, they did not have much
time to brush up on the economics and chart which districts were most promising.
Some individuals made lucky choices, as did Hallam, while most middle class
financiers sank their money into worthless holes. But the sum total of capital put up
by the vast array of such modest financiers made possible the development of
numerous small and medium-sized operations considered by mining magnates to be
trivial and not worth a second thought. In this way many prospect operations were
able to allocate funding.
Mining magnates and experienced investors tended to dominate the financing
of large and highly productive mines. In addition to having access to the requisite
large pools of money, prominent investors also had the time and resources to become
experts in the economics and geography of mining ventures, which gave them great
advantage. Wealthy investors were willing to risk amounts of capital much larger
than their professional working class counter-parts, and such well-financed capitalists
considered small losses to be less critical, even inevitable. Their goal was to make
large profits, often from an average of investments. The net result was the financing
of the Western mining industry, with a large proportion of capital going to promising
mines in prominent mining districts.
One such investor, George Graham Rice, literally made a million dollars
several times over from mining investment. Bom Jacob Simon Herzig, Rice became
involved in finance and business in New York City in the latter portion of the
nineteenth century, and in the 1890s he was convicted of a number of white-collar
crimes. (7) Ruined, Herzig literally reinvented himself as Rice and traveled west to
Goldfield, Nevada, at the height of its boom with the intent of applying his business
9


acumen to profit from mining. Using capital borrowed from gaming house owner
Larry Sullivan, Rice established the L.M. Sullivan Trust Company that used the
collective sum of capital invested by individuals to finance the purchase and
development of central Nevada mines. (8) Through the Trust Company Rice made a
huge sum of money, through both honest and crooked means. While many of Rices
ventures proved to be busts and small investors lost out, the portions of capital not
directed into Rices or Sullivans pockets built mine surface plants, and paid miners
to drill and blast underground workings. While Rice attempted to invest in sound,
productive mines when possible, he also put his money, as well as that of his clients,
into small and unproven operations that showed promise.
George Graham Rice served as an example of the type of financier who also
acted in the capacity of a promoter, as many heavy-weight investors did to profitably
float their ventures. Mining promoters, usually men of some means, comprised an
integral link in the chain of finance that built the mining industry of the West. Men in
this profession were in the business of prospecting for investors in hopes of using
capital to finance mining ventures. To accomplish such a mission, promoters had to
be socially outgoing, quick of wit, knowledgeable in mining economics and
geography, and able salesmen. The most common means promoters used to obtain
capital, either for fraudulent purposes or for claim development, was selling stock in
mining companies.
When an honest and legitimate mining company formed, the directors decided
how many shares, or units of stock, the company should possess and at what price
each share should fetch, in hopes of selling the majority to obtain capital for
development. The promoter would then apply various methods to help management
sell the stock. Sophisticated promoters like Rice launched elaborate public relations
and advertising campaigns emphasizing the mines virtues and exaggerating
optimistic qualities. After fomenting demand, the owners of the stock, which often
included the promoter, released it onto the market where investors hopefully snapped
10


it up. Other promoters operating along simpler and more grounded methods tried
physically selling stock certificates to reputed financiers, as well as to professionals,
merchants, and government officials.
Many small mining companies made the task of selling stock difficult for
themselves, because they often advertised huge volumes of shares for sale at low
prices. Experienced investors came to learn that this was a tactic employed to
leverage sales of large blocks of stock, and after sustaining losses many financiers no
longer took this bait. (9) Shunned, these small mining companies with seemingly
huge pools of stock actually became starved for capital, which was reflected in the
primitive states of their surface plants and underground workings.
Generally the wealthiest mines in the richest mining districts needed little
promotion among educated investors. Rather, it was the medium and small sized
mines and prospect operations especially in poorly known mining districts that
required the most promotion. Only with promotion small mining outfits garnered
sufficient capital to build a surface plant, drive underground workings, and in the
cases where ore had been proven, begin extraction.
A few notorious promoters used the stock system of capitalization to
fraudulently misrepresent fictitious mining ventures in hopes of pocketing
investments. In the 1880s one such promoter, George D. Roberts, perpetrated one of
the greatest mining stock scams. Roberts began his career in mining as a Kentucky
farmboy turned forty-niner, and after losing hard-earned money to merchants and
card sharks in the California goldfields, he promised he would learn to do to others
the dishonesty that had been done to him. (10) Roberts became a con-man who made
money from schemes ranging from salting prospect holes to mine and stock
speculation. During the 1860s his activities became increasingly sophisticated,
culminating in organizing the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872, and the opening of
American Mining Stock Exchange, from which he conducted inside trading. (11) By
11


1880 Roberts, a master of deceit, readied himself for a grand scam involving the State
Line Mine located on the north edge of Death Valley.
Robert Shaw discovered the State Line in the 1860s, and working with several
partners, extracted high-grade ore from a shallow vein that cropped out at ground-
surface. Over the course of ten years Shaw and his partners worked the mine almost
to exhaustion and sold it. Subsequent companies enlarged the shaft and explored the
remainder of the vein, only to find it consisted of unprofitable low-grade quartz gold.
Because the State Line was so remote the cost of operations were too high, and the
mine stood idle until 1880, when Roberts purchased it for $100,000. (12) According
to plan, Roberts used his own capital to install a new production-class surface plant,
including a steam hoist, a boiler, an ore reduction mill, and a water pipeline, even
through he knew the mine would not pay. In a cunning move, Roberts began his
scheme by advertising that an investor had purchased the property for the grand
sum of $100,000, and he then had an entourage of bribed engineers inspect the site
and tout the wonders of the ore reserves, the surface plant, the mill, and the pipeline.
After baiting the public with an announcement that the mine was privately owned and
not public, Roberts began releasing stock in limited quantities in an effort to maintain
a high price, and when the time seemed right, he dumped his remaining shares and
reaped huge profits. When investors began questioning why the mine was not
producing, Roberts, hiding behind the State Line Mining Company, attempted to
delay the coming protests by circulating stories about broken pipelines and other
falsehoods. After several months of stalling tactics, Roberts abandoned the State Line
company and slipped away from investors, who realized they had been cheated.
The majority of mine promoters were fairly honest, but the few exceptions
such as Rice and Roberts earned the profession a bad name. Joel Parker Whitney,
bom in New England, raised in the California goldfields, and emigrant to Colorado,
represented the majority of honest promoters. Like many professional promoters,
Whitney came from a business background, in this instance Boston, where he learned
12


the basics of finance. As with case of Charles Hallam, fellow businessmen had given
Whitney charge of $5,000 for investment in Colorado, and he traveled to Denver in
1865 to begin the search for a mine. (13)
Whitney stayed in Denver for a short while, then moved to Central City where
he learned much about the economics and geography of mining investment. From his
educated standpoint, Whitney used the capital in his possession to invest in several
promising properties in Central City. Successful, Whitney remained in Colorado and
continued to invest in mining, focusing his attention on the young districts in Summit
County, such as the Robinson District northwest of Leadville. Realizing that unless
he could interest other financiers in Summit County districts and townsites, the
success of his operations there would remain stunted. As a result Whitney turned to
promotion, and as part of his efforts, he published a booklet entitled Silver Mining
Regions of Colorado which paved the way for similar promotional works. Due to his
superior skills as a legitimate promoter, the state of Colorado appointed Whitney as a
promotional commissioner. (14)
Promoter and financiers placed the greatest trust in the opinions of mining
engineers. (15) Trained in the economics and practices of mining, engineers
examined a mine and determined the quantity of ore by calculation, as well as by
estimation. Investors also consulted with mining engineers to examine nascent
prospect operations and to ascertain whether an adit or shaft shovted promising
characteristics, and if so, how much money would have been required to upgrade the
surface plant to productive status. In the latter portion of the nineteenth century,
barbed wire baron Isaac L Ellwood hired such an engineer, John B. Farish, to seek
investments in Colorado. Farish, who had experienced success with the wealthy
Enterprise Mine in the Rico District in the San Juan Mountains, located a promising
prospect operation near the mining town of Ouray. There, with Ellwoods money, he
formed the Wedges Mining Company to further develop the claims. Through
13


promotion and conservative management, Farish transformed the Wedges Mine from
a simple horse whim prospect hole into a large and productive operation. (16)
Most mining engineers did not act as promoters, and many did not even
evaluate mines, yet engineers were indispensable to mining in the West. The primary
function of the mining engineer was to oversee the development of deep prospect
operations, the ever-hoped-for discovery of bonanza ore, and development of the
claim into a paying mine. In reality, most operations in the West, of course,
encountered little if any ore, and they died an early death. Engineers charged with the
development of a property had serious responsibilities, including overseeing the
driving of underground workings and the installation of the surface plant within
physical, economic, and geological constraints. Performing such a duty was not easy,
and successfully carrying out such work required men who were, as described by
mining historian Clark C. Spence, jacks of all trades in the mining industry. (17)
As early as the 1860s mining company directors in the West realized the value
of keeping mining engineers on staff to apply science and technology to maximize
ore production. (18) Spanning from that time period into the 1930s mining engineers
entered the profession from two camps: those with formal technical training, and
those who were self-taught:
The mining engineer it is said, achieved his status by doiiig the work
of a mining engineer. This, of course, oversimplifies the matter. Once
a young man had decided on the pursuit of such a career, he did not
attain his goal merely by proclaiming his intent and going to work. He
must enter by one of two doors experience or technical training.
(19)
Many of the formally trained engineers who worked in the West during the first
decades following the California Gold Rush received their education from British or
German technical schools, and by the 1880s from a handful of American Universities.
Self-taught engineers took another route into the profession. They often began work
14


as miners and ascended through the positions of shift boss, superintendent, and
manager at small operations. The more they learned about mining, applications of
technology, geology, and economics, the greater their odds of ascendancy.
According to Clark C. Spence, early in the Gilded Age the ability to become a mining
engineer seemed to be a function of opportunity, intelligence, and attitude:
During much of the nineteenth century, most mining engineers were
of the practical variety men who through circumstance, ability, hard
work, and experience in the different aspects of mining and milling
won their positions without special education. (20)
In this fashion, mining in the American West was a true embodiment of how we
today characterize the social and political climate of that distant time and place:
freedom, autonomy, and mobility.
Between approximately 1860 and 1890, mine owners and companies favored
self-taught engineers over those with formal education, in part because they felt the
experience of self-taught engineers was superior for running a mine in the wild West.
As the decades marched onward, this preference changed, until by 1920 six out of
seven mining engineers working at mines were college trained, and the numbers and
capacity of self-taught engineers had significantly declined. (21) In some ways this
transition was a gain for mining, because the self-made engineers preferred to use
well-understood, proven, conventional machines and methods, which had significant
inherent limitations. (22) Progressive, technically trained engineers introduced and
experimented with new technologies as well as fine-tuning the old methods in a
calculated and planned manner, which ultimately reduced the costs of mining and
milling.
Yet, there was no substitute for the old weathered and salty engineers because
they possessed an uncanny ability to examine prospects deep in the backcountry,
cobble together the machinery and materials necessary to open them with little wasted
15


capital, and profitably extract ore. Winfield Scott Stratton and Frank A. Crampton
were two such self-made mining engineers who had gained experience underground,
they worked in a number of large and small mines, and perhaps most important, after
experiencing successes and failures, they understood the realities of opening mines in
the rugged West.
W.S. Stratton gained world-wide fame for discovering the fabulous
Independence Mine in the Cripple Creek Mining District and selling it for a record
$10,000,000, after extracting millions of dollars in gold. Working the Independence
was Strattons high point, but before that he had learned mining and prospecting the
hard way. Stratton was born in 1848 the son of a Midwest riverboat builder, and
under his father he learned the delicate arts of fine carpentry and heavy woodwork.
(23) He came to Colorado in 1872 and went to work as a contract carpenter building
houses in Colorado Springs, where he earned a reputation for fine work. The gold
bug bit Stratton in 1874, and he departed in the spring to search the Rockies for
wealth. Stratton subsequently fell into a pattern which lasted for over a decade of
prospecting in the late spring, summer, and early fall, and working as a carpenter in
Colorado Springs during the other months. Leaving no portion of Colorados Mineral
Belt unvisited, Stratton narrowed his search to areas he liked in the San Juan
Mountains, Middle Park, the Collegiate Mountains, and the Front Range. During his
wanderings he acquired the characteristics typically attributed to a good prospector,
such as the ability to live off the land, to find comfort in foul weather, to understand
the landscape, and a knowledge of geology and mineralogy. The carpenter even
found ore in the San Juans in 1874 and spent $2,800 developing the Ybretaba Silver
Lode with underground exploratory workings and a surface plant, but the promising
lead did not pan out. (24)
After years of searching for riches, Stratton found them in his own backyard
in 1891. During the 1880s local cowboy Bob Womack claimed that he had found
telluride float in the hills around his ramshackle ranch, and that another time he
16


encountered traces of placer gold in a nearby stream. In 1890 Womack asserted that
he had uncovered an ore vein at the bottom of a shallow prospect shaft at the head of
Cripple Creek. Stratton was one of the few people in Colorado Springs who engaged
Womack on a conversational level, and after much badgering Womack convinced
Stratton to apply his years of prospecting experience to verify the presence of ore.
Skeptical, Stratton followed Womack to his ranch at Cripple Creek and after several
days of searching, he chipped off fragments from a granite ledge south of the ranch
and took them to Colorado Springs for assay results. The samples turned out to have
just enough gold to raise Strattons interest, and in accordance with classic
prospecting methodology, he sank a small shaft along the ledge to track the mineral
content as the ledge extended downward. The values increased, and Stratton realized
he finally had struck a mother lode. The discovery helped touch off the Cripple
Creek gold rush. Stratton christened the mine the Independence, and he wasted no
time in erecting a surface plant and sinking a proper shaft.
During the 17 years he spent combing Colorados mountains, Stratton learned
many practical skills pertaining to building and running a mine, which he applied to
his Independence. Stratton designed the mines surface plant, ordered and supervised
the installation of the machinery and power plant, blacksmithed, and even
participated in construction of the buildings. The old prospector also did most of the
drilling, blasting, timbering, and surveying in the underground workings. Between
the skills he acquired as a professional carpenter and house builder, his years
prospecting, and his experience developing the failed Ybretaba in the San Juans,
Stratton typified the self-made mining engineer.
Frank A Crampton, another self-made mining engineer, came from a higher
social class than W.S. Stratton. Crampton grew up in New York City in the 1890s as
the son of an upper middle class family, and after a high school education in a
military academy, he literally ran away from home with the clothes on his back. (25)
Crampton possessed the fundamental characteristics shared by many self-made
17


