Mining History Association

Annual Conference, June 4-7, 1998

Bisbee, Arizona


The 1998 MHA Conference was held June 4-7, at the Copper Queen Plaza Convention Center and the Presbyterian Church Annex in Bisbee, Arizona.   

Those traveling to Bisbee before the evening Welcoming Reception were able to visit the historic silver camp of Tombstone, Arizona while in route.  The “town too tough to die” was alive and well.  One of the last big silver rushes followed Ed Sheiffelin’s discovery in 1877.  The population peaked at 10,000 in the mid-1880s.  The mines in the Tombstone mining district (Butler, 1938) are said to have produced over 32 million ounces of silver.  Registration and tours were available at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park.  There was plenty more to see downtown including the site of the gunfight at the OK Corral, Bird Cage Theater, C. S. Fly Photography Studio, Epitaph Newspaper, and the Crystal Palace Saloon.  The remains of many of the famous mines can be seen outside of town.

Leaving Tombstone, Highway 80 heads south through limestone hills and across a creosote bush-covered flat before making the ascent to Mule Mountain Pass.  At 6000 feet, after passing through a tunnel, the road drops down into a narrow canyon above Bisbee’s Victorian brick business blocks and modest miners’ houses.  This is the home of the famous Copper Queen, Irish Mag, Superior and Pittsburgh, Calumet and Arizona, and Shattuck-Arizona, some of the early copper mines (Ransome, 1904).  Several giants of the mining industry had deep roots in Bisbee including Dr. James Douglas who developed the Copper Queen and later became the CEO of Phelps Dodge, Charles Briggs who led the investors that purchased the Irish Mag and formed the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company, and Lemuel Shattuck who developed the Shattuck and Denn Mines, the origin of the Shattuck-Denn Mining Company.  

The Warren Mining District in which Bisbee is located was discovered by George Warren in 1877. Eventually the underground mine workings included over 2000 miles of drifts.  Underground mining eventually gave way to surface mining in the Sacramento and Lavender pits.  Through nearly a century of mining the district produced 8 billion pounds of copper, 102 million ounces of silver, 2.8 million ounces of gold, and a host of other minerals.  At its peak, Bisbee’s population reached 20,000.  In 1917, labor strife rocked Bisbee as well as other western mining camps.  Over 1000 miners thought to be members of the International Workers of the World, the Wobblies, were loaded on trains, deported to the desert town of Hermanas, New Mexico, and told not to return to Bisbee.  Production continued until 1975 when Phelps Dodge finally closed the last operating mine.

Afternoon registration was also available at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.  The Welcoming Reception, hosted by Phelps-Dodge, was held at the Copper City Brewery Company in Copper Queen Plaza across the street from the museum. 

Early birds and late arrivers had time to tour the museum and take a walking tour of Bisbee before the opening luncheon.  The museum, open throughout the conference, is a National Historic Landmark.  It occupies the office building of the former Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company.  It displays a wealth of artifacts, objects, and historic photographs and collections that tell the story of Bisbee and the early Arizona copper industry.  It is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

Program sessions were held in the Covenant Presbyterian Church Annex, adjacent to the Copper Queen Hotel.  Underground tours of the Copper Queen Mine were available before the evening Awards Banquet which was held at the mine.  Tour participants got to see some of the famous Bisbee copper minerals in the underground workings.

The conference concluded on an international note with a Sunday bus trip to Cananea, Sonora, Mexico.  The Cananea deposits were probably known to native people before the arrival of the Jesuit fathers in the mid-1700s.  In 1868 earlier mines were reopened and in 1889 they were sold to Col. William Cornell Greene who formed the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company.  The large workforce at Cananea was composed of Mexican, American, and Chinese miners.  In June of 1906, the famous Cananea strike began over the lower wages paid to Mexican workers than those being paid to Americans.  Green sold out to the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company which later became part of Anaconda. The strike is said to have been a precursor of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.  In 1971 the Anaconda’s Compañia Minera de Cananea was nationalized by the Mexican government.  This historic mining center is still producing large amounts of copper and gold.  The trip ended with a barbecue dinner at the Turquoise Valley Country Club in Lowell, Arizona.

A less formal post-conference tour of the Lake Valley Silver Mining District, New Mexico was available on Monday, June 8. The district attracted national attention for its 1881 stock promotion.  The shallow limestone silver deposit contained pockets of almost pure silver.  One of the pockets was called the Bridal Chamber and reportedly was the largest silver vug in the Southwest.  The Bureau of Land Management has made Lake Valley the focus of one of its Scenic Byways and has preserved the school house as a museum.

For more information on the early history of Tombstone and Bisbee, see the Readings and References section below.  The downloadable publications by Butler (1938) and Ransome (1904) contain details of the discovery and development of the mines at each location.

