Tag Archives: Ruby Arizona

Montana Mine Correspondence

22 Nov
I love the letterhead symbol on this one. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Honestly, I just love the letterhead symbol on this one. If you look closely you can see parts of a tank. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Lately I’ve been working my way through the correspondence series of the Montana Mine Collection. The majority of the correspondence, outside of that which is related to the financial business of the mine, is actually from a later period of the mine’s existence, when it was owned by a Mr. Hugo Miller. Most of this is the Miller family’s personal correspondence, offering an interesting insight into the lives of this entrepreneurial southern Arizona family.

As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Living with a miner is never easy! As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Miller owned an assay office in Nogales and mined on the side. It was not uncommon in the past for men and women with minds for business and an eye for good opportunities to work a mining claim into their business investments. Even now it’s not unusual for private citizens here in Arizona to have ownership of a small mine in the area that they work on periodically as they have free time. The letter you see below is an excerpt from a letter from Mrs. Gladys Miller to a friend and mentions the reality of living with the sort of jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur of a man that Mr. Miller was. From the excerpt you can tell that the Millers had great business acumen, even taking  boarders in their house to make some extra money. This correspondence suggests that the Miller family was a hard working one.

The letter below was interesting because of the context of the attached newspaper clipping. Again, this is a rare glimpse into the daily realities of living in past times. In this case, wartime rationing takes center stage as a friend, Edna, writes to ask whether the newspaper article is true and then asks her friend, Gladys, to purchase extra Nylons for her! Rationing during wartime meant people had to get creative in their daily lives to continue on as normally as possible. Having a friend who could easily get across the border to purchase stockings in Mexico definitely would have been an advantage. This is just another example of how people worked together and created good relationships during times of hardship.

As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

A clever way to circumvent wartime rationing. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

These letters are all great examples of how the correspondence in a collection can yield really interesting insights into the past. Whether it’s fun snippets such as these I’ve shared above or more serious historical connections, correspondence is always a treasure trove of historical moments.

Eagle-Picher Mining Maps

4 Oct

The kids are back in school, the last of the summer days are winding down and we can all see cooler weather not so far ahead, but here at the Arizona Historical Society we haven’t slowed down one bit!  We continue to answer your research needs as well as continuing our work on collections behind the scenes. Recently I completed one of the smaller series in my Montana Mine collection. This was a series containing maps and drawings. I didn’t have much to put in this series. There were only around 10 folders of maps in the entire collection, but they were quite striking. They’re all hand drawn and colored on a typical lined paper. They show different levels of the mine and although I’m not a mining expert myself, you don’t have to be one to enjoy how beautiful these are.

Something goes here.

MS 1473, Montana Mine Collection, Series 5. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Something else goes here

MS 1473, Montana Mine Collection, Series 5. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Women in Mining Towns: A Look at the Past through Accident Reports

28 Jun

A couple of months ago as I processed the Montana Mine collection I found myself sifting through the Accident Reports for the mine. As I was placing them into the appropriate folders, certain accidents became familiar to me: dirt/rock chip in the eye, small wounds like cuts, bumps on the head, sprained this or that and the occasional broken bone.  There were other and more serious injuries of course, but the majority of things seemed pretty minor in that they wouldn’t keep the miner from his work for more than a few days. These were all very interesting of course, but what was most interesting to me was the amount of accident reports that were present for women. There were not many of them, especially compared to the reports filed by men, so I noticed them pretty quickly and once I did I kept track of them. The pictures you’ll see in this post are scans of a few of my favorites.

I was struck by their presence in the collection. I had not really thought about women in Ruby working for the Montana Mine. I had assumed that they were probably all housewives with sweet, rosy-cheeked picturesque children. I was happy to find that there were women in Ruby working for the Montana Mine who were married, single, and even widowed. Women of many ages were represented in the reports from those in their 20s to those in their 40s. Though it doesn’t seem they were employed in the actual mine itself, we can see that they helped run the boarding house, kitchens and hospitals kept by the Eagle-Picher Mining Company in Ruby. This is a reflection of the kind of work women were doing at that moment in history. A lot has changed since then! Another tidbit I found interesting, is the actual Accident Report form that was filled out. Rather than use the term “employee” to refer to the injured person, the forms all use the word “man.” As they were filling out the forms, some people crossed out the “man” and wrote “woman” or added the “wo” to the typed form letters and some didn’t bother to change it at all. These observations are all a snapshot of a certain moment in history when women in the workforce were not as prominent as they are today and often limited to a very specific set of jobs. You’ve come a long way, ladies!

Want to learn more about Ruby, Arizona and the Montana Mine? Pick up a copy of “Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem and Murder” by Bob Ring, Al Ring and Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon. Copies are available in the Mercantile here at the Arizona Historical Society!

