Calumet & Heckla train

cherylc1

Port Huron, United States

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By 1902, Calumet and Hecla had 5,000 employees, and the towns of Calumet (then named Red Jacket), Laurium, and Lake Linden were virtual company towns. The mining superintendents (called “captains”) were traditionally Cornishmen; the workers were Finns, Poles, Italians, Irish, and other immigrant nationalities.

Calumet and Hecla was a pioneer in providing employee benefits. The company built and ran a hospital for employees. It established an Employee Aid Fund for disability and death benefits; each employee paid in 50 cents per month, and the company matched the amount. The company maintained employee clubhouses and free libraries, and donated land and funds for churches. However, the all-encompassing company presence also led to charges of “paternalism.”

Introduction of the pneumatic drill was one issue in the strike.In July 1913, the Western Federation of Miners called a general strike against all mines in the Michigan Copper Country. Hundreds of strikers surrounded the Calumet and Hecla mine shafts to prevent others from reporting to work. All Calumet and Hecla mines shut down during the Copper Country Strike of 1913-1914, although the workers were said to be sharply divided on the strike question. The union demanded an 8-hour day, a minimum wage of $3 per day, an end to use of the one-man pneumatic drill, and that the companies recognize it as the employees’ representative.8

The mines reopened under National Guard protection, and many went back to work. The companies instituted the 8-hour day, but refused to set a $3 per day minimum wage, refused to abandon the one-man drill, and especially refused to employ Western Federation of Miners members.9

On Christmas Eve 1913, the Western Federation of Miners organized a party for strikers and their families at the Italian Benevolent Society hall in Calumet. The hall was packed with between 400 and 500 people when someone shouted “fire.” There was no fire, but 73 people, 62 of them children, were crushed to death trying to escape. This became known as the Italian Hall Disaster. The strikers held out until April 1914, but then gave up the strike.

Calumet and Hecla employees were not unionized until 1943, when the company signed an agreement with the CIO-affiliated International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers.

[edit] The end of copper mining
During the Great Depression, copper prices dropped, and as a result most copper mines in the Copper Country closed, including Calumet and Hecla. Many mines reopened during World War II, when wartime demand raised the price of copper. After the war copper prices plummeted, and most copper mines closed almost immediately. However, Calumet and Hecla was able to stay afloat due to C&H’s practice of acquiring many of the formerly great mines in the Keweenaw during and before the depression, and as a result outlasted nearly all other mining companies.

The company branched into other minerals after World War II. C&H geologists drilled into a major lead-zinc ore body in Lafayette County southern Wisconsin in 1947. Ore minerals were galena, sphalerite, calcite, and marcasite. The mine, named the Calumet & Hecla mine, opened in 1949. C&H sold the mine to the Eagle Pitcher Co. in 1954.10 The company also diversified into copper-based products, including a copper tube manufacturing business and fertilizers.

Calumet and Hecla opened the Kingston mine in 1965, the first new native copper mine opened in more than 30 years.11 By 1967, the company was operating six mines in the region. However, the company by this point was not even able to produce enough copper for its internal uses. Universal Oil Products (U.O.P.) bought Calumet and Hecla in April 1968. But in August of that same year the more than one thousand Calumet and Hecla employees went on strike.12 The last of its copper mines shut down, and as labor and management were unable to agree, the company shut down the dewatering pumps in 1970. The mines have remained idle ever since, and most are permanently capped.

Today, many Calumet and Hecla company mines and buildings are part of Keweenaw National Historical Park.

My Dad ans many of my Uncles worked for the Hecla mining Company. Taken at greenfield Village ~ Dearborn MI

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