(Based on excerpts from the Mining History News)


Bisbee Masonic Lodge meeting in a stope of the Copper Queen Mine, ca1897. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Irish Mag (left) and Spray Shafts, Bisbee, ca1904. (After Ransome, U. S. Geological Survey)

Sacramento Pit, Bisbee, ca1920. (After Keith, Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology)

Phelps Dodge Smelter, Douglas, ca1940. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

A. E. Sheiffelin’s Tough Nut Mine, Tombstone, ca1880.(Courtesy Library of Congress)

(Above)  Panoramic view of Bisbee looking to the south, ca1909.  The Copper Queen Mine and Smelter can be seen along the base of the hill at the left side of the center panel.  The smelter flues are on the side of the hill.  Sacramento Hill is to the left of the Copper Queen.  Several historic mines are located beyond the Copper Queen including the Calumet and Arizona, Holbrook, Spray, Gardner, Copper King, and Lowell.  Many of these mines were consumed when bulk open pit mining was introduced in the Warren Mining District, first by the Sacramento Pit in 1920 and later by the Lavender Pit in 1954. (Courtesy Library of Congress) 

(Below)  Panoramic view of Bisbee looking to the north in 1916.  The substantial development of the town’s business district attests to the copper boom days.  The Copper Queen Hotel and Offices of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, now the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, are to the right of the center fold line.  (Courtesy Library of Congress)




Welcoming Reception, Copper City Brewery Company, June 4, 1998.  Hosted by Phelps Dodge.

Lunch at the Copper Queen Plaza (Convention Center), June 5, 1998.  Speaker: Carlos Schwantes, “The Many Landscapes of Phelps Dodge.” 

Awards Banquet, Copper Queen Mine, June 5, 1998.  Speaker, Richard Francaviglia: “The Historical Geography of the Warren Mining District.”

Presidential Luncheon, Copper Queen Plaza (Convention Center), June 6, 1998

Speaker: Sally Zanjani, “Women Prospectors of the American West, 1850-1950.”


Tombstone and the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, June 4, 1998

Click Here to see the tour of Tombstone (tour reconstructed in 2016)

Morning walking tours of Bisbee and visit to the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, June 5, 1998

Evening tour of the Copper Queen Mine, June 6, 1998 (before the Awards Banquet at the mine)

Click Here to see the tours to Bisbee (tours reconstructed 2016)

Cananea, Mexico, June 7, 1998 (Full-day bus trip with lunch in Mexico and barbeque dinner at the Turquoise Valley Country Club, Lowell)

(Optional Post-Conference Tour) Tour of the Lake Valley Mining District, New Mexico, June 8, 1998.



Arizona Office of Tourism

Bisbee Chamber of Commerce

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum

Copper Queen Mine Tour

Tombstone Chamber of Commerce

Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park

Arizona Geological Survey 



B. S. Butler, E. D. Wilson, and C. A. Rascor, “Geology and Ore Deposits of the Tombstone District,” Arizona Bureau of Mines, Geological Series 10, Bulletin 143, (Tucson: University of Arizona,1938).  Accessed November 13, 2013 . 

Robert C. Cleland, “A History of Phelps Dodge, 1834-1950,” (New York: Alfred A. Knoph, 1952).

Hollis Cook, “Too Little-Too Much, Water and the Tombstone Story,” History of Mining in Arizona, J. M. Canty and M. N. Greeley, Eds., V1, (Tucson: Mining Club of the Southwest Foundation, 1987), 229-251.

Isabel S. Fathauer, “Lemuel S. Shattuck, A Little Mining, A Little Banking, A Little Beer,” (Tucson: Westernlore, 1991).

R. W. Graeme, “Bisbee, Arizona’s Dowager Queen of Mining Camps – A Look at Her First 50 Years,” History of Mining in Arizona,, J. M. Canty and M. N. Greeley, Eds., V2, (Tucson: Mining Club of the Southwest Foundation, 1987), 51-76.

Stanton B. Keith, “Index to Mining Properties in Cochise County Arizona,” Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology, Bulletin 187, (Tucson: University of Arizona, 1977). Accessed November 13,2013.

F. L. Ransome, “The Geology and Ore Deposits of the Bisbee Quadrangle,” USGS, Professional Paper 21, (Washington: GPO, 1904), Accessed November 10, 2013 .

F. L. Ransome, “Geologic Atlas of the United States, Bisbee Folio, Arizona,” USGS, (Washington: USGS, 1904), Accessed November 10, 2013.

Carlos Schwantes, Ed., “Bisbee, Urban Outpost on the Frontier,” (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992).

Richard Shelton, “Going Back to Bisbee,” (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992).

C. L. Sonnichsen, “Colonel Green and the Copper Skyrocket,” (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1972).



Mason Coggin

Carriee Gustavson

Gary Dillard

Bob Trennert

Homer Milford

Erik Nordberg