Two accident reports from the Montana Mine collection.

Two accident reports from the Montana Mine collection. Yikes! These both probably hurt a lot! Check out the difference in pay per month.

This Accident Report is written in faded pencil, so it's harder to see. Interesting that the accident was deemed "unavoidable." I guess all jobs have a certain amount of risk.

This Accident Report is written in faded pencil, so it’s harder to see. Interesting that the accident was deemed “unavoidable.” I guess all jobs have a certain amount of risk.

Notice that in the left one, "Man's" is XXXed out and "Woman's" typed in.

Notice that in the left one, “Man’s” is XXXed out and “Woman’s” typed in. Jennie Gover’s accident description is really detailed and the incorrect pronouns corrected throughout the Accident Report. In the Accident Report on the right side, Mrs. Gover is listed as the shift boss.

Adventures in Processing: the Montana Mine

15 Mar
Close-up of some hardware holding together an inventory ledger from the Montana Mine Collection.

Close-up of some hardware holding together an inventory ledger from the Montana Mine Collection.

You may remember from my last post on visiting Ruby Arizona that I am currently working on processing the records from the Eagle-Picher Mining Company’s Montana Mine in Ruby. For those of you out there who don’t have a background in archives, when an archivist says they’re processing a collection, it means that they are working with a collection (of papers or photos, etc.) to make it accessible to the public. This is when archivists create finding aids (guides to each individual collection) that tell users what materials are in the collection, how big it is, its origin, and other information useful to researchers. This is also when archivists try their hardest to make it easier for the researcher (that’s you!) to find the things in the collection that you want. A finding aid is only one way that we do this. We also try to put the collection in an order that makes sense, following the original order maintained by the creator of the collection as much as possible.

Processing also includes putting documents into acid-free boxes and folders. This insures that any decay of acidic materials is slowed. This helps to preserve them for a longer period of time. For photographs and negatives, archivists will place them in protective Mylar sleeves to decrease the chances of smudging or ripping the photographs as they are handled, preventing their deterioration from oils and dirt that travel on people’s hands as well as any wrong moves that might result in compromising the stability of the photo. Archivists also tend to remove all hardware from a collection as they process. When an archivist talks about hardware, they’re referring to anything that is used to hold documents together that is also not preservation-friendly. Staples and metal paper clips rust (a chemical reaction which can have an effect on documents and photos) and can contribute to ripping of documents. Rubber bands are not archival either, as they very easily dry up and crumble away. Any kind of adhesive, be it glue, tape, or duct tape is also not archival and can often damage materials permanently. For instance, a book binding “fixed” with duct tape will never be the same again, and will take some serious chemical work in the hands of an actual conservator to correct the damage even a little. Check out what the National Archives says about fastened documents. In the archives, often this hardware is just removed and the papers are allowed to be free in their folder, but sometimes metal can be replaced by plastic paper clips. 

An example of what rust can do to documents from the Montana Mine Collection. The left document is secured with a paperclip. The right document used to be secured with a paperclip before it was switched to a push pin which is so rusted that you can barely tell it's still there!

An example of what rust can do to documents from the Montana Mine Collection. The left document is secured with a paperclip. The right document used to be secured with a paperclip before it was switched to a push pin which is so rusted that you can barely tell it’s still there!

I have seen some really interesting hardware in my time as an archivist. From push pins used as staples, to metal page fasteners (that I actually don’t know the name of!), to nuts and bolts, I have seen a lot of different, creative ways to attach one piece of paper to another. Check out the Louisiana Binding Service Inc.’s  webpage on “What Goes Wrong with Records” to see actual pictures of damage caused by some of the things I’ve talked about (and more!). One of my favorite examples on that page (briefly) mentions that archivists have learned through time what methods and practices do and do not work. Sometimes, practices that were standards years ago have been proved problematic as times goes on, or have been innovated over the years. As technology advances and science becomes more complex, we have unique opportunities to utilize new knowledge and apply it to our practice to insure even better protection for documents in the future. There is often a lot of research value just in how papers may have been organized by their creator, so archivists are pretty serious about keeping to this original order and maintaining it. Processing consists of these kinds of decisions, and a lot more. These are things archivists determine on a case by case basis. This is also why archivists need special training to do their work. A wrong move can be a gap in history. We have to know what we’re doing and we always have to be looking for a better way to do everything.

When you think about all the choices that archivists have to make every day, it makes a lot of sense that the degree for being an archivist is information resources and library science (names of the degree differ from school to school). Archivists have to take many different approaches to collections and a scientific approach, weighing all the factors, forming hypotheses, etc. definitely makes an appearance. On any given day here at the Arizona Historical Society we are scientists, researchers, customer service representatives, laborers, national and international ambassadors, historians, teachers, anthropologists, statisticians, and many other things! Whew! No wonder we go home so happy and so tired!