mining engineers, including a basic education, fierce independence, a penchant for
rustic travel, desire to learn, and experience in the mines that began from the bottom
up:
The prelude to my engineering career began in the jungles back of the
railroad yards in Chicago. My practical education started on a
November day when, as a lad of sixteen, busted from an old ivy league
college, broke after running away from home and a family that thought
I had disgraced it forever, I was taken in tow by two hardrock mining
stiffs and shown the ropes. (26)
After learning the basics of underground work in Cripple Creek beginning in
1904 under the tutelage of miners John T. and Sully, Crampton purchased a defunct
assaying and surveying agency in Goldfield, Nevada, where he became acquainted
with fundamental mineralogy and engineering skills. While Crampton was at an
impressionable young age, Sully and John T. emphasized that each job he took should
have been an opportunity to gain new skills and learn more about practical mining,
and Crampton latched on to this philosophy like a bull dog. Mining in Cripple Creek
and surveying in Goldfield opened the door for Crampton, and he entered the Western
mining industry with a penchant for learning. By the early 1910s Crampton had
gained a reputation for being able to set up and superintend small Western mines
under severe economic and environmental conditions. However, like many self-made
mining engineers Crampton was not well briefed on cutting-edge mining technology
and he snubbed his technically trained colleagues, in part out of professional jealousy,
and in part out of disdain for their upper class roots.
Many technically trained professional mining engineers in the West had come
from the upper middle classes and better. Professionally educated engineers formed
an interesting contrast to the self-made variety in that they approached the problems
of building and running mines in the West from more of an academic perspective.
Professionally trained engineers applied science, sophisticated mathematics,
18


economics, and mechanical engineering when building and operating mines, rather
than sheer cumulative experience and imitation of other operations. The best
technically trained engineers relied on their professional education, but tempered it
with intuition and experience. As a result, trained engineers were more willing to
experiment and accept new technologies to answer the problems of mining, provided
the solutions seemed to be at least hypothetically effective. The status and training of
formally educated engineers fetched a relatively high wage that was out of reach for
small mining companies and prospect operations. Instead, technically trained
engineers were usually employed by prominent capitalists, investment firms, and
profitable mining companies. The small mining operations were forced to hire the
less-expensive self-made engineers, or superintendents that had a round, cursory
working knowledge of how to set up and run a mine.
Herbert C. Hoover was a pinnacle of the professionally trained breed of
mining engineer. Hoover was bom in Iowa, raised in Oregon, and received his
introduction to mining with the California State Geological Survey during the 1860s,
followed by a stint with the United States Geological Survey. Hoover received his
formal engineering education at the respected mining school at Stanford University
and went on to oversee mines in the both the American and Australian West in the
1890s. During this time Hoover gained a solid reputation and entered a tight social
circle of mining magnates, which became a doorway through which he made
substantial sums of money. The prominent engineer was proficient at mine
evaluation, characterizing underground workings and surface plants, and discoursing
on economics of large and profitable operations. Hoover went on to become involved
in mining ventures in China, Korea, and Burma, and he wrote a respected mining
engineering text book in the 1900s. (27) But his greatest claim to fame in the public
eye was as head of the Food Administration during World War I, followed by serving
as President of the United States in 1928.
I
19


Thomas A Rickard was another world-renowned mining engineer, but he
started somewhat more simply than Hoover. The master engineer was well-grounded
in Western mining, recognizing that the industry consisted of large and small
operations alike, both of which deserved attention. Rickard came from Cornish
mining roots, his grandfather was one of the first Cornish hardrock miners to work in
California, and other members of his family, including many of his brothers, were
subsequently involved in mining. (28) Rickard launched his engineering career by
graduating from the Royal School of Mines in 1885, after which he went to work
under his uncle in Idaho Springs, Colorado, as an assayer. In 1886 Rickard moved
upward, literally and figuratively, to manage the Kansas, Kent County, and California
mines in Central City, north and above Idaho Springs. In the 1890s Rickard also
managed the fabulous Yankee Girl Mine at Red Mountain Pass, and the heavy-
producing Enterprise Mine in the Rico Mining District in the southwest San Juan
Mountains, Colorado. (29) Rickard was even asked to evaluate Strattons
Independence when an English syndicate was considering purchase.
Rickard was one of the best mining engineers in the world during the Gilded
Age, because he understood mining from both the academic perspective, and from the
applied, experiential side. Combining formal training with practical experience made
Rickard adept at valuation, judging the potential of prospects, and understanding that
technology, surface plants, and underground workings all had to Work together under
an economic and managerial umbrella. Rickard, who was a prolific writer, stated:
In sizing up the situation it is necessary that a man should know what
are likely to be the costs of stoping, timbering, road-making, erection
of machinery equipment, etc., and these things he can only know
through actual underground experience and personal participation in
the administration of mines. (30)
20


By his statement, Rickard, one of the worlds greatest formally trained mining
engineers, identified the importance of practical experience, emphasizing the core of
what defined the self-made mining engineer.
The Roots of Mining
Mining methods and machinery had become uniform throughout the West
during the Gilded Age. This was largely a result of the diffusion of mining methods
and technologies from both Cornwall and Germany. The Cornish probably had the
greatest direct influence on American hardrock mining, but it is noteworthy that
German mining technicians introduced systematic methods and engineering to
Cornwall in the 1600s. The Cornish adapted the basic techniques taught them by the
Germans to the unique tin and copper deposits that descended steeply under the
Cornish coast. To work the deep, wet, vertical ore bodies, several generations of
Cornish miners and engineers developed technologies that were well-suited for
transplantation to North America. (31)
The Cornish heavily influenced the evolution of the systematic use of shafts,
drifts, raises, and winzes to block out and explore ore bodies, and they developed
overhand stoping methods. Such approaches to the expansion of underground
workings permitted calculated, quantified, predictable ore extraction. Further, the
Cornish have been credited with devising a revolutionary hoisting system in the
1700s that served as a basic template for hoisting that persists to this day. The system
they developed included a horse-drawn hoist known as a whim, a headframe standing
over the shaft, and an ore bucket. (32) The whim consisted of a rope reel over five
feet in diameter turned via draft animals that had been tethered to harness beams. As
21


the animals pulled the harness beam it turned the reel, which raised the bucket in the
shaft. The hoist rope extended from the hoist over a heavy pulley suspended from the
top of the headframe, termed by the Cornish a sheave. This system was a significant
improvement over the slow, cumbersome and dangerous hand windlasses used until
then, permitting greater production in deeper shafts.
But the invention that revolutionized the mining industry during the 1700s
was the steam-powered beam engine. The Cornish first used the beam engine to
solve one of their greatest mining problems: flooding. Cornish mines were located on
or near the coast and they often extended under the ocean floor. The ubiquitous
seeping water proved to be a perpetual and expensive problem that inhibited the
pursuit of deep ore. The Cornish had tried various means of dewatering their mines,
all with limited success. When the vertical steam engine made its appearance in
Britain in the early 1700s, mining engineers realized the machine could have been
adapted to run dewatering pumps on an enormous scale. Beam engines typically
consisted of a large-diameter vertical steam piston connected to a walking beam that
was hinged at center. When the piston rose under steam pressure, it pushed one end
of the beam up, and the other end of the beam dropped. While such engines were
adapted to a multitude of industrial purposes over the course of the 1700s, one of the
first applications was lifting and letting fall dewatering pump rods in Cornish mines.
The pump rods consisted of heavy timbers, often having come from the American
colonies, spliced together to form a solid shaft extending into the sump of the mine
shaft where the pump mechanism lay. When the walking beam activated the pump
rod, water was lifted out of the mine through a column of piping. In deep shafts
multiple stations were necessary to transfer the water from one column to another.
By 1727 five Cornish mines were equipped with Cornish pumps, and they
experienced a huge success in draining the underground workings. By 1800 all large
mines in Cornwall and many others in Britain featured Cornish pumps. The Cornish
subsequently made a number of improvements to the beam engine and associated
22


steam boilers through the late 1700s, and began adapting them to other mine
applications, such as hoisting and driving stamp mills. (33)
Ironically, as improvement and implementation of labor saving technology
permitted Cornish miners to work at depths greater than ever and extract more ore in
less time, British adventurers, the English term for investors, grew recalcitrant about
providing more money to finance improvements. As a result, the known ore reserves
showed signs of depletion after several centuries of steady mining, threatening
Cornwalls very economy. To the horror of the clannish Cornish, the mines that were
their livelihood began closing in the 1840s. The decline accelerated in the 1850s and
1860s, stimulating immigration of Cousin Jacks and their Jennies to the United States.
(34) The Cornish miners brought their expertise, skills, methods, and technology at
first to the Wisconsin lead mines in the 1830s, to Michigan copper in the 1840s and
1850s, to Californias nascent quartz gold mines and mercury mines in the 1860s, and
to the famed Comstock lode and Colorados Central City in the 1860s and 1870s.
Mining companies in each district recognized the Cornish for their superior talents
and subsequently appointed them shift bosses, superintendents, and engineers, and
hired them in teams as expert miners. Framed by positions of prominence, the
Cornish introduced their practices, which American miners quickly integrated.
Through the 1850s and 1860s both Cornish and converted American miners carried
these methods and technologies to nearly every Anglo hardrock mining district in the
West. The speed of diffusion was quick, in part due to the expanding transportation
and communication systems, and in part because of the mobility of Western miners.
But the Cornish did not have the last word in mining in the New World, because
American miners and engineers adapted Cornish methods to the unique physical and
economic conditions of the West. American mining machinery manufacturers
offered products designed to minimize labor and expense, maximize production, and
meet conditions created by the application of Cornish ways to a new land. The result
was a truly American mining industry.
23


Factors Influential to Mining
Despite the fact that the Western mining industry drew upon a fairly
standardized pool of machines, an application of technologies, and underground
methods, each mine or prospect operation faced challenges presented by economic
factors, the physical environment, and its geographic location. Solving these
problems meant that the mining engineer had to tailor his plant designs, selection of
machines and materials, and means of transportation and construction to suit the
conditions in what we can term applied technology.
The environmental, economic, and geographic elements that influenced the
establishment and operation of a mine or prospect can be broken down into six basic
categories. The presence or absence of ore, geology, and climate heavily influenced
the manner in which engineers set up a mine, and they fall under the umbrella of the
physical environment. The presence or absence of ore determined whether a prospect
operation blossomed into a mine, and if so, how long it existed. Huge ore reserves
resulted in a long-term and prosperous company, wealthy investors, and a mine site
that probably experienced several lives. Minor ore reserves may have stimulated
substantial underground exploration for pay rock, but a brief, short-term operation
once the limitation of the ore had been realized. By contrast, a total absence of ore
resulted in quick abandonment after limited underground exploration.
The geology associated with a potential ore deposit influenced the nature of
the underground workings, and it affected how a mining engineer designed the
surface plant. Vertical ore bodies and terrain ranging from low to moderate
topographical relief dictated that the mining company sink a shaft, while gently
pitching ore bodies and/or high topographical relief was conducive to driving an adit.
The climate was another factor that affected how an engineer planned a mine
surface plant. If the engineer expected the mine to operate all year in high altitude
24


environments, he had to enclose most of the vital surface plant components in heated
buildings, and link the tunnel portal or shaft collar with the shop and other facilities.
In less severe climates, such as the Southwest and the Pacific seaboard, heated
buildings were not as crucial. The foul weather endemic to high altitude settings also
impacted transportation to mines, necessitating that roads be planned well and
carefully graded. In the southwest and Great Basin flash floods had the potential to
wash away roads in drainages, which mining engineers there had to take into account.
The availability of capital, a function of investor confidence, lies within the
category of economics, and it may have been the single most influential factor a
mining engineer had to respond to. Mining revolved around money; everything from
buying the claim, setting up the surface plant, paying miners and laborers, to shipping
ore required financing, and much of it. The size of a mine, the sophistication of the
surface plant and underground workings, the types of machines installed, the quantity
of supplies consumed, and quantity and quality of the miners employed all were a
function of the amount of available capital. And often the amount of investment in a
property was a function of the presence or absence of ore, the district in which a mine
was located, and promotion.
Geographic location was a factor that became a severe hindrance to many
mining and prospecting operations. The costs of mining increased with distance from
railheads and commercial centers. Prior to the 1920s heavy freight wagons were the
principle conveyance between mines and railroads, and they presented significant
drawbacks that impacted mining companies. Wagons impeded the amount of ore that
a mine could have shipped, and they limited the size, scale, and types of machines
and other plant facilities that could have been brought to the site. Therefore, mining
companies operating deep in the backcountry often were able to afford to extract only
the highest grades of ore while leaving moderate grades, ordinarily profitable in
populous district, in place.
25


The last major factor influencing how a mining company or engineer set up a
mine was the timeframe. Mining machinery available in the 1860s and 1870s was
simple, crude, limited, and inefficient. But through the 1880s and into the 1900s the
price of technologies dropped while the array of the types of machines and their
duties mushroomed. What was a rare and state-of-the-art machine or surface plant
component in the 1880s became mundane by the 1900s. A decrease in prices, an
increase in available capital among mining companies, and the sheer number of used
machines for sale ensured that mine plants and the technology used underground by
large and small operations alike would continue to become increasingly sophisticated
and efficient.
One unforeseen result of constant improvement in mining technologies and
overall increase in the availability of capital was periodic rehabilitation of defunct
previously productive mines, especially those which had stood idle for some time due
to exhaustion of high grades of ore. Mines that had been abandoned because they
were too remote and too costly to work often experienced a succession of operations
associated with either improvements in mining and milling technologies, or
development of the local transportation network. As a result, the surface plants at
many productive mines consisted of various components dating to the different
operations. In general, mine plants became increasingly mechanized and occupied
greater space from the 1870s into the 1890s, they remained stableuntil the 1910s. As
technology became more efficient, plants began to shrink in size, but not complexity,
through the 1920s and into the 1930s.
26


