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Mining in Northern Wisconsin

Native Americans mined copper on the shores of Lake Superior in prehistoric times. Between 4,000 and 1,200 B.C., copper jewelry and implements from Wisconsin and Upper Michigan were part of a trade network that stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf Coast, giving rise to the name "Old Copper Culture." You can see several of these artifacts here on the Turning Points site.

Easy access to copper deposits - - some of them literally lying on the shore in huge chunks - - was one the features of Lake Superior first noticed by early French travelers. It was mentioned by... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: A newspaper report on the Gogebic iron district (1886)  A newspaper report on the Gogebic iron district (1886)
Link to article: Ancient copper mines are discovered in 1848  Ancient copper mines are discovered in 1848
Link to article: Increase Lapham explores the mineral region of northern Wisconsin in 1858.  Increase Lapham explores the mineral region of northern Wisconsin in 1858.
Link to article: The eccentric poet who became Wisconsin's second state geologist.  The eccentric poet who became Wisconsin's second state geologist.
Link to article: A sketch of mining promoter John Burton and the potential of northern mining operations  A sketch of mining promoter John Burton and the potential of northern mining operations
Link to article: A survey of mining activity in Northern Wisconsin, 1886  A survey of mining activity in Northern Wisconsin, 1886
Link to article: Iron County booms in the mid-1880's  Iron County booms in the mid-1880's
Link to artifacts: Copper tools from Northern Wisconsin, 4000-1,200 B.C.  Copper tools from Northern Wisconsin, 4000-1,200 B.C.
Link to book: Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900  Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900
Link to book: An Early Archaeological Report on the Old Copper Culture  An Early Archaeological Report on the Old Copper Culture
Link to images: Increase Lapham examining a meteorite, ca. 1868  Increase Lapham examining a meteorite, ca. 1868
Link to images: Outdoor group portrait of the Gogebic Range iron miners, 1886  Outdoor group portrait of the Gogebic Range iron miners, 1886
Link to manuscript: Looking for copper near Lake Superior in 1846  Looking for copper near Lake Superior in 1846
Link to map: Bird's-eye views of Ashland in the 1880's  Bird's-eye views of Ashland in the 1880's
Link to places: The wreck of the Schooner "Lucerne"  The wreck of the Schooner "Lucerne"
Link to places: The Montreal Company builds an industrial community  The Montreal Company builds an industrial community

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to article: The second annual report of the state geologist, 1855  The second annual report of the state geologist, 1855
Link to article: The French attempt to mine copper on Lake Superior in 1739  The French attempt to mine copper on Lake Superior in 1739
Link to article: The Lake Superior copper deposits in 1820.  The Lake Superior copper deposits in 1820.
Link to book: Wisconsin Blue Books  Wisconsin Blue Books
Link to book: A tour of the Lake Superior mining district in 1846  A tour of the Lake Superior mining district in 1846
Link to book: Travel Guide to Lake Superior in 1872  Travel Guide to Lake Superior in 1872
Link to map: The extent of Lake Superior mining activities in 1855  The extent of Lake Superior mining activities in 1855

Related Links

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Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
A recent article on ancient copper mining in Northern Wisconsin
Read a history of the geological survey in Wisconsin.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights
A history of industrial development in Wisconsin

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