Community and mining company at odds over views

As the timber and lumber industry continued to expand throughout the Upper Peninsula in the second decade of the 20th century, it continued to siphon off workers from the copper mining companies. And although the mines were still producing millions of pounds of copper, it was obvious that the region had passed its peak. The region’s largest producer, Calumet and Hecla, made this clear in its annual reports.

Already in 1913, the year of the region-wide labor strike, the work of removing the pillars from the Hecla Numbers 2 and 3 shafts, South Hecla Numbers 8 and 10 shafts had begun, along with shafts 2, 4, 5 and 6 on the Calumet Branch, and the pillars in the Red Jacket Shaft from the 62nd to the 58th level.

While the annual report of the Quincy Mining Company for 1913 reported overall showings of average copper content, it reported that the ground above the 49th level was reaching exhaustion.

“All the levels above the 49th, inclusive, have gone into barren lode to the north of the shaft,” the report states, but below the 49th level the openings were reported as “fair” in copper. The boundaries around the No. 6 Shaft were reported as also showing lower grades of copper rock. Only the legendary No. 2 Shaft continued to show good copper content.

On the South Range, the Baltic Mine reported high grades of copper content, as did the Champion and the Trimountain mines.

If the shareholders of the Quincy Mining Company thoroughly read the 1913 annual report, they found some contradictions between statements of President William R. Todd and Manager Charles Lawton.

Todd wrote that on July 23, the underground men at the mine “went out.” Production was handicapped by the active interference of the strikers, he continued.

“But for this,” he wrote, “it is probable that the resumption of regular operations would not have been long delayed, for plenty of men were to be had for regular wages if assured protection from strikers and labor unions, who threatened to harm them and their families.”

Lawton’s report, on the other hand, began with the statement; “The year 1913 opened with a shortage of the underground working force, which continued up to the strike, July 23rd.”

In fact, the shortage of labor was real, and it was not confined to the copper region. The Annual Report of the Department of Mineral Statistics for the year 1909 stated:

“Notwithstanding a shortage of labor and the somewhat restless condition of general business, the work of producing and shipping iron ore proceeded with great vigor.” Perhaps part of the cause of the labor shortage can be found in classified advertisements placed in local newspaper.

The July 7, 1916, edition of the Calumet News contained two classified ads: one from the Lake Independence Lumber Co., of Big Bay, Michigan, and the other from the Worcestor Lumber Co. of Chassell. The Lake Independence company sought 100 men for peeling bark, at $3.25 per cord: 30 lumber handlers at $4.25 per day, along with mill men for the night shift. The Worcester company also sought 100 men for work in the lumber yard and in the lumber camps at “good wages.” The average daily wage for surface workers at the mines at that time was under or around two bucks.

Logging was not the only rising industry to lure workers out of the mines. The explosive rise in the popularity of the automobile also quickly rose across the Upper Peninsula, providing hundreds with employment opportunities, especially starting in early 1914 when Henry Ford’s moving assembly line reduced the price of a Model T from $850 to approximately $300, depending on the auto dealer.

Even before the cost of a Model T dropped, millions of them were sold after 1903.

Repair shops, tire shops, roadside gas stations and a host of other automotive-related businesses sprang up across the nation, including the Upper Peninsula. In addition, road building and improvements provided still more employment opportunities.

The rise of large-scale timber harvest also drew large numbers of workers out of the thousand-plus deep mines and into surface jobs, as the above-mentioned lumber company advertisements suggest.

Calumet was the largest community in the copper region when the Michigan Auto Co. opened for business in the Bollman Block on Oak Street, in Red Jacket Village in 1907. By 1916, the progressive company employed nine men and one woman. James McClure opened an auto repair shop in 1910, employing 22 men. In 1913, the Calumet Garage opened with seven employees.

The Weider Harness Company, in Calumet, established in 1904, is an example of the transition between the 19th and 20th centuries. By 1916, the company not only manufactured and repaired leather harnesses, it repaired automobiles and sold Indian motorcycles and employed nine men and one woman. Michigan Auto and Weider were indicators that the job market was beginning to open up to women, suggesting the Progressive Era had expanded beyond the idea of organized labor.

The communities throughout the region were progressing, diversifying and evolving. People and job opportunities were expanding beyond the mining companies and began to include women on payrolls outside the home or running boarding houses. The mining companies would remain by far the largest employers in the region, but statistics reveal that they were not transitioning into the 20th century as well as they might have.

For example, Scott’s Laundry, in Hancock, shows a payroll of 20 employees, 14 of whom were women. At the same time, the Quincy Mining Company, with a payroll of 1,465, counted just five women among its employees, and they were employed in the company’s bath house. Statistics from the Annual Report of the Department of Labor of the State of Michigan reveal that not only were women finding employment outside the home, they were joining the ranks of skilled labor, as secretarial staff, bakers, commercial laundresses, seamstressing, telephone operators, and confectioners.

The Charles Markham Candy Factory, in Houghton, could boast 41 of its 51 employees were women.


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