At the turn of the century, Colorado's Cripple Creek District captured the national imagination with the extraordinary wealth of its gold mines and the unquestionable strength of the militant Western Federation of Miners.
Elizabeth Jameson tells the entertaining story of Cripple Creek, the scene in 1894 of one of radical labor's most stunning victories and, in 1903 and 1904, of one of its most crushing defeats. Jameson draws on working-class oral histories, the Victor and Cripple Creek Daily Press published by 34 of the local labor unions, and the 1900 manuscript census. She connects unions with lodges and fraternal associations, ethnic identity, families, households, and partisan politics. Through these ties, she probes the differences in age, skill, gender, marital status, and ethnicity that strained working-class unity and contributed to the fall of labor in Cripple Creek.
Jameson's book will be required reading for western, ethnic, and working-class historians seeking an alternative interpretation of western mining struggles that emphasizes class, gender, and multiple sources of social identity.
In Below Grass Roots, the second book in Frank Waters’s Pikes Peak saga, turn-of-the-century Colorado Springs is prospering with the mining boom and a growing tourist industry. Patriarch Joseph Rogier becomes ever more obsessed with the treasures of the towering mountain and tries to enlist his son-in-law Jonathan Cable in his mining schemes. Cable instead leaves for Navajo country with his young son. Rogier, convinced that new wealth lies deep within the mountain, below grass roots, sinks his mines and what remains of his fortune ever deeper into the mountain’s granite.
As in the other two novels in this semiautobiographical saga, Waters’s masterful narrative draws on his own keen perception of the human condition to bring us this compelling tale of struggle and hope in the American West.
Pike’s Peak is composed of three condensed novels: The Wild Earth’s Nobility, Below Grass Roots, and The Dust within the Rock.
California’s Calaveras County—made famous by Mark Twain and his celebrated Jumping Frog—is the focus of this comprehensive study of Mother Lode mining. Most histories of the California Mother Lode have focused on the mines around the American and Yuba Rivers. However, the “Southern Mines”—those centered around Calaveras County in the central Sierra—were also important in the development of California’s mineral wealth. Calaveras Gold offers a detailed and meticulously researched history of mining and its economic impact in this region from the first discoveries in the 1840s until the present. Mining in Calaveras County covered the full spectrum of technology from the earliest placer efforts through drift and hydraulic mining to advanced hard-rock industrial mining. Subsidiary industries such as agriculture, transportation, lumbering, and water supply, as well as a complex social and political structure, developed around the mines. The authors examine the roles of race, gender, and class in this frontier society; the generation and distribution of capital; and the impact of the mines on the development of political and cultural institutions. They also look at the impact of mining on the Native American population, the realities of day-to-day life in the mining camps, the development of agriculture and commerce, the occurrence of crime and violence, and the cosmopolitan nature of the population. Calaveras County mining continued well into the twentieth century, and the authors examine the ways that mining practices changed as the ores were depleted and how the communities evolved from mining camps into permanent towns with new economic foundations and directions. Mining is no longer the basis of Calaveras’s economy, but memories of the great days of the Mother Lode still attract tourists who bring a new form of wealth to the region.
Written in 1930, Coronado's Children was one of J. Frank Dobie's first books, and the one that helped gain him national prominence as a folklorist. In it, he recounts the tales and legends of those hardy souls who searched for buried treasure in the Southwest following in the footsteps of that earlier gold seeker, the Spaniard Coronado.
"These people," Dobie writes in his introduction, "no matter what language they speak, are truly Coronado's inheritors.... l have called them Coronado's children. They follow Spanish trails, buffalo trails, cow trails, they dig where there are no trails; but oftener than they dig or prospect they just sit and tell stories of lost mines, of buried bullion by the jack load... "
This is the tale-spinning Dobie at his best, dealing with subjects as irresistible as ghost stories and haunted houses.
Based on one of the most significant periods in Frank Waters’s own life, Pike’s Peak is perhaps the most complete expression of all the archetypal themes he explored in both fiction and nonfiction.
In The Dust within the Rock, the third book in the Pike’s Peak saga, an aging Joseph Rogier clings to his vision of finding gold in the great mountain and his grandson Marsh comes of age in the Rogier household. It is the early part of the twentieth century, in Colorado Springs, and the schoolhouse, the newsstand, the railroad, the mines, all become part of the younger man’s emergence into adulthood and self-discovery.
Waters’s powerful and intuitive style transforms the tale into a mythic journey, a search for meaning played out in the drama of everyday living on the vast American frontier.
Pike’s Peak (1971) is composed of three condensed novels: The Wild Earth’s Nobility, Below Grass Roots, and The Dust within the Rock. Some years after its publication, an interviewer asked Frank Waters whether it was autobiographical. “Yes,” he replied, “and no.”
The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed some of the greatest gold mining migrations in history when dreams of bonanza lured thousands of prospectors and diggers to the far corners of the earth—including the Gold Coast of West Africa.
El Dorado in West Africa explores the first modern gold rush of Ghana in all of its dimensions—land, labor, capital, traditional African mining, technology, transport, management, the clash of cultures, and colonial rule. The rich tapestry of events is crisscrossed by unexpected ironies and paradoxes.
Professor Dumett tells the story of the expatriate-led gold boom of 1875-1900 against the background of colonial capitalism. Through the use of oral data, he also brings to light the expansion of a parallel “African gold mining frontier,” which outpaced the expatriate mining sector.
African women, kings and chiefs, and the ordinary Akan farmer/miners, as well as European engineers and speculators, are the focal points of this study. It probes in depth the productive and developmental features and the turbulent and shattering effects of mining capitalism on African societies.
