Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fire at the Quincy Smelter site

Last night and early this morning, several local fire crews responded to an emergency call about a structure fire at the site of the historic Quincy Smelting Works.  The smelter, built in 1898, is the last copper smelter standing in the Keweenaw Peninsula. I have heard many people claim that this is one of last and best preserved nineteenth and early twentieth century copper smelters in the world.

The buildings that burned were the Carpenter Shop and it's Lumber Shed.  The smelter blog included pictures taken of these two buildings before the fire, along with a description of their history:
The Quincy Smelter's Carpenter Shop and Lumber Shed from the blog:

More photographs and text about the support buildings were posted by the Copper Country Explorer:

The fire started at about 11 pm on Saturday night.  Due to it's location on the water in Ripley, the fire was visible from all over downtown Houghton.  Here is the "stub" story in the Mining Gazette:
The Daily Mining Gazette's photo in their coverage of the fire.

Photos of the event are finding their way to media sites like

This morning I went down to see the damage.  I am very grateful to the firefighters for working so hard to save the Stock House, which was scorched by the heat, and the other buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Carpenter Shop.  Here are some pictures from my cell phone camera of the ruined buildings this afternoon:

Thursday, September 02, 2010

New book by an MTU alumni

Christopher Nelson finished his MS in Industrial History and Archaeology at Michigan Technological University in 2009.  I am pleased to report that he has since reworked his thesis into a book, self-published this month using

The C. R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865-1939 (2010) tells the story of Charles Richard Patterson and his family.  C.R. was born an enslaved person.  In 1865 he set up a small company to manufacture carriages in Greenfield, Ohio, and Patterson became an industry leader in winter buggy design.  As the company grew, Patterson expanded the business with other members of his family, and the shop began producing automobiles, trucks, and eventually buses.  When C.R.'s son Frederick started making automobiles in 1915, Nelson wrote that he became the first and only African American-owned company to ever manufacture automobiles in the United States.  The Patterson family members were leaders within the both the mostly-white community of industrialists and also the African American communities.

After 74 years, the Patterson family ultimately lost their business in 1939 when a series of unfortunate events during the Great Depression forced the company to close the shop's doors.  Chris tells their story using documents, photographs, oral history, architecture, and objects.

To get your copy, bring these ISBN numbers to your local bookshop:
  • ISBN-10: 1453770305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453770306
If you can't get your local bookstore to order a copy, you can order this book through Amazon by clicking this link:

Mr. Nelson took a position as a staff archaeologist with Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc. in Hurricane, West Virginia, and is a Registered Professional Archaeologist.