Developing the Mine
Generally, in the West ore bodies tended to take one of two forms. Miners
and engineers had termed the first formation a vein, and they knew the other as being
a massive and globular body. Typically, miners encountered free gold, telluride gold,
tungsten, and occasionally silver in veins while they found industrial metals such as
copper, iron, and silver in masses. At the point where a tunnel or shaft penetrated the
ore body, miners developed the geological feature with internal workings consisting
of drifts, crosscuts extending off the drifts, internal shafts known as winzes which
dropped down from the tunnel floor, and internal shafts known as raises which
extended up. Drifts and crosscuts explored the length and width of the ore, and raises
and winzes explored its height and depth.
All of the underground exploration, as well as ore production, created a
considerable demand for support from on-site facilities, which paralyzed the
operation if ignored. These facilities, almost without exception, were located around
the mouth of the adit or shaft collar, and engineers and miners alike knew them as the
surface plant. It may be said that a mine was like an iceberg, and the surface plant
formed the visible cap hinting at what lay below the surface. Large, productive mines
boasted sizable surface plants while small prospect operations tended to have simple
facilities. Regardless of whether the operation was a small underground prospect or
large profitable mine, the surface plant had to meet five fundamental needs. First, it
had to provide a stable and unobstructed entry into the underground workings.
Second, the plant had to include a facility for tool and equipment maintenance and
fabrication. Third, the plant had to allow for the transportation of materials and waste
rock out of the underground workings and supplies in. Fourth, the workings had to be
ventilated, and fifth, the plant had to facilitate the storage of up to tens of thousands
of tons of waste rock generated during underground development, often within the
27


boundaries of the mineral claim. Generally, productive mines, as well as complex
and deep prospects, had needs in addition to the above basic five requirements, and
their surface plants included the necessary associated components.
The basic form of a surface plant, whether haphazardly constructed by a party
of inexperienced prospectors or designed by experienced mining engineers, consisted
of a set of components. The entry underground usually consisted of a stabilized collar
for either an inclined or vertical shaft, or a portal for an adit. While the exact
differentiation between a tunnel and an adit is somewhat nebulous, mining engineers
and self-made mining men have referred to narrow and low tunnels with limited
space and length as adits. Passages wide enough to permit incoming miners to pass
outgoing ore cars, high enough to accommodate air and water plumbing suspended
from the ceiling, and extending into substantial workings have been loosely referred
to as tunnels. Most surface plants featured transportation arteries permitting the free
movement of men and materials into and out of the underground entry. Miners
moved materials at adit operations in ore cars on baby-gauge mine rail lines, while
shafts required an additional hoisting system to lift vehicles out of the workings.
Materials and rock at shaft mines were usually transferred into an ore car for
transportation on the surface. A blacksmith maintained and fabricated tools and
equipment in a shop on site, and large mines often had additional machining and
carpentry facilities. Most of these plant components were clustered around the adit or
shaft and built on cut-and-fill earthen platforms made by excavating material from the
hillslope and using the fill to extend the level surface. Once enough waste rock had
been extracted from the underground workings and dumped around the mouth of the
adit or shaft, the facilities may have been moved onto the resultant level area. The
physical size, degree of mechanization, and capital expenditure of these surface plants
were relative to the constitution of the invisible portion of the iceberg that lay below
ground.
28


Over the course of the fifteen years following the California Gold Rush, a
small army of prospectors crisscrossed the American West in search of fortune. In so
doing, they opened and subsequently abandoned literally thousands of hardrock
mining districts. The specific geology and landscape of each district varied, but
prospectors, miners, and engineers across the West employed hardrock mining
methods and technologies conforming to common patterns. Upon surveying the
remains of the numerous hardrock mines in the West, it may be apparent to todays
visitor that one common pattern consists of organizing surface plants to support work
in adits or tunnels, or work in shafts.
Miners and prospectors consciously sank a shaft or drove an adit in response
to fundamental criteria. First, a shaft was easiest and less costly to keep open against
fractured and weak ground. Second, a shaft permitted miners to stay in close contact
with an ore body as they pursued it to depth, and they were able to sample the ore
periodically. Third, in cases where miners sank a shaft on profitable ore, the payrock
they extracted provided the company with almost instant income, which pleased
stockholders and greased the skids of mine promotion. Last, a shaft lent itself well to
driving a latticework of drifts, crosscuts, raises, and winzes to explore and block out
the ore body. (35)
Mining engineers discerned between the purposes of sinking vertical versus
inclined shafts. One contingent of engineers, especially those working prior to the
1880s, preferred inclined shafts because, as they correctly pointed out, mineral
bodies, especially veins, were rarely vertical, and instead descended at an angle. As a
result vertical shafts were ineffectual for intimate tracking and immediate extraction
of ore. In addition, inclined shafts needed smaller, less expensive hoists than those
used for vertical shafts. The other camp of engineers, however, claimed that vertical
shafts were in fact best because maintenance and upkeep on them cost less. Vertical
shafts had to be timbered merely to resist swelling of the walls, while timbering in
inclines had to also support the ceiling, which was more expensive, especially when
29


the passage penetrated weak ground. Inclined shafts also required a weight-bearing
track for the hoist vehicle, which, including maintenance such as replacing rotten
timbers and corroded rails, consumed money.
For these reasons, most engineers, especially after around 1880, favored
vertical shafts because they reached depth in less distance, translating into lower
sinking costs, and more rock could have been extracted in less time with associated
hoist vehicles, expediting production. (36) In light of the collective experience
gained during five decades of mining in the West by the 1900s, mining engineers
strongly recommended that vertical shafts be sunk in the footwalls of ore veins.
Experience had taught the mining industry, often through expensive and dangerous
lessons, that the hanging wall overlying the vein was likely to settle and shift after ore
was extracted, throwing the shaft out of plumb. (37)
Despite the hypothetical advantages of sinking a shaft over an incline or adit,
the actual choice of shaft versus adit was governed by several factors beyond miners
or engineers control. In many cases geology proved to be a deciding criterion; steep
hillsides, deep canyons, and gently-pitching ore bodies lent themselves well to
exploration and extraction through adits. In many cases prospectors who had located
an outcrop of ore high on a hillside elected to drive an adit from a point considerably
downslope to intersect the formation at depth. If the ore body proved economical,
then the mining company carried out extraction through the adit. One of the most
problematic aspects of driving an adit to investigate an ore body was that miners had
to labor at considerable dead work, drilling and blasting through barren ground, with
no guarantee that they would locate the ore body where they had anticipated striking
it. In many cases veins cropping out high on mountain sides disappeared at depth, or
natural faulting broke them up and shifted the pieces around. In addition, adits were
not as well suited as shafts for developing deep ore bodies, because interior hoisting
and ore transfer stations had to be blasted out, which proved costly and created traffic
congestion. One other problem, significant in districts where the rock was weak, lay
30


in the enormous cost of timbering adits and tunnels against cave-in. However, much
to relief of mining companies many Western districts featured sound rock requiring
little support. (38)
But the most fundamental consideration in deciding whether to drive an adit
or sink a shaft was economics. Driving an adit was easier, faster, and required
significantly less capital than sinking a shaft. Some mining engineers had determined
that the cost of drilling and blasting a shaft was as much as three times more than
excavating an adit. Prospectors and mining engineers alike understood that adits
were self-draining, they required no hoisting equipment, and transporting rock out
and materials into the mine was easier than it was in shafts. Regardless, in many
cases prospectors, those with the least access to capital, sank small shafts to explore
ore bodies for the reasons cited above, and for one additional significant factor. (39)
Historians of the West have aptly characterized mineral rushes to heavily
promoted mining districts as a frenzy of prospectors who blanketed the surrounding
territory with claims. In most districts the recognized hardrock claim was restricted
to being 1,500 feet long and 600 feet wide, which left limited work space, both above
and below ground. (40) In Colorado prospectors were legally obligated to drive an
adit or shaft, or sink a pit to a minimum depth of 10 feet to hold title to a hardrock
claim. They had to conduct $100 worth of labor in other states. (41) A small adit or
pit was not adequate to fully explore the depths bounded by a 1,500 by 600 foot plot
of ground, let alone extract ore, forcing prospectors and mining companies to sink
shafts.
The Cripple Creek Mining District serves as an excellent example of how
crowded conditions forced mining companies to sink shafts to work at depth within
their claim boundaries. The district was blanketed with claims during its heyday, few
of which mining companies consolidated in the early years. Prospectors and mining
companies sank shafts because they lacked the contiguous ground necessary to
explore and develop ore bodies at depth through tunnels. In districts where
31


competition for space was not as severe, mining companies had greater latitude to
drive tunnels.
Equipping the Mine
In addition to differentiating between surface plants that served tunnels from
those associated with shafts, mining engineers further subdivided mine facilities into
two more classes. Engineers considered surface plants geared for shaft sinking,
driving adits, and underground exploration to be different from those designed to
facilitate ore production. Engineers referred to exploration facilities as temporary
plants, and as sinking plants when associated with shafts. Such facilities were by
nature small, labor-intensive, energy inefficient, and most important, they required
little capital. Production plants on the other hand usually represented long-term
investment, and they were intended to maximize production while minimizing
operating costs such as labor, maintenance, and energy consumption. Such facilities
emphasized capital-intensive mechanization, engineering, planning, and scientific
calculation.
Mines underwent an evolutionary process in which discovery, the driving of a
prospect shaft or adit, installation of a temporary plant, upgrade to a production plant,
and eventual abandonment of the property all were points along a spectrum.
Depending on whether prospectors or a succeeding mining company found ore and
how much, a mine could have been abandoned in any stage of evolution, as many in
the West had been. Of course, the ultimate goal of most mining companies,
capitalists, and engineers was to locate, prove, and develop fabulous ore reserves, and
to install a surface plant large and efficient enough to arouse accolades from the
32


Western mining industry. Most operations, however, did not succeed. Mining
engineers and mining companies usually took a cautionary, pragmatic approach when
upgrading a sinking plant to a production plant. Until significant ore reserves had
been proven, most mining companies minimized their outlay of capital by installing
inexpensive machines adequate only for meeting immediate needs. The circa 1890s
mining engineering text series A Textbook on Metal Mining sums up the sentiment
behind companies approach toward temporary plants:
All improvements at metal mines have for their ultimate object the
removing and treating of the ore in the most expeditious and
economical manner possible. The majority of mines are opened in a
small way, or at least with little machinery, large plants being rarely
seen until the mine has been proven by actual work of development to
contain extensive bodies of ore. During the first stages of work at a
mine, it is best to employ only such machinery as will perform the
service most economically and at the same time safely (42).
It must be remembered that despite a showing of ore, many Western mines never
progressed beyond their temporary plants for want of capital and trained engineers.
Mining engineers and self-made mining men understood that temporary plants
consisted of light-duty, inexpensive, and impermanent components. Many engineers
classified the duty of these components, especially machines such as hoists, boilers,
blowers, and air compressors by their size, energy efficiency, performance, and
purchase price. Machine foundations, necessary to anchor and stabilize what were
critical plant components, also fell under this scope of classification. Because of a
low cost, ease of erection, and brief serviceable life, mining engineers considered
timber and hewn log machine foundations to be strictly temporary, while production-
class foundations consisted of concrete or masonry. (43) The structure of wooden
foundations usually consisted of cribbing, a framed cube, or a frame fastened to a
pallet, all of which were assembled with bolts and iron pins, and buried in waste rock
33


ballast for stability and immobility. (44) The construction and classification of
machine foundations is of particular importance, because they often constitute the
only remaining evidence at mine sites today capable of conveying the composition of
the surface plant in terms of structures and machinery.
During the late nineteenth century America underwent what historians have
characterized as a second industrial revolution. Technology improved, the costs of
machinery and materials fell, and as the national economy recovered from the post
Civil War slump and the depression of 1873, business and industry had increasingly
more capital to spend on improving their facilities. Expansion of transportation and
communication systems across the continent also at this time helped encourage the
exchange of money and commodities for machinery and goods. In association with
these trends, the costs of mining equipment and materials fell, their performance,
availability, and value increased, and skilled labor went for a premium. As a result,
during the Gilded Age mining in the West underwent a rapid transition from a state
predominated by manual labor and capital-starved operations to heavy mechanization.
Figure 2.1 The profiles illustrate two faces of a production-class brick masonry compressor
foundation. In many cases foundations consisted alternatively of rock or concrete, and they all shared
a similar form. Audel, 1900 p36.
34


or ivlphvr
Figure 2.2 The line drawings depict temporary timber foundations and methods of their construction.
Clockwise and in order of popularity: log cribbing hoist foundation, methods of joining timber
cribbing, timber pallet hoist foundation, and a foundation consisting of anchor bolts tied into bedrock.
All of these foundations were usually buried up to the cap timbers with rock fill for stability. Author;
Audel, 1900 p37; Engineering & Mining Journal, 1916 p8, 9.
35
4-/O'