Melting sea ice and rumbling volcanoes. Sled dogs racing through unnamed valleys.
These were the images that came to mind when Molly Rettig moved to Fairbanks, Alaska to work as a reporter at the local newspaper. An avid environmentalist, she couldn’t wait to explore the vast, untamed spaces that had largely been paved over on the east coast. But when her 72-year-old neighbor, Clutch, invites her on a tour of his gold mine—an 800-foot tunnel blasted into the side of his house–she begins to question many of her ideas about Alaska, and about herself.
In Finding True North, Rettig takes us on a gripping journey through Alaska's past that brings alive the state's magnificent country and its quirky, larger-than-life characters. She meets a trapper who harvests all she needs from the land, a bush pilot who taught himself how to fly, and an archaeologist who helped build an oil pipeline through pristine wilderness. While she learns how airplanes, mines, and oil fields have paved the way for newcomers like herself, she also stumbles upon a bigger question: what has this quest for Alaska’s natural resources actually cost, and how much more is at stake?
This is a book about all the ways wild places teach us about ourselves. Rettig writes both playfully and honestly about how one place can be many things to many people—and how all of it can be true.
Historian Jeffrey J. Safford examines how gold mining ventures were developed and financed during and after the Civil War, and how men, primarily Easterners with scant knowledge of mining, were willing to invest large sums in gold mines that promised quick and lucrative returns.
Safford explains how these mining companies were organized and underwritten, and why a little-known district in southwestern Montana was chosen as a center of operations. Relying on extensive primary sources, Safford addresses the mind-set of the businessmen, the expectations and realities of new mining technology, the financial strategies, and the universality of the Hot Spring experience.
This reprint makes available again Frank Waters’ dramatic and colorful 1937 biography of Winfield Scott Stratton, the man who struck it rich at the foot of Pike’s Peak and turned Cripple Creek into the greatest gold camp on earth. More than regional history, Midas of the Rockies is a story so fabulously impossible and yet so painfully true that it commends itself to the whole of America, the only earth, the only people who could have created it.
There are many studies of local communities during their heydays, but the life of a community in decline is rarely studied. The Once and Future Silver Queen of the Rockies delves into the life of Georgetown, Colorado, after the turn of the twentieth century as mining in Clear Creek County steadily declined and ultimately collapsed.
One of the earliest mining communities in the state, Georgetown began to struggle for survival as the nineteenth century drew to a close. The price of silver dropped precipitously while other mining camps were still opening around the region. The new, bright future once envisioned for the “Silver Queen of the Rockies” began to fade. Yet the community managed to survive and re-create itself in the new world of the twentieth century. Tourism, skiing, and historic preservation replaced mineral extraction as the basis of the regional economy. Today, Georgetown maintains the aesthetic feel of a nineteenth-century mining town and stands as an example of community-supported historic preservation.
This richly illustrated sequel to The Rise of the Silver Queen tells the compelling story of Georgetown’s survival, and ultimate flourishing, after the loss of its principal industry. It is an interesting and engaging addition to the history of Colorado and the West.
A century ago, Treadwell, Alaska, was a featured stop on steamship cruises, a rich, up-to-date town that was the most prominent and proud in all Alaska. Its wealth, however, was founded on the remarkably productive gold mines on Douglas Island, and when those caved in and flooded in the early decades of the twentieth century, Treadwell sank into relative obscurity.
Treadwell Gold presents first-person accounts from the sons and daughters of the miners, machinists, hoist operators, and superintendents who together dug and blasted the gold that made Treadwell rich. Alongside these stories are vintage photos that capture both the industrial vigor of the mines and the daily lives that made up Treadwell society. The book will fascinate anyone interested in Alaskan history or the romance of gold mining’s past.
Mining in North America has long been criticized for its impact on the natural environment. Mica Jorgenson’s The Weight of Gold explores the history of Ontario, Canada’s rise to prominence in the gold mining industry, while detailing a series of environmental crises related to extraction activities. In Ontario in 1909, the discovery of exceptionally rich hard rock gold deposits in the Abitibi region in the north precipitated industrial development modeled on precedents in Australia, South Africa, and the United States. By the late 1920s, Ontario’s mines had reached their maturity, and in 1928, Minister of Mines Charles McRae called Canada “the mineral treasure house to [the] world.”
Mining companies increasingly depended upon their ability to redistribute the burdens of mining onto surrounding communities—a strategy they continue to use today—both at home and abroad. Jorgenson connects Canadian gold mining to its international context, revealing that Ontario’s gold mines informed extractive knowledge which would go on to shape Canada’s mining industry over the next century.
The Wild Earth’s Nobility is the first of Frank Waters’s semiautobiographical novels in the Pikes Peak saga. Here, in a frontier town in the shadow of the commanding mountain, the Rogier family settles near an age-old route of migrating Native Americans. In an era of prospecting, silver strikes, and frenzied mining, Joseph Rogier becomes a successful building contractor, rears a large family, and is gradually overwhelmed by the power of the great peak.
In Waters’s visionary prose, the story becomes a mythic journey to reconcile instinct and reason, consciousness and intuition, and the powerful emotions of a family struggling with its own dreams and human limitations.
Frank Waters (1902-1995), one of the finest chroniclers of the American Southwest, wrote twenty-eight works of fiction and nonfiction. Of Pike’s Peak (1971), the Chicago Daily News wrote, “It is a product of maturity, written with a sustained strength and beauty of style rarely found in fiction today.”
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