 

Close-up of an invoice book for the Montana Mine Collection held together by nuts and bolts. Front of the book.

Close-up of an invoice book for the Montana Mine Collection held together by nuts and bolts. Front of the book.

 

Close-up of the back of the same book from above. Note the difference in paper color. A certain amount of deterioration has already occurred.

Close-up of the back of the same book from above. Note the difference in paper color. A certain amount of deterioration has already occurred.

An Archivist’s Journey: Ruby, Arizona

22 Feb
The peak in the distance. Mining business buildings below.

The peak in the distance. Mining business buildings below.

One of the great parts of working with a collection that originated from a local area is that you can actually visit the place where your materials were created. There will never be enough time for me to visit every place I come in contact with through the Arizona Historical Society’s collections, but I made an extra effort for the first collection that I am processing here at the Arizona Historical Society: a collection from the Eagle-Picher Mining Company’s Montana Mine in Ruby, Arizona.

The mine is closed now, and the land privately owned. However it’s not a long journey to get there from Tucson. You may want to note that a significant portion of the road is dirt, though pretty well maintained. The area around Ruby is really lovely hills and mountains, perfect for a day trip at any time of year. I expected a few sad remnants of buildings along with the usual interesting mining equipment rusting away, so I was surprised when I saw how much of the town has actually survived over the years. Your first stop should be to visit the caretaker. There you can pay the entrance fee, get a quick history lesson, and snag a quite excellent map of the area that shows all the buildings and tells you what they used to be.

The lake at the end of the tailings pile.

The lake at the end of the tailings pile.

I loved walking across the pile of tailings, white as snow, to reach the lake on the other side. I had the illusion of walking through a gorgeous white desert towards an oasis. A different feeling from the rest of Arizona. Also impressive was a house which once belonged to one of the mine bigwigs that was perched on the side of one of the hills with a good view of the mine shaft. We could immediately tell upon peering inside that this was at one time a very nice house. Quirky built-in furniture that had been left behind allowed me to paint a picture of what life might have been like so close to the daily work of the mine. I felt the same way about the schoolhouse with its old furniture, sad abandoned piano, and the precarious slide. I could imagine living a very good life in this little town.

Probably the best part of Ruby however, stems from a lucky coincidence. At some point in time a section of the hill collapsed and washed away, leaving a large gaping hole into the mine itself. This mine is definitely NOT safe to enter, but this lucky washed-away slice of hill let me see directly into the mine. I could see tunnels and old support structures and utterly unfathomable blackness. It was a simultaneously breathtaking and terrifying experience to think about the men who worked in these passages every day.

The Ruby jailhouse.

The Ruby jailhouse.

Ruby has a really interesting history that reads like an adventure novel at times. Besides being a mining town, Ruby was also the site of an amazing, horrific series of double murders that spawned the biggest manhunt in the Southwest (at the time). If you want to learn more about Ruby, I suggest checking out the book “Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem, and Murder” by Bob Ring, Al Ring and Tallia Pfrimmer Calhoon. Tallia actually grew up in Ruby, which gives their account of its history even more sharpness. Conveniently enough, you can pick up your very own copy of this book at the Arizona History Museum’s Arizona Mercantile gift shop, which is located in the same building as the Historical Society (ask for directions at the front desk if you have trouble finding it).

I hope you will stay tuned for my post at the end of next month, where I will be sharing some photos from the processing of the mine collection and some of the interesting details that I have found so far.

A view of the Ruby Mercantile. The site of Ruby's (in)famous murders.

A view of the Ruby Mercantile. The site of Ruby’s (in)famous murders.

Inside the Ruby schoolhouse.

Inside the Ruby schoolhouse.

An old piano in the schoolhouse. No music anymore.

An old piano in the schoolhouse. No music anymore.

Slide at the Ruby schoolhouse. I definitely wouldn't want to take a ride on it!

Slide at the Ruby schoolhouse. I definitely wouldn’t want to take a ride on it!

One of the many buildings still standing in Ruby. This was the home of one of the mine bigwigs and it looks out towards Montana Peak and some of the main mining buildings.

One of the many buildings still standing in Ruby. This was the home of one of the mine bigwigs and it looks out towards Montana Peak and some of the main mining buildings.

Inside the mine bigwig's house.

Inside the mine bigwig’s house.

Looking down into the collapsed mine shaft.

Looking down into the collapsed mine shaft.

Close-up of the collapsed view into the mine shaft.

Close-up of the collapsed view into the mine shaft.