CHAPTER 3
THE SURFACE PLANTS FOR
MINE TUNNELS
Preparing to drive underground workings on the scale necessary to explore and
develop a hardrock mineral body was no easy task in the rugged West. Before miners
could have begun underground work, interested partnerships or mining companies had
to make arrangements for financing, and they had to obtain the services of individuals
capable of establishing and managing mines. The company often saddled a mining
engineer or a supervisor capable of acting as such, with the onerous responsibility of
obtaining equipment and supplies, hiring competent supervisors and labor, and seeing
them delivered to the property. The engineer also had to find, to prepare, and carry
out one of the most important aspects of prospecting and mining: setting up and
running the physical infrastructure that was absolutely necessary for underground
work. At the core of the infrastructure lay the surface plant, which this chapter seeks
to examine.
i
When a claim had been located afresh and the existence of ore was uncertain,
mining companies and prospecting outfits undertook underground exploration to
examine the geology at depth. To administer to the needs of driving these exploratory
workings they erected temporary plants which consisted of small, inefficient, and
inexpensive facilities. When the mining company finally had proven the existence of
ore reserves in economical quantities, in many cases it sought to upgrade the small and
inefficient temporary plant into a production-class plant. Depending on how much
financing the mining company was willing to provide, in some cases the engineer could
36


afford to supplant only the most vital temporary plant components with production-
class equipment, leaving the remainder of the facilities in a primitive state. As result,
some mines possessed surface plants that were mixes of production-class and
temporary of components, as the mining engineer attempted to make due with
available resources. In other cases, well-financed mining companies that had proven
much ore empowered and even insisted that the engineer build a substantial and costly
plant almost from the start.
Mining operations usually started out small and increased in size, both on the
surface as well as underground. How much a mine grew physically depended on its
productivity, the depth at which miners had encountered ore, and how much
underground exploration the company had initially undertaken. For example, mines
with vast ore reserves that miners found at great depths tended to be complex, which
is reflected by a large surface plant and a voluminous waste rock dump. Mines barely
getting by on small ore reserves found close to the surface were small and simple.
Great energy and effort were required of the miners and engineer to establish a mine,
and more effort still to make it pay, provided ore existed. In cases where ore did exist,
due to spasmodic advances in mining and especially milling efficiencies, fluctuations in
metals prices, and the coming of the railroad, ore that had been ignored by earlier
operations as uneconomical became profitable to mine by later companies. As a result,
productive mines underwent a series of reoccupations, and each operation hired an
engineer to erect a surface plant amid the remains left by older companies. While a
mining engineer planning to reopen an old mine did not have to carve an industrial site
out of virgin wilderness and erect a totally new plant, he did have to work with the
existing remains at the mine site and utilize them to best of his advantage. Such
considerations often resulted in mine plants featuring some components dating to the
original operations, especially buildings and shop facilities, interspersed with machines
installed by later outfits.
37


The mines of the West can be divided into four basic size groups. Mines with
waste rock dumps occupying an area approximately 125 by 125 feet and surface plants
50 by 50 feet in area or less are defined as small. Mines with waste rock dumps
occupying an area approximately 175 by 175 feet and surface plants 75 by 50 feet in
area can be considered to be medium-sized. Mines with waste rock dumps occupying
an area approximately 225 by 225 feet and surface plants 75 by 75 feet in area are
large. Mines with waste rock dumps occupying an area starting with 325 by 325 feet
and surface plants 150 by 150 feet in area can be viewed as very large.
Building the surface plant began when a mining company sent an engineer,
either professionally trained or self-made, to inspect a poorly developed but promising
claim. Usually the property featured a small shaft or adit driven by a prospecting outfit
to examine the mineral body below surface. The engineer examined the underground
workings, which were often shallow and limited in extent, and attempted to
characterize the mineral body. In some cases engineers risked money developing
claims based merely on the possibility of ore suggested by the rock revealed in the
bottom of a prospect pit.
Combining his understanding of the local geology and the topography of the
claim, the engineer decided whether to drive a tunnel or sink a shaft. In many cases
throughout the West substantial ore failed to materialize and many operations died in a
temporary stage, frustrating and occasionally bankrupting investors. The engineer
often chose to sink a shaft rather than drive an adit when ore bodies pitched steeply
downward, if the local topography gently sloped, or if the mining district was
blanketed with claims limiting available space. In instances where space was ample,
the physical relief great, and mountain slopes steep, the engineer may have elected to
drive an adit.
The surface plants for shafts and adits underwent similar stages of growth and
consisted of similar components. However, the vertical nature of shafts and the
38


horizontal orientation of adits and tunnels resulted in a few substantial differences in
plant design, layout, machinery, and structures. For this reason we will look at the
surface plants associated with adits separately from shafts.
Small, simple prospecting outfits, large and wealthy mines, and the variety of
operations in between left their marks on the landscape. While in most cases tools,
machinery, and even structures have been removed from a mine site, visitors may be
intrigued to find upon close inspection that much still remains, and that each surface
plant component often left unique evidence in the form of artifacts, foundations, and
structural remains. One of the fundamental goals of this and the following chapter is
to couple discussion of surface plant form and technology with associated material
remains.
Summarizing the Surface Plant: An Overview
Whether a surface plant had been erected to facilitate subterranean prospecting
or full-scale ore production, it met at minimum five basic needs associated with
underground work. Nearly all plants provided an entry underground, in this case an
adit portal. They included a mine shop where a blacksmith maintained and fabricated
tools and hardware. Surface plants facilitated ventilation, they provided for waste
rock disposal, and they included a transportation system for moving the materials of
mining. During the first several decades of hardrock mining in the West, miners found
a few basic patterns of physically organizing the surface plant associated with an adit
to be most efficient. Through sheer functionality as well as because of tradition, the
patterns changed little through time. The most common pattern at small adit mines
took shape when prospectors or miners dumped the waste rock immediately outside
the adit portal and graded it flat. They located the shop and ventilation system
39


adjacent to the adit portal on earthen platforms cut out of the hillslope. Usually a rail
line served the miners transportation needs, and it extended out of the adit, past the
shop, and terminated at the dumps edge.
As miners labored away underground and proved the existence of ore, the
mining company responded by upgrading the surface plant with additional facilities
capable of supporting more intense activities. These expanded plants also adhered to
common patterns of arrangement. The engineer had workers erect an ore bin on the
shoulder of the waste rock dump, they completed a wagon road up onto the flat
surface of the waste rock dump, and they graded a spur road along the downslope
edge of the ore bin. The upgrade also would have included a better ventilation system,
enlarged shop facilities, and after the late 1880s, an air compressor and boiler. The
miners and surface laborers would have extended the mine rail line by adding several
spurs to the waste rock dump, the shop, and the ore bin. If the engineer had upgraded
the surface plant with all of the above facilities simultaneously, he might have enclosed
the shop and machinery in one or two large frame buildings partitioned into several
rooms, or he may have been enclosed them in a single tunnel house. The plant
probably also included an outhouse, a water tank, an office, and bunkhouses on
earthen platforms situated away from the central workings. If the mine was a heavy
producer backed by substantial quantities of capital, it may have been serviced by a
railroad line passing below the ore bins, or it may have had a custom ore reduction mill
located downslope. Few mines in the West simultaneously possessed all of the above
components because most operations were not sufficiently profitable. Many Western
operations fell somewhere in the middle, but nearly all of them adhered to the basic
spatial layout charted above.
40


Surface Plants for Prospect Adits
Nearly all adits began as prospects. Their first surface plants often consisted of
simple facilities installed by prospectors. Such plants had to be simple. First, areas
being prospected were usually remote and undeveloped. Hauling heavy machinery
was costly if not impossible because of a lack of roads. Second, small outfits did not
have the capital necessary to purchase large surface plant components, nor could they
afford qualified engineers. The fact that driving an adit cost up to one-third less than
sinking a shaft attracted outfits with little capital, and by default they tended to erect
simple and inexpensive plants. As a result of a combination of the above factors,
between the 1870s and 1910s prospecting outfits built crude plants incorporating little
mechanization and featuring small structures constructed of locally obtained materials.
In the warm areas of the Southwest and Great Basin some prospecting plants did not
even include buildings, leaving the facilities unprotected from the weather. Why worry
about shelter when the goal of the prospector or partnership was to hastily prove the
existence of ore and sell the claim? (1)
The adit was the primary component of simple prospecting plants. Prospectors
drove adits with hammers and drill-steels, which was a simple and labor-intensive
technology well suited for backcountry regions. Hand-drilling was not easy work and
the progress miners made was fairly limited, which gave them great incentive to
minimize the amount of rock they attempted to blast. As a result prospect adits were
usually low, narrow, and short. Small adits served the prospectors needs, but became
bottlenecks when production began.
Professionally trained mining engineers recognized a difference between
prospect adits and production-class tunnels. Height and width were the primary
defining criteria. A production-class tunnel was wide enough to permit an outgoing
ore car to pass an in-going miner, and headroom had to be ample enough to house
41


compressed air lines and ventilation tubing. Some mining engineers working in the
twentieth century attempted to quantify the minimum size of a production-class tunnel
as being at least V/2 to 4 feet wide and 6 to 6V2 feet high. Anything smaller, they
claimed, served merely as a prospect adit. Many of these engineers reflected an
attitude post-dating the adoption of compressed air powered rockdrills which had
reduced the costs of drilling and blasting. The above criteria regarding adit size
applied somewhat more loosely to mines operating during the 1870s and 1880s, when
miners primarily drilled by hand. (2)
Miners generated tons of waste rock that had to be hauled out, while tools,
timbers, and explosives were brought in. As a result, prospect operations had to rely
on some form of a transportation system, which had to be inexpensive, adaptable to
tight workings, and capable of being carried into the backcountry. To meet these
needs prospect outfits often used the old-fashioned wheelbarrow on a plank runway.
A wheelbarrow cost as little as $12, it was easy to pack on a mule, and it fit into tight
workings. (3) Mining engineers recognized the functionality of wheelbarrows, but
classified them as strictly serving the needs of subsurface prospecting because of their
limited load capacity, awkwardness of handling, and propensity for being crushed. (4)
Outfits driving substantial underground workings required a vehicle with a
capacity greater than the few hundred pounds that a prospector could have trundled in
a wheelbarrow. The vehicle most mining outfits chose was the ore car today the
immortalized symbol of hardrock mining. The ore car commonly associated with
metal mining consisted of a plate iron body mounted on a turntable that was riveted to
a rail truck. Cars were approximately 2 feet high, 4 feet long, and 2'/2 feet wide, they
held at least a ton of rock, and they had a swing gate at the front to facilitate dumping.
Further, the body pivoted on the turntable to permit the operator to deposit a load of
rock on either side of or at the end of the rail line. While iron ore cars were extremely
durable, often outlasting the mining companies that purchased them, the iron
42


components were heavy. Even when disassembled, it was difficult to haul the ungainly
parts into the backcountry. However, prospect operations working in remote areas
used a variety suited to their difficult economic and environmental conditions. Rather
than iron construction, the body consisted of heavy planks held together with an iron
framework, and the truck chassis consisted of two heavy timbers fitted with wheel
axles and a turntable. In cases where capital was dear, prospecting outfits assigned the
mine blacksmith the responsibility of manufacturing everything but the iron wheels and
axles, rather than spend money on prefabricated hardware. The net result was that
prospecting outfits needed only to haul lumber, iron stock, and parts to the site.
Ore cars ran on rails, and that created more problems for remote prospect
operations. Manufacturers, such as Colorado Fuel & Iron Company and Bethlehem
Steel, sold rail in a variety of standard sizes, the units of measure being weight per
yard. Light-duty rail ranged from 6 to 12 pounds-per-yard, medium-duty weight rails
included 12,16, 18, and 20 pounds-per-yard, heavy mine rail weighed from 24 to 50
pounds-per-yard, and anything heavier was used for railroad lines. Prospecting outfits
installing temporary plants usually purchased light-duty rail because of its
transportability and low cost. To illustrate the point, a prospect adit with
approximately 400 feet of linear workings required two and a half tons of 16 pound
rail, one and a quarter tons of 8 pound rail, or one ton of 6 pound rail for a complete
track. Why purchase the heavier 16-pound rail when 8 or 6 pound rail would still
permit the use of ore cars while costing half to purchase and haul to the site? (5)
Some prospect operations were so remote that transporting even as little as a
ton of rail proved arduous. In response, some prospecting outfits improvised a clever
alternative known as strap rail. Well-suited for remote prospect adits especially in
arid climates, strap rail consisted of flat strap iron or a half-round iron bar pinned onto
the edges of 2x4 boards that were nailed on-edge to crossties. In essence the 2x4
acted as the rail and the iron hardware served as an armored face for the cars wheels.
43


While strap rail was strictly for temporary operations, having a light load capacity,
being incapable of conforming to smooth curves, and decaying quickly in wet adits,
prospecting outfits merely had to pack the iron and 2x4 boards to their claims, instead
of heavy iron rails. Strap rail experienced mild popularity in the Great Basin and the
high Rockies during the 1870s and 1880s, when these regions lacked well-developed
transportation infrastructures. But when railroads and wagon roads arrived in mining
districts, shipping prices fell and the preferred iron rails became affordable and
replaced strap rail (6).
Abandoned adits often reveal the type of transportation system installed by
miners in decades past. The presence of rail spikes, track bolts with ovoid heads, and
crossties featuring spike holes indicate that an operation took the trouble to pack in
and install manufactured rails. Use of strap rails is usually evident by iron strapping or
half-round iron bars with nail holes through them, and an abundance of 2x4 boards.
At some poor operations wheelbarrow tracks consisting of planks laid on the ground
or paths cleared of large cobbles can still be seen. (7)
In prospect adits the main purpose of transportation systems was to move
waste rock. The size of the resultant waste rock dump became a direct reflection of
the extensiveness of the underground workings, as miners turned the earth inside out
in their search for wealth. Whether miners moved the shattered roqk in ore cars or in
wheelbarrows, they dumped the material directly out of the adit portal, creating a
semicircular pad much like a river delta. By nature prospect operations were small and
their dumps never attained the substantial sizes that plagued large operations. Miners
made an effort to maintain a smooth, flat surface upon which they could have placed
additional surface plant components, cut mine timbers, and bend mine rails for curves
in the track.
Every prospect adit required the services of a blacksmith who maintained and
fabricated equipment, tools, and hardware. Most small prospect operations lacked the
44


capital and volume of work to hire dedicated specialists, and as a result one of the
crewmembers comprising the outfit served as a miner when not working in the shop.
The common rate for driving a prospect adit with hand-drills and dynamite in hard
rock was approximately one to three feet per 10 hour shift. Over the course of such a
day miners drilled numerous blast-holes and blunted drill-steels in substantial
quantities. For this reason, the blacksmiths primary duty was to sharpen the great
number of dulled drill-steels. (8)
To permit the blacksmith to work in foul weather, mining companies erected
buildings to shelter the shop. The structure for a shop tended to be small, simple, and
ruddy. Prior to the 1890s they tended to be constructed of local building materials
such as hewn logs or dry-laid rock masonry. In the dry and temperate Southwest
shops were often open-air. But no matter the geographical region, prospecting outfits
almost invariably located the blacksmith shop adjacent to the adit portal to minimize
handling heavy batches of dull drill-steels. (9)
The blacksmith required few tools and much skill for his work. A typical basic
field shop consisted of a forge, bellows or blower, anvil, anvil block, quenching tank,
several hammers, tongs, a swage, a cutter, a chisel, a hacksaw, snips, a small drill, a
workbench, iron stock, hardware, and basic woodworking tools. Prior to the 1910s
some prospecting outfits working deep in the backcountry far from commercial
centers dispensed with factory-made forges, both to save money and because they
were cumbersome to pack, and used local building materials to make a vernacular
forge. The most popular type of custom-made forge consisted of a gravel-filled dry-
laid rock enclosure usually 3 by 3 feet in area and 2 feet high. Miners working in
forested regions substituted small hewn log walls for rock. A tuyere, often made of a
2 foot length of pipe with a hole punched through the side, was carefully embedded in
the gravel, and its function was to direct the air blast from the blower or bellows
upward into the fire in the forge. (10)
45


Figure 3.1 The line drawings depict types of blacksmith forges commonly employed by prospect
operations. Clockwise: a portable pan forge designed to be disassembled, another portable pan forge,
a vernacular dry-laid rock forge, a collapsed rock forge as they commonly appear today after
abandonment, and a vernacular log cribbing forge. Note the small hand-turned blowers on the
portable forges. E&MJ 10/6/17; Author.
46


Sharpening drill-steels was a delicate and exacting process that required an
experienced mine blacksmith. Drill-steels, specialized tools that withstood the brutal
work of mining, were of the utmost importance for driving underground workings.
Miners used them to bore blast-holes, which was the primary method of breaking
ground in Western mines. These unique tools were made of hardened hexagonal or
octagonal 3/4 to 1 Vi inch-diameter bars of high-quality steel, and miners always used
them in graduated sets. Starter-steels, also known as bull steels, were often twelve-
inches long, but numerous trips to the blacksmiths forge reduced them to as short as
eight inches, and the rest of the steels followed in successive six to ten-inch
increments. With each increase in length, a steels blade decreased slightly in width,
ensuring that it did not wedge tight in the drill-hole. Generally, drill-steels for single
jacking were no longer than three feet, and the longest steels used for double jacking
were usually four to six feet long.

Figure 3.2 Miners used drill-steels like the items illustrated to bore blast-holes underground, and they
dulled dozens per day in the process. The primary duty of the mine blacksmith was to sharpen the
dulled steels for the next days shift. International Textbook Company, 1907 A35 p5.
Sharpening drill-steels began at the forge, where the blacksmith carefully
arranged a layer of fuel over the gravel bed surrounding the tuyere. The choice of fuel
for working iron was limited to a few sources that were clean-burning, fairly
47


inexpensive, and easily sacked for transportation. Prior to the 1870s blacksmiths
heavily used wood charcoal, but they substituted coke and metallurgical coal, also
known as forge coal, by the 1880s. Metallurgical coal included anthracite, semi-
anthracite, and unusually pure bituminous coals, all other grades of coal having too
much sulfur and other impurities. While metallurgical coal burned relatively cleanly,
over time it left deposits of ash and clinker in the forge. Clinker is a residue which
appears dark, vitreous, and glassy. Further, clinker possesses a scoria-like texture
which formed in nodules up to three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The soot-
smudged blacksmith had to periodically clean this nuisance out, and he either dumped
it on the shop floor or threw it out of the buildings doorway. (11)
After the blacksmith received a load of dull steels, he either pumped a bellows
or slowly turned a hand-blower connected to the tuyere, which fed oxygen to the fire.
As the fire grew hot and began consuming fuel, he used a forge sprinkler to create a
perimeter of wet coal to stop the fire from spreading. Blacksmiths often made forge
sprinklers from food cans by perforating the bottom with many small holes. The smith
placed the ends of several drill-steels in the center of the fire until they grew almost
white-hot. One by one he extracted them, hammered the blade against the step
between the heel and top face of the anvil to reform the drills sharp angle of attack,
placed the steels back in the fire, and repeated the process using a special swage fitted
into a socket in the anvil. The swage had a better-defined crevice, which gave the final
steep profile to the sharpened blade. The steels went back into the fire yet again, and
the denizen of the shop extracted them one-at-a-time for quenching in a small tank of
cool water. Quick submersion hardened the steel so it would remain sharp. A second,
slower immersion tempered the steel, adjusting the softness of the blade tip after
hardening, which prevented fragments from spalling off in the drill-hole. In the event
the miners had managed to crack or damage the drill-steel blade, the blacksmith heated
it white-hot and upset the steel before sharpening, meaning he used a cold chisel to cut
48


off the damaged end. After upsetting the tip, the smith had to reform a fresh cutting
end.
Figure 3.3 Plan view of the blacksmith shop platform at the Surprise Mine, Goodsprings, Nevada.
The remains of the illustrated shop are typical of basic temporary field shops. The facility consisted
of a vernacular rock forge, an anvil, a workbench, and a quenching tank. The shop stood on an
earthen platform either enclosed in a tent, or sheltered underneath a canvas tarp. Author.
To Adit
Figure 3.4 Plan view of a temporary-class shop enclosed in a stone cabin at a prospect adit in the
Clark Mining District, eastern California. The structure was erected in the 1870s. Author.
49


To temper a drill-steel, the blacksmith extracted it from the fire again while it
was in a white-hot state and briefly immersed the blade in the quenching tank, quickly
extracted it, and permitted the steel to cool in the open air. The incandescent colors of
the steel changed as it cooled, and when it reached the desired temperature, as
indicated by color, the blacksmith plunged it into the quenching tank to arrest the
cooling. During the time the steel lay in the open, the skin cooled faster than the core
and turned brown to gray, masking over the steels true incandescent colors. To
examine the colors of the inner steel, the blacksmith rubbed the blade on either a brick
or whetstone, which scratched off the grayish scale. Experienced mine blacksmiths
were able to complete the above processes proficiently and quickly. They were also
able to subtly modify the angle of a drill-steels blade to better suit it to different types
of rock, blacksmiths could forge curved blades for bull steels, and judge the
incremental widths of the blades by eye.
Because blacksmith shops associated with prospect adits were simple and
temporary in the most elemental sense, consisting of small implements intended to be
portable, they left scant evidence visible at prospect sites today. Telltale remains by
which modern-day visitors can identify the former location of a shop often consist of a
concentration of artifacts including a sparse scatter of anthracite coal or coke, forge
clinker, forge-cut iron scraps, the blades of upset drill-steels, a brick or whet stone,
and occasionally an anvil block. In some cases the remains of a vernacular forge, often
reduced to a mound of gravel impregnated with coal and clinker and surrounded by
collapsed cobble walls, may also denote the location where a shop stood. (12)
Surface plants sometimes provided ventilation for the underground workings
of prospect adits. The use of explosives for blasting, open flame lights, and the
respiration of laboring miners turned the atmosphere underground into an intolerably
stifling and even poisonous environment. Ventilating dead-end adits of foul gases was
not an easy proposition for capital-poor operations. Into the 1890s many outfits
50


completely ignored the problem until the workings attained significant length. Passive
ventilation systems relied on natural air currents to remove foul air, but they proved
marginal to ineffective in the dead-end workings of prospect adits. Mechanically
assisted systems were expensive, cumbersome to move, and intended for production
plants. As a result they were rarely used at prospect adits.
Necessity being the mother of invention, prospecting outfits employed several
variations of ventilation systems that cleverly combined passive and mechanical means.
One of the simplest semi-mechanical ventilation systems that prospecting outfits
extensively used consisted of a canvas windsock fastened to a wooden pole. The
windsock collected air and directed it through either canvas tubing or stove pipes into
the underground workings. The obvious drawback to system was poor performance
on calm days, forcing miners to work in suffocating gases. Prospecting outfits
employed another semi-mechanical system in which they linked the air intake on a
stove or furnace to tubing ducted into the workings. A surface worker stoked a fire in
the stove, which drew foul air out of the underground through the ducting, combusted
the gases, and released them out the exhaust chimney. While this simple and ingenious
system could have been built using common materials, most prospecting outfits
declined to take the trouble of specially sealing the cracks in stoves, fitting the stove
with an intake, and hauling the components into the backcountry. Jn addition, furnace
ventilators required fuel which often proved to be in short supply in remote desert
mining districts. (13)
Some Western prospecting operations were adamant about providing adequate
ventilation. From the 1870s into the 1910s some of these outfits installed large forge
bellows at the mouths of adits and used stove pipes or canvas tubing to duct the air
into the workings. Bellows effectively ventilated shallow workings, but they lacked
the pressure to clear gases out of relatively deep adits and shafts. By the 1880s mining
machinery makers offered small hand-turned blowers, which cost more money than the
51


above systems and took greater effort to pack to a prospect operation, but they forced
foul air much more surely from workings. (14)
Of all the surface plant components, ventilation systems were particularly
transitory and they left little evidence after prospectors had abandoned a site. Usually,
the only visible remains left at prospect adits today consist of stovepipe sections, duck
canvas scraps, and baling wire. The adit interior may feature stove pipe sections still
hanging from the ceiling, or placed along one comer of the floor. Such relics usually
indicate that a prospecting outfit had installed a ventilation system, but the remains are
often inconclusive as to which type. Occasionally artifacts such as large forge bellows
and blower parts, as well as standing windsock poles may still be encountered,
providing the visitor with a greater certainty about the system. From the 1870s into
the 1910s the windsock was probably the most popular ventilation system for prospect
adits because of its low cost and portability, while hand-turned blowers were fairly
popular among the deeper, better-financed operations.
Surface Plants for Deep Prospect Adits and Mine Tunnels
Mining districts in the West feature numerous prospect adi,ts that have been
abandoned in nascent stages of development due to a lack of ore. A few mining
outfits, however, were graced with luck and a good showing of pay rock, and in rare
cases they encountered a bonafide bonanza. While the surface plants for prospect
adits usually permitted an outfit to drive rudimentary underground workings, such
plants were inadequate for deep exploration and ore extraction. Mining companies
that possessed the types of claims that kept investors high in hopes had to erect large
surface plants capable of supporting more intense activity.
52


The first problem for the mining engineer was upgrading the existing surface
plant into something capable of meeting the needs of a larger operation. Like the
surface plants associated with shafts, the plants for adits met either temporary or
production-class definitions. Money being an underpinning of mining, the size of a
plant was a function of how much capital the company, i.e. the investors, were willing
to part with, and how much ore lay in the ground.
Once the mining engineer had finished inspecting the claim to ascertain the
facilities it possessed and the nature of the underground workings, he entered a
planning phase during which he determined how best to upgrade the property in
accordance with anticipated deep exploration and subsequent ore production. Based
on his analysis, the engineer determined which plant components and structures were
needed, and where they should be placed.
Upgrading a small prospecting plant required a variety of goods. The mining
company had to supply building materials, heavy tools and hardware, machinery, and
other items far greater in size and weight than the carrying capacity of a few pack
animals. Therefore, one of the first steps an engineer made toward developing a mine
was to establish a transportation artery, preferably with the capability of
accommodating heavy wagons. When faced with such an expensive and labor-
intensive proposition, mining engineers were able to take solace in, the fact that their
operations were rarely totally isolated, often being located in mining districts where
other companies were undergoing similar development. Neighboring mining
companies, ordinarily incapable of agreeing on basic matters such as possession of
mineral and water rights, did concur on their common need for roads, and they often
cooperated and shared the costs of road building. Such joint efforts proved especially
valuable when a cluster of mines lay miles from the nearest commercial center.
Building a transportation artery was difficult and expensive. Mining engineers
employed by companies with modest capital had to personally survey the proposed
53


route, while heavily financed companies with engineers the caliber of T.A. Rickard and
Herbert C. Hoover hired surveying crews. After much rigorous field work the
engineer or surveyor finally determined gentlest approach to a given mine, and the
company hired a gang of laborers, often consisting of jobless miners and prospectors,
to begin work. The laborers pushed the road-grade across hillslopes using cut-and-fill
techniques with picks and shovels, they crossed rocky areas and deep drainages by
building dry-laid masonry walls and filling the voids with rubble and soil, and they
blasted portions of the roadbed out of bedrock where precipices were high and shear.
Because of the great expense involved, road planners avoided areas of extreme terrain.
However, gold was where you found it according to miners, and mines were opened
in the most inconvenient locations, forcing engineers and labor crews to cope.
Despite the cooperative efforts, mining companies often skimped on road
construction and maintenance where possible to save precious capital. As a result
wagon roads often were steep, narrow, and uneven in surface, presenting a great
challenge and an exhausting drive for team and teamster alike. Yet, without the efforts
of laborers, the planning of engineers and gang bosses, and the money from investors,
particularly rugged mining districts across the West probably would have experienced
early failure due to inaccessibility.
Some prospects with excellent showings of ore were located in the most
remote, rugged, and inaccessible regions, and road grading remained an economic
impossibility. Such mines were accessed only by mule train and as a result, most of
these operations grew little because bringing in the necessary materials was physically
impossible, and the costs of production remained high. Many prospects in the eastern
Sierra Mountains in California, the San Juan and Collegiate mountains in Colorado,
and the Cascade Mountains in Washington not only were too remote for roads, but
also had the added difficulty of being snow-bound during the winter. Mining
companies attempting to develop such claims ironically found the middle of winter to
54


be most conducive time of year to fulfill their goal of upgrading their surface plants.
Rather than rely on mules during the warm months, they used the snowpack to
advantage, sending out teams of miners to winch supplies and machinery across
ordinarily impossible terrain on sleds. In cases where such claims proved highly
profitable, engineers convinced the investors to part with enough capital to build an
aerial tramway, which we will examine at the end of the chapter.
The Adit Portal
Once the road-building crew commenced grading a road, the mining engineer
turned his attention to other important issues at the claim. One activity that could
have been carried out while the road was in progress was improving the adit portal and
underground workings. Engineers recognized that narrow, low-clearance adits driven
for prospecting were wholly inadequate for deep exploration and ore production.
Where necessary, the engineer put miners to work widening the passageway with drill-
steels and dynamite. In many cases engineers left alone adits that were on the fringes
of meeting production specifications.
Improving the adit included giving due attention to the adit portal, which
guarded against cave in of loose rock and soil. Aridity in the Southwest and many
areas of the Great Basin discouraged the development of deep soils and in accordance
bedrock lay near ground-surface, often permitting the portal to remain unsupported.
However, in the mountain states where rain and snow were more frequent, mining
companies had to use timbering. Mining engineers recognized cap-and-post timber
sets to be best suited for supporting both the adit portal and areas of fractured rock
further in. This ubiquitous means of support consisted of two upright posts and a
cross-member, which miners at moderate sized mines, or timbermen at large
55


operations, fitted together with precision using measuring rules and carpentry tools.
They cut square notches into the cap member, nailed it onto the tops of the posts, and
raised the set into place. Afterward, the miners hammered wooden wedges between
the cap and the adit ceiling, and between the posts and adit walls to make the set
weight-bearing. Because the adit usually penetrated tons of loose soil and fractured
rock, a series of numerous cap-and-post sets were required to resist the heavy forces,
and they had to be lined with lagging to fend off loose rock and earth. In areas
penetrating swelling ground, both at the portal and deep in the adit, the bottoms of the
posts had to be secured to a floor-level cross-timber or log footer to prevent them
from being pushed inward. When adits penetrated great lengths of heavy ground,
miners spaced the timber sets as close as two feet together and tied each set to the
next with horizontal stringers.
Wood used for the purposes of supporting wet ground decayed quickly and
had to be replaced as often as several times a year, and as infrequently as every few
decades in dry mines. Professionally trained mining engineers claimed that dimension
lumber was best for timber sets because it decayed slowly and was easy to frame, but a
relatively high purchase price and the cost of transportation discouraged its use where
cheaper alternatives were available. Most down-to-earth miners and engineers, such
as Frank Crampton and W.S. Stratton, favored using hewn logs for their timber sets
and lagging because they cost less than milled lumber, and they were often ready at
hand in the mountain states. In the desert states where logs were a rarity, mining
companies found it economical to use dimension lumber. (15)
After a mine had been abandoned, time took its toll and the support timbers
rotted and gave way under tons of sodden earth. In many cases identifying the exact
location of the adit can be important for the interpretation of a site because it served as
point of reference that engineers customarily used to situate other surface plant
components. While identifying a long-closed adit can present the visitor to a mine site
56


with a challenge, several clues may be visible. First, a portal that has been closed for
decades begins to resemble an ovoid concave topographical feature, often with a steep
headwall. Second, miners usually used ore cars on rail lines to deposit waste rock,
which resulted in the build-up of lobes radiating out of the adit mouth. The portal
should lay at the confluence of the lobes. Third, the visitor to a historic mine site may
notice the remains of cap-and-post support timbers projecting out of the area of
subsidence, and last, water seepage and the remains of the rail line may also denote the
adits location.
A few rare highly profitable and well-financed operations feature portals with
permanent support. For example, the portals of Colorados Bobtail Mine in the
Central City Mining District and the Argo Tunnel in the neighboring Idaho Mining
District have been supported with faced stone masonry and decorative poured
concrete, respectively. In addition to the functionality of extravagant facades, such
portals intentionally served as visible statements of wealth, productivity, and
permanence, which inspired confidence among investors, as well as in the community.
Constructing the Mine Shop
Once the road grading crew had completed a transportation artery, all was
ready to begin freighting machinery and materials to the mine site. The road acted, in
essence, as an umbilical cord linking the mine to commercial centers, giving engineers
a freer hand on what types of machines and other facilities they could install. Yet, the
engineers were ultimately bound by factors such as the degree of financial support they
received, by the quality of the road, by the regions climate, and by the quantity of
visible ore. Professionally trained engineers recommended installing production-class
plants from the outset, economic conditions permitting. But field seasoned mining
57


engineers, such as Frank Crampton and W.S. Stratton, who had experienced first-hand
the vagaries of Western mining often thought otherwise, remaining hesitant until the
mine truly proved itself capable of sustained production. Part of the reason for
seasoned engineers hesitance for committing significant resources was that ore
reserves often pinched out relatively close to ground surface, which left the mining
operation in debt. Another major reason for hesitance was that seasoned engineers
had slightly lower standards for the tonnages of ore produced per shift than did
professionally trained engineers. Seasoned and self-taught engineers, with their
skepticism, installed smaller, less-efficient plants, but in so doing they risked less
capital than was typical of their professionally educated counterparts. As deep
exploration revealed the existence of ore, many seasoned and skeptical engineers
upgraded their surface plants in a piecemeal fashion, installing or improving the
facilities only on demand. (16)
Whether the operation was under the charge of professionally trained engineers
or the self-made variety, improvements to the plant required several fundamental steps
that both schools of engineers followed. The first stage was preparing the overall site
for the installation of a larger and more complete surface plant. During the 1870s,
1880s, and into the 1890s this meant at a minimum building a new shop, transportation
system, store houses, an office, and an ore bin. By the 1890s improvements also often
included an air compressor, power appliances for shops, and a power source.
According to plan, the mining engineer put a labor crew to work with pick and shovel
to create cut-and-fill earthen platforms on which they sited the necessary facilities.
A fully equipped blacksmith shop was one of the most important of the new
plant components. Without it, mining and construction activities at the site would
have ground to a halt. Mining engineers, both self-made and professionally trained,
usually located the shop adjacent to the adit portal to minimize the transportation of
heavy iron materials. The size of a shop and types of appliances were functions of
58


capital, levels of ore production, and the era during which it was built. Self-made
engineers such as Frank Crampton and W.S. Stratton tended to erect simple, labor-
intensive shops, while academically trained engineers tended toward substantial,
mechanized shops. The shops at small mines typically occupied a space approximately
10 by 15 feet in area. They featured a forge and blower in one corner of the structure,
an anvil and quenching tank next to the forge, a work bench with a vice located along
one of the walls, and a lathe and drill-press. Forges at mines in both the Great Basin
and mountain states tended to be either free-standing portable iron pan types, or
vernacular fieldstone forges. Rarely did shops at small mines include power
appliances. Instead, most of these shops were equipped with manually operated
machinery. (17)
Figure 3.5 The line drawing depicts the austere interior of the blacksmith shops typical of small
mines. The shop consists of basic appliances, including an immobile tank forge, an anvil on a block,
and a bellows. Few shops at Western mines featured brick floors, like the shop in the illustration.
Drew, 1910 pi.
59


Profile of Forge
hl 1 ft
Figure 3.6 Vernacular production-class blacksmith forges. Left to right: a profile of a typical wood
box forge and a plan view of wood box forge capped with grout. Note that the grout cap has a hole in
the center to permit the blast of air to pass through. Author.
Profile of Anvil Block
Figure 3.7 The line drawings illustrate appliances common to most mine shops. Left to right: a
hand-powered forge blower, a profile of an anvil block, and a forge bellows. Most mine shops used
hand-powered forge blowers to feed the fire with air, while a few operations used bellows. Bellows
were very popular prior to the late 1880s. Mine & Smelter Supply, 1912 p724, 725.
60


The physical composure of a shop building reflects the financial state of a
mining company. Outfits with limited financing used local building materials, while
well-capitalized mining companies with access to commercial centers often erected
dimension lumber frame buildings. One trait shared by most shops was the use of
windows to afford natural light to permit the blacksmith to see what he was doing
through the smoke and soot. Due to the risk of fire started by loose embers, the floors
of most blacksmith shops at adit mines were earthen. The blacksmith arranged the
shop interior to suit the cramped space, usually scattering his tools on the workbench
and forge, arranging iron stock and hardware inside and outside the shop building, and
he kept his coal either in a sack or wood box near the forge.
Prior to the 1890s, production-class shops at medium sized mines were
between 15 by 15 feet to 15 by 20 feet in area, and they featured more appliances than
their small-mine counterparts. They usually included a forge with an accompanying
anvil and quenching tank, several work benches equipped with vices, a large manual-
powered lathe and drill-press, a full array of hand tools, screw drivers, taps and dies,
and pipe threaders. The blacksmith also nailed small parts bins to the walls to contain
the mines supply of basic hardware. In addition to the usual metalworking and
mechanics implements, the shops at medium-sized mines were large enough to
accommodate a carpentry work area where small wood items could have been
manufactured. Usually companies operating medium-sized mines had sufficient capital
to erect vernacular dimension lumber frame buildings to house the blacksmith,
carpenters, and timbermen, instead of relying on local building materials like their
small-mine brethren. Heavy carpentry work such as dressing mine timbers, framing,
and other types of fabrication presented space problems in such shops, driving workers
out onto the flat surface of the mine dump to carry out their work. If the mine lay
deep in the mountains where winters presented arctic conditions, the mining company
financed construction of a tunnel house, which offered drafty shelter to miners,
61


laborers, and shop workers engaged in critical support functions. Tunnel houses
usually took the form of a gabled frame building, and they enclosed the adit portal, the
shop, a work area where carpenters wrestled with heavy woodwork, space for limited
materials storage, and possibly an office.
Large mines active before around 1890 had greater materials handling needs
than both small and medium-sized mines. Drawing from substantial capital reserves,
mining engineers working for large companies were able to erect well-equipped and
spacious shops. To permit two blacksmiths to simultaneously sharpen drill-steels,
manufacture hardware, and repair items, the commodious shops featured one large
forge, and in some cases two separate forges. In addition, such shops featured belt-
driven metal and woodworking appliances, such as trip hammers, lathes, drill-presses,
and wood saws. A small upright steam engine drove the machinery by canvas or
leather belts descending from overhead power shafting. We should note that mining
companies rarely installed a steam system solely to power shop appliances. They
usually did this in concert with the installation of additional machinery, such as a
ventilating fan and an air compressor. (18)
The size, complexity, and makeup of mine shops changed during the 1890s,
paralleling an overall surge in affordable and practicable technology, and in
engineering. In many cases professionally trained academic mining engineers such as
T.A. Rickard and Herbert C. Hoover formulated models and ideals of efficient and
economical mine shops. The engineers recommended that woodwork and metalwork
be conducted in individual buildings, and that the respective shops be equipped with
modem, energy-efficient, and time saving appliances. Some of these mining men even
applied hypotheses of materials handling efficiencies to the layouts and make up of
shops at the largest mines. They asserted that the facilities comprising a shop be
arranged according to materials flow, and more specifically to the steps required for
62


sharpening drill-steels. However, these recommendations proved impracticable for
most Western mines due to the realities of limited funding and space. (19)
Shops at medium-sized Western mines built during and after the 1890s
remained rough, sooty, and dark like their old counterparts, but they were larger and
better equipped. A greater availability and affordability of steam engines, air
compressors, and electricity during the 1890s brought power appliances within reach
of more mining operations than in decades past. Still, available capital and geographic
location heavily influenced the degree to which mining companies mechanized the
shops at medium-sized mines.
Figure 3.8 Well-financed, large mining operations used vertical or horizontal steam engines like the
models illustrated to power the overhead drive shafts in production-class shop. Mining companies
also used such engines to drive other machines such as ventilating fans. The plan view in the lower
left depicts a horizontal steam engine foundation. Ingersoll Rock Drill Company, [1887] p53;
Author.
63


Figure 3.9 The line drawings illustrate shop appliances typical of production-class shops. Left to
right: a hand-powered drill press, a belt-driven drill press, and a belt-driven grinder. An overhead
drive shaft in the shops rafters powered the belts. Generally well-financed mining companies
installed power appliances, and operations with limited funding installed hand-powered macliines.
Mine & Smelter Supply, 1912 p744; Brown & Sharpe, 1904 pill.
Figure 3.10 The line drawings illustrate appliances featured in well-financed shops. Left to right: a
belt-driven lathe and a belt-driven threading machine. Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co., 1904 pi56, 196.
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By the 1890s typical shops at medium-sized Western hardrock mines featured
traditional labor-intensive facilities occasionally augmented with between one and
several power appliances. The shop, usually enclosed in a frame building between 15
by 20 and 15 by 30 feet in area, was equipped with at least one forge, an
accompanying blower, an anvil, a quenching tank, two stout workbenches, a lathe, a
drill-press, and array of machine and carpentry tools. Because medium-sized mines
had materials handling needs exceeding those at small mines, associated forges were
typically either a 4 by 4 foot free-standing iron pan model, a gravel-filled iron tank 4
feet in diameter and 2 feet high, or a 3 by 3 foot gravel-filled wood box. Blacksmiths
often lined their pan forges with firebricks and poured a thin cap of grout over their
tank and box forges, which provided a sound bed for the fuel, focused the flow of
oxygen toward the fire, and facilitated removal of residue and clinker. The lathes and
drill-presses may have been power-driven at mines in developed mining districts, and
manual-powered at remote mines. In addition to the above appliances, many shops at
medium-sized mines were also equipped with a mechanical saw, a grinder, and a pipe
threader, which may have been power-driven. (20)
In the tradition of Western mining, between the 1890s and the 1920s the
primary function of shop laborers continued to be drill-steel sharpening. But the
mechanization of mining during this time period required the sooty blacksmiths to
change their sharpening methods, as well as materials handling processes. The most
significant changes came about as a result of the widespread embrace of compressed-
air powered rockdrills during the early 1890s to bore blast-holes underground. While
the machines proved to be a mixed blessing for their operators, generating silicosis-
causing rockdust and being backbreaking to handle, they were a boon for shop
workers. The noisy and greasy machines produced volumes of dulled steels and
broken fittings. Contrary to todays popular misconceptions, rockdrills replaced hand-
drilling wholesale in Western mines by the late 1910s, and not earlier as supposed.
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The conversion evolved over the course of 30 years, progressing more rapidly among
well-financed mining companies than at small operations. During the conversion
period blacksmiths became proficient in sharpening both hand-steels and machine drill-
steels, each of which had specific requirements. (21)
The large volume of dull rockdrill steels, machine repair work, and the
manufacture of fittings constituted a heavy workload for shop workers. In an effort to
facilitate the completion of projects in a timely manner, mining companies usually hired
a blacksmith and a helper for metalwork, and a carpenter and another assistant for
woodwork. In terms of metalworking, the blacksmiths helper proved to be
particularly important. Blacksmiths had traditionally sharpened hand-steels alone
because the implements were relatively short, light, and easily managed. But this was
not the case with machine drill-steels, which were made of heavy iron rods up to eight
feet in length, and blacksmiths quickly found them to be ungainly to handle. (22)
Before discussing the specific processes blacksmiths employed for sharpening
machine drill-steels, it is important to become familiar with the basic forms commonly
used by Western mines prior to World War II. Simon Ingersoll and the Rand brothers
introduced the first commercial rock drilling machines in the early 1870s. Termed by
mining machinery makers the piston drill, the early rockdrills consisted of a
compressed air-powered piston in a tubular body, with a drill-steel chuck cast as part
of the piston. As the piston chugged back and forth at the rate of several hundred
cycles per second, it repeatedly rammed the drill-steel against the rock in a manner
similar to a high-speed battering ram. When in operation the mechanical drill also
imparted a spinning motion to the piston and drill-steel to keep the hole round and
prevent the steel from wedging tight.
It may be apparent to the reader that drill-steels used in conjunction with the
heavy machines were specialized implements that had to withstand tremendous forces.
As early as the 1870s machine runners, also known as machine men, found that
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single-blade cutting bits like those used for hand-drilling dulled quickly, impeded
progress, and interfered with the rotation imparted by the machine. The most effective
bit proved to be a cruciform shape where two chisel blades crossed in dead center.
This star bit better withstood the punishment of being rammed against rock, it cut
faster, and was conducive to rotation. The butt of rockdrill steels was round to fit into
the drill chuck, and the steel was usually made ffom 1 to 1 Vz inch hexagonal steel rod
stock. (23)
Many miners found that piston drills had severe limitations and inconveniences.
For example, every time the chuck tender, the machine runners assistant, changed a
dull steel for a fresh one, he had to use a heavy wrench to unbolt the chuck shackle,
trade steels, and refasten the nuts using tremendous strength. In addition, miners were
ready to admit that the monstrous piston drills were exceedingly heavy, often weighing
between 200 and 350 pounds without accessories, and their drilling speeds were
limited. George Leyner, Denver machinist and former Colorado hardrock miner,
invented a superior rockdrill in 1893 that was based on a mechanical simulation of
double jacking. Instead of repeatedly ramming the rock as did piston drills, Leyners
drill employed a loose piston known as a hammer which cycled back and forth inside
the drill and struck the butt-end of the drill steel, which rested loosely in the chuck.
Like most rockdrill makers, Leyner designed his drill for positiye chuck rotation to
make round holes and to keep the drill-steel from jamming. Leyner patented the first
marketable hammer drill in 1897 and began producing an improved version in 1899.
(24)
During the 1900s and into the 1910s Leyners drill began finding great favor
with the hardrock mining industry. Time and again miners demonstrated that hammer
drills bored holes faster than piston drills, and miners found them easier to work with
in terms of changing steels. All the chuck tender had to do was give the dull drill-steel
a twist to unlock it, and twist in a fresh drill-steel; no longer did miners have to deal
67


with clumsy shackle bolts. Leyners steels were made of VA inch round bar stock, and
they featured star-shaped cutting bits like piston drill steels. A crew of two miners
was necessary to handle Leyners machine, and it too had the drawback of running dry
like the old piston drills. To this regard Leyner devised a hollow drill-steel which
jetted water into the drill-hole while the drill was running, allaying rock dust. Leyners
technology gradually caught on throughout the mining industry until, by the mid-
1910s, drill companies were curtailing the manufacture of piston drills in favor of the
hammer drill.
During the time spanning 1897 to 1912, mechanical engineers introduced a
number of new types of rockdrills utilizing Leyners hammer principle. The first new
drill was the stoper, which was a light-weight machine designed to bore holes upward.
The stopers main significance lay in that it was the first self-contained power drill
portable and operable by one man. Early stopers lacked a chuck rotation mechanism,
and as a result the miners running them had to use a long handle that extended out of
the machines body to turn the unit side to side to keep the drill-hole round. Miners
and stoper manufacturers found that the best type of drill-steel proved to be cruciform
in shape, which prevented the steel from twisting and jamming in the machine.
In 1912 Ingersoll-Rand, formed by the 1906 merger of the Rand and Ingersoll
companies, developed a revolutionary hammer drill for boring down-holes. Known
among miners generically as a plugger, shaft sinker, and as simply a sinker, Ingersoll-
Rand named its model the Jackhammer, which is the origin of the slang name used
today. The machine consisted of a gracile hammer drill fitted with handles, and a
mechanism for rotating the chuck. The relatively small hand-held machine required a
drill-steel lighter than those used with the larger Leyner hammer drill, and Ingersoll-
Rand and subsequent manufacturers found that 7/8 inch hexagonal bar steel proved
best. The butt of sinker steels was hexagonal and featured a collar that fit into a
special hinged clamp. Like all of the other types of drills, miners used graduated sets
68


of drill-steels in conjunction with the sinker machines. During the 1910s hammer drill
technology had mushroomed, and as a result drill manufacturers experimented with
several alternative forms of drill-steels. Manufacturers settled on round, hexagonal,
and square varieties. By around 1930 they ceased production of cruciform steel.
Regardless of the specific type of stock that a drill-steel had been made from,
the blacksmith had to confront the problem of sharpening the star cutting bit. As with
hand steels, the blacksmith had to place the machine steels in the forge fire to heat
them to the proper temperature. He simply laid short steels on the forge, but he had to
use either a special stand or a long hook suspended from the buildings roof rafters to
support drill-steels in excess of three feet long. When the blacksmith extracted a steel
from the forge with the intent of dressing the bit, he used a tool known as both a
swage, and as a dressing dolly, to resurface the stars cutting edges. If the drill-steel
arrived in the shop with a chipped or cracked bit, the blacksmith upset the damaged
portion by using a chisel to cut it off, and he hammered out a new end with enough
flare to facilitate creation of a star bit. The blacksmith also ensured that he had
centered the star, that the blades were uniform in width, and that the butt of the steel
was smooth and symmetrical. After he had dressed the bit, the blacksmith filed
imperfections out of the blades, followed by tempering and hardening. All through
this process the helper assisted the blacksmith when handling long steels. (25)
Blacksmiths working for medium-sized and large mines were somewhat more
sophisticated than their brethren at small operations in tempering and hardening their
ironwork, especially freshly sharpened drill-steels. Blacksmiths had recognized that
using a tank of stagnant water for quenching became problematic because the water
tended to absorb heat imparted by the repeated immersion of searing-hot metal. The
waters ever-changing temperature interfered with precise and exact hardening and
tempering. Blacksmiths and mine machinists at medium-sized and large mines avoided
this problem by installing continuous-flow quenching tanks, which maintained an even
69


water temperature. These innovative shop appliances were costly to purchase because
they were heavy galvanized sheet iron troughs capable holding over 25 gallons of
liquid, they featured inflow and drain lines, and they required a source of water. Well-
financed mine shops at large mines also used quenching tanks filled with oil for the
express purpose of extreme hardening, and they also hardened steel in brine solutions,
both of which were more efficient than plain water. (26)
Some companies running medium-sized mines supplied their blacksmiths with
an appliance known as a backing block to ease the difficulties of sharpening unwieldy
machine drill-steels. Ordinarily, the blacksmithing team had to act in close concert
when sharpening machine steels. The helper leaned the red-hot drill-steel against the
anvil located adjacent to the forge and braced it with both hands while the blacksmith
dressed the bit with a dolly. However the propensity of the steel to slide, sway, and
move under the blacksmiths blows, and the giving nature of the shops earthen floor
presented problems that often resulted in poor sharpening. A backing block provided
a sound platform for drill-steels, permitting blacksmith teams to better dress bits in less
time. Backing blocks consisted of a long rectangular bar of iron, often 4x4 inches in
cross-section and up to 8 feet long, divoted with 1 Vi inch diameter holes spaced every
half foot. The iron bar was firmly anchored in the ground and it extended outward
from the anvil block. To use it, the blacksmiths helper placed the butt of a red-hot
drill-steel in one of the blocks divots and leaned the steels neck against the anvil to
permit the blacksmith to dress the bit. The backing block provided sound resistance to
the blacksmiths heavy blows while holding the drill-steel in place. Each divot in the
backing block accommodated a different length of drill-steel, from two foot starter-
steels to ten-foot finishing steels. These ingenious appliances began appearing during
the 1890s in the shops of medium-sized and large mines where rockdrills were used.
Mining companies with sufficient capital purchased factory-made cast-iron models,
70


while penny pinching outfits engaged their shop workers to forge their own from scrap
iron such as salvaged railroad rail. (27)
In the first decade of the twentieth century the largest of the Western mines,
where dozens and even hundreds of miners dulled carloads of drill-steels per shift,
attempted to mechanize the sharpening process in hopes of drastically increasing the
efficiency of the harried shop crew. The well-financed mining companies purchased,
seemingly on an experimental basis, compressed air powered drill-steel sharpening
machines, which had just been released onto the market by manufacturers such as
T.H. Proske in Denver and the Compressed Air Machinery Company in San Francisco.
(28) The early drill-steel sharpeners, similar in appearance to large horizontal lathes,
consisted of a cradle approximately eight feet long and a tall sharpening mechanism
which stood on several legs bolted to a substantial foundation. A blacksmith operated
the sharpener by clamping a red-hot drill-steel into a small sliding carriage on the
cradle, he pushed the steel under the sharpening mechanism, and locked it in place.
The shop worker threw a lever that activated a modified piston drill fixed onto the
machines end, which hammered the red-hot end of the dulled steel with a special
swage. Most of the early drill-steel sharpeners also featured a second piston drill
mounted overhead, which used a special chisel bit to upset the dull steel, should it
have any significant defects. (29)
Figure 3.11 Graduated set of drill-steels for piston rockdrills. Note that one end of each steel
features a star bit and the other end is round to fit into a drills chuck. Drill-steels for stoper drills
feature flutes the entire length of the steel bar. International Textbook Company, 1907 A35 p37.
71


Figure 3.12 The line drawings depict a set of tools blacksmiths typically used to sharpen machine
drill-steels. Swages a, d, and h fit into a socket in the anvil, and swages b, c, e,f and g were affixed
onto hammer handles. The blacksmith used swages g and h to dress the drill-steel butt, swages e and
/to sharpen the star bit, and the other swages to manufacture new bits from scratch. International
Textbook Company, 1907 A35 p36.
Figure 3.13 Blacksmiths used backing blocks to brace red-hot machine drill-steels for sharpening.
As the profile illustrates, the blacksmith placed the steels butt into a receptacle in the backing block
and leaned the steels neck against the anvil. When his assistant held the steel steady the blacksmith
used a swage to reform the star bit. Mine supply houses offered factory-made backing blocks, but
many blacksmiths made their own out of railroad rail, as the illustration depicts. Engineering &
Mining Journal, 1916 pl4.
Manufacturers advertised their sharpeners as having the capacity to streamline
the sharpening process while reducing costs. Drill-steel sharpeners were operable by
one man, they had the capacity to replace the traditional crew of blacksmith and
helper, and with a change of dies they could have been used to sharpen hand-steels and
72


pick tines. Even though the drill-steel sharpeners cost in the hundreds of dollars at
tum-of-the-century prices, they proved economical and grew in popularity. (30)
Leading rockdrill makers, including the Sullivan Machinery Company of New
Hampshire, the Ingersoll-Rand Drill Company, and the Denver Rock Drill Company
introduced competing units during the early 1910s that had abandoned the lathe-like
sliding track and large piston drill swages. (31) The new drill-steel sharpeners instead
featured a heavy compressed air-powered clamp capable holding drill-steels of any
length, and they had small, light hammer drills to work the swages. In addition,
manufacturers supplied interchangeable dies that permitted shop workers to sharpen
any of the varieties of drill-steel types used in the West at that time. The net result of
the changes in the form and function of drill-steel sharpeners was a reduction in the
amount of floor space they occupied, from at least 10 by 2 feet in area to between 5 by
2 feet and 2.5 by 2.5 feet. The labor saving machines primarily made themselves of
value to mining outfits because they drastically reduced the time required to sharpen
dull drill-steels. They reduced the process to less than one minute per steel, with the
potential to retouch up to 1015 dull drill-steels in a nine hour shift. It stands as a
curious fact that many of these machines had been designed in Denver; Sullivan
purchased the Imperial sharpener from T.H. Proske, Ingersoll-Rand used a design
manufactured by George Leyner, and the Denver Rock Drill Company produced the
third machine. (32)
The reduction of size and price of the new drill-steel sharpeners, and their ease
of use made them attractive to a broad spectrum of medium-sized and large mines.
Both moderate and well-financed mining companies with an expectation of longevity
installed the improved drill-steel sharpeners with increased frequency through the
1910s. Most small mining companies with limited funds, on the other hand, did not
purchase drill-steel sharpeners because such outfits lacked available capital, their
miners were unlikely to generate enough dull steels to justify the expense, and they did
73


not possess adequate air compressors. Instead, they relied on traditional forge
sharpening methods. (33)
Evidence of drill-steel sharpeners and other forms of heavy power shop
appliances can often be detected by visitors amid historic mine sites today.
Occasionally the visitor may encounter an intact drill-steel sharpener in a shop building
near the adit portal or shaft of a remote, inaccessible mine. But more often the
remains occur in the form of cryptic foundations. The early lathe-like drill-steel
sharpeners, used in small numbers during the first decade of the twentieth century,
were large, heavy machines subject to extreme vibration. As a result the
manufacturers and mining engineers recommended that the apparatus be firmly bolted
either to heavy concrete or timber foundations. Units manufactured by the
Compressed Air Machinery Company and T.H. Proske were bolted to concrete
pylons. The main portions of both machines were fastened to blocks measuring
approximately 4 by 2 feet in area and 2 feet high, and the far end of the sliding tracks
resting on blocks 1 by 2 feet in area and 2 feet high. Both machines appear to have
been fastened by 6 symmetrical V2 inch anchor bolts, and the cradles by two more
bolts. Other varieties of the lathe-like drill-steel sharpeners such as the Word model
and T.H. Proskes Little Giant were bolted to heavy parallel timbers at least 8 feet
long and 2 feet apart, which were in turn bolted to the shop buildings subframe. (34)
Visitors to historic mine sites are most likely to encounter the foundations for
the 191 Os-vintage drill-steel sharpener. The upright sharpeners, for which no
alternative existed by the late 1910s, became increasingly popular as more mining
companies were able to purchase new units, and used models became available.
Generally mine machinists and mining engineers found that the heavily vibrating drill-
steel sharpeners destroyed unpadded concrete foundations over time, and they
recommended that upright models be bolted to timber foundations embedded in the
earthen floors of shops, or stand on wood footings over concrete shop floors. Some
74


sharpening machines, such as Ingersoll-Rands model, stood on a circular cast iron
pedestal that required four anchor bolts arranged in a square roughly 18x18 inches.
Other units, such as those made by Sullivan and the Denver Rock Drill
Manufacturing Company, stood on rectangular pedestals requiring slightly larger bolt
patterns. Regardless of the foundation material, the presence of anchor bolts in a
shop floor suggests the use of a sharpening machine to expedite materials handling.
(35)
In some cases, however, the lack of anchor bolts in the floor of a well-
equipped shop belies the use of a drill-steel sharpener. Some machinists felt that a
timber footer without anchor bolts was adequate because the weight of the machine
kept it in place during operation. As a result, heavy timber footers laid parallel in the
earthen floor of some large mine shops may be interpreted to mean that the facility
included a drill-steel sharpener or equally heavy power appliance. (36)
Figure 3.14 A blacksmith is operating a Leyner drill-steel sharpener to reform the bits on drill-steels
used in hammer drills. The rest of the appliances captured by the illustration are typical of well-
equipped shops, and they include an oil forge, a large anvil, and a portable tripod to support long
steels. Note that the drill-steel sharpener has been fastened with four bolts onto a firm foundation.
75


Particularly large and highly profitable mining companies, usually backed by
significant capital, were able to afford the costs associated with building highly
mechanized and heavily equipped shops. By nature the surface plant components of
such operations fell under the engineering domain of individuals such as T.A. Rickard
and Herbert C. Hoover, who had the financing to assemble expensive but efficient
mine shops. Such noteworthy engineers and shop superintendents suggested that shop
facilities be arranged according to the stages drill-steels underwent during sharpening.
The bulk of the appliances, according to the engineers, should have been in order of
forge, drill-steel sharpener, another forge for tempering, quenching tank, grinder, and
finally finished drill-steel rack. Such an arrangement of shop appliances required a
spacious building, at least 50 by 30 feet in area, and particularly large shops included
multiple sharpening circuits. These shops were also equipped for heavy machine work
as well, and in accordance they featured power appliances, a mine rail line running
through the interior, and one to several small boom derricks for moving heavy items.
(37)
Well-financed, large mining companies operating after around 1890 appointed
their shops with modem, expensive and efficient appliances rarely seen in the
traditional blacksmith shops of small, undercapitalized operations. Almost every large
mine shop had an old-fashioned coal fired forge for general blacksmithing work, but
professionally trained mining engineers and shop superintendents had one of several
specialized furnaces installed which were dedicated exclusively for heating drill-steels.
Engineers felt the alternative furnaces provided clean heat and permitted a rapid turn-
over of materials, a necessity at a busy mine. A few engineers experimented with
coke-fired furnaces which automatically fed the fire with fuel, but oil forges proved to
be by far the most popular. Oil forges began appearing in large mine shops shortly
after 1905, and they grew in popularity during the 1910s as fuel oil became
increasingly common. The devices were approximately the same shape and size as
76


free-standing iron pan blacksmith forges and they too were lined with firebricks, but
the oil forges had continuous feed fuel lines and hoods with slits designed to admit
between 10 and 20 drill-steels. (38)
Mining engineers and shop superintendents at large mining operations also
installed power hammers to permit a single blacksmith to do some types of fabrication
work that usually required a team of two. Shop superintendents overseeing the best
mines in the West installed factory-made steam or compressed air-powered models,
which consisted of a heavy plate iron table fixed to the top of a cast iron pedestal, and
a piston hammer that pounded items with tremendous force. These hammers were
expensive to purchase and transport, they occupied the same area as a drill-steel
sharpener, and they weighed several tons. Many engineers, especially seasoned self-
made individuals like W.S. Stratton and Frank Crampton, were unwilling to spend the
considerable quantities of capital required to install expensive factory-made hammers,
yet they recognized the usefulness of such a power appliance. The alternative they
employed consisted of affixing a heavily worn but operational piston drill onto a stout
vertical timber. The old drill stood over a plate iron table fastened onto the top of a
truncated timber post often 1 to 2 feet high, and when a shop worker threw the air
valve open, the drills piston chuck rapidly tapped the iron table. Usually a special
hammerhead fitting had been clamped into the chuck to facilitate blacksmith work, and
in rare cases the shop superintendent had the drill suspended from a special track
hanging from the buildings rafters for mobility. (39)
Heavily-financed mining companies in developed districts also equipped their
shops with costly power appliances that broadened the scope of their work to include
machining and light foundry capabilities. The large and smoky shops were appointed
with power-driven pipe threaders, iron rod threaders, metal band saws, drill-steel
straighteners, large lathes, hole punchers, spacious drill-steel sorting tables, tool
cabinets, plumbing, and turntables at the intersections of mine rail lines.
77


Figure 3.15 Oil forges did not experience popularity until the 1910s, and even then only among
well-financed mining companies because the appliances were expensive and unconventional. Yet,
oil forges proved economical for a large shop handling numerous drill-steels. E&MJ 10/6/17.
Figure 3.16 Clever mining engineers adapted old piston drills to serve as vernacular power
hammers rather than purchase costly factory-made models. Such appliances Gould have only been
used at mines that featured an air compressor. Contrary to the illustration, in most cases engineers
affixed the drill onto an immobile timber post. Engineering & Mining Journal, 1916 pl8.
78


Today the forges in nearly all the Wests mine shops have grown cold, the
machinery is now silent and still, and the ring of blacksmiths hammer can no longer be
heard. The shops ceased work when mining companies went bankrupt following the
depletion of ore, and afterward creditors or salvage operations stripped the shops of
everything of value in attempts to recoup losses. Despite the removal of tools,
appliances, and even entire structures, the visitor to todays historic mine sites often
can reconstruct the makeup of the shop based on material remains. Visitors may find
this exercise useful because the shop speaks loudly of the capital, productivity, and
duration of a mining operation. All of the sizes and duties of the shops discussed
above left distinct types of evidence in the forms of artifacts, structural materials, and
foundations.
If visitors to historic mine sites are lucky, they may encounter a partially
standing frame building with forge, forge hood, anvil block, workbench, and in rare
cases machinery mounts intact, but this scenario is exceptional. The large, well-
equipped shops left the most obvious remnants, and the visitor to a mine site will have
to work a little harder to distinguish the remains of lesser shops at small mines. The
first may be the remains of a vernacular dry-laid rock, wood box, or hewn log forge
and airril block. Intact forges are almost always square or slightly rectangular
enclosures around 3 by 3 feet in area and 2 feet high, and filled with well-sorted
gravel. Even though the forge may have collapsed over time, the mound of gravel
impregnated with bits of clinker and coal should be apparent. Anvil blocks were
typically either timber or hewn log posts 18 inches high and well-embedded in the
ground. The tops of the blocks typically feature four heavy nails, or two crossed iron
straps which held the anvil in place.
A deposit of forge clinker and anthracite coal almost always accompanies the
remains of a blacksmith shop. A scattering of clinker not only denotes the shops
existence, but it may reflect the approximate footprint of the building. Blacksmiths
79


usually picked clinker out of the forge as part of their morning ritual, and much of it
wound up on the shops earthen floor. After months to years of compaction by foot
traffic, the clinker deposit took on the footprint of the shop building. The visitor to a
mine site must also be aware that shops at medium-sized and large mines often
experienced intense periods of activity, during which blacksmiths generated
considerable volumes of clinker, forge-cut iron scraps, bits of industrial refuse, and the
upset ends of hand and machine drill-steels. They usually made efforts to dispose of
these wastes in an orderly fashion, and in so doing they dumped pail-loads of the
refuse outside the shop, which should not be mistaken for the shop location. The
distinguishing characteristics of a shop dump consist of an amorphous shape, vertical
depth of the deposit, the inclusion of heavy industrial artifacts, and relatively light
density of building materials such as nails and window glass.
The visitor to a historic mine may also determine the location, size, and
approximate date of a blacksmith shop in some cases by the structural remnants and
artifacts left. In most cases mining engineers designed wood frame shop buildings, and
during construction laborers often arranged dry-laid rock foundation footers to
support the walls and comer posts. Further, well-capitalized mining companies may
have provided sufficient funding to permit construction of concrete or rock masonry
wall footers, either which may still be visible. After a mining company had gone broke
and creditors sold off the surface plant components, in most cases laborers dismantled
the shop building, leaving a concentration of nails, broken window glass, structural
hardware, stove pipes, and electrical insulators in a few cases.
The artifact assemblage associated with a shop site can also assist the visitor in
reaching additional conclusions about the facility. The typical group of artifacts in
addition to structural materials include coal and clinker, forge-cut iron scraps, upset
hand-steel blades, hardware, forge sprinklers made from food cans, barrel hoops,
hand-cut sheet iron, and either a red brick or a whetstone. The artifact assemblage
80


associated with large, well-equipped shops often includes additional materials
reflecting long-term occupation such as worn and damaged hand tools, numerous
pieces of hardware, rubber tubing, and heavy pieces of iron. Shops active during and
after the 1890s also generated machine parts, broken and upset rockdrill steels,
rockdrill parts and air hoses, and firebricks from oil or pan forges. The artifact
assemblages of heavily mechanized shops at particularly large mines also may contain
machined metal turnings, broken and worn bandsaw blades, metal filings, and cut
wood scraps. (40)
Many of the power shop appliances discussed above left unique evidence. The
visitor to medium-sized and large mines may encounter sets of timber posts for the
vernacular power hammers made from old piston drills. Usually the old piston drill
had been mounted onto a steel bracket that was bolted onto an 8x8 to 12x12 inch
timber deeply buried in the shop platform. The main timber usually stood 4 to 8 feet
high, and even though the drill has been taken off, it may still feature bolt-holes and
possibly residual iron hardware for the mount. The short timber that supported the
associated iron table should be located adjacent to the main post, and it too may
feature bolt holes. The visitor examining these remains may interpret the existence of
a rockdrill power hammer to mean that the shop probably operated after 1900, that the
mining company was well-financed, and that the mine plant included an air
compressor. The remains of shops at some medium-sized and many large mines may
feature other power appliance fixtures such as the drill-steel sharpener foundations
mentioned above, single timber posts for drill-presses, timber footers for lathes, and
remains of overhead belt shafting. Visitors to medium-sized and large historic mines
may also encounter pieces of oil forges, battered continuous-flow quenching tanks, rail
lines, plumbing, and coal bins, all of which were above and beyond small and poorly
equipped shops. (41)
81


EGEND
Joonvay:
Window:.
forge ClinkcrJ^j?-
oncrete:
nchor Boll:
Scale: 2 ft = |f-
To Shaft
Anvil Block
|-----------------------------------
Figure 3.17 Plan view of the remains of a shop typical of well-financed small to medium-sized
mines. The shop illustrated was located at Delmonico Mine in Cripple Creek, Colorado. The facility
consisted of a tank forge, an anvil, a workbench, and a drill-steel sharpener. Note that the mining
company arranged the shop appliances to take advantage of natural light admitted through windows.
Author.
To Tunnel
Figure 3.18 Plan view of the remains of the well-equipped machine and blacksmith shop at the
Golden Curry Mine in Montanas Elkhom district. The frame building has been divided into two
rooms, one for the repair of small machines such as rockdrills, and the other for blacksmith work.
The shops builders floored the repair room with wood planking while leaving the blacksmith room
floored with earth. Note the two anvil blocks, the backing block, and power hammer mount. Author.
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Occasionally the visitor to a historic mine may encounter a relatively intact
shop, such as the grand structure remaining at the American Eagle Mine in the Cripple
Creek Mining District, Colorado. The American Eagle Mine is located in the heart of
the Cripple Creek district and its shop serves as an example of the types of remains a
visitor may encounter at large mines. The American Eagle was one of Cripple Creeks
early operations, and W.S. Stratton purchased the property in the 1895 in hopes of
sinking a shaft into rich ore encased in the regions volcanic cauldera. After Stratton
had accrued a fortune through his fabulous Independence Mine located a mile south,
he fimneled money into the American Eagle in 1900 and upgraded the surface facilities
into a full-blown production plant. (42)
Today the mine site retains much of its original ambiance, and it includes
standing structures and machinery, including the shop building. While the mine has
long been closed, the interior of the shop is still furnished with a wood box forge, an
anvil block, a power hammer post, a backing block, parts bins, and a work bench. The
above appliances occupy only a portion of the building, leaving much unused space
that other appliances occupied. Early in the twentieth century the Colorado State
Mine Inspector documented the shop as mechanized, but he failed to identify the
individual appliances, leaving detective work for todays visitors to the mine. (43)
If visitors take the time to inspect the building as it exists tpday, they will
notice that mine workers cut circular ports in the roof not only for the forge still within
the shop, but two other holes for either free-standing pan forges or oil forges, which
have been removed. Firebricks scattered in the shop support this conclusion. A
portion of the vacant space also features a heavy timber footer which supported shop
machinery, and the floor features a depression similar in size and shape to the pedestal
of an Ingersoll-Rand drill-steel sharpener. The dump of shop refuse associated with
the mine includes metal turnings and bandsaw blades, which clarifies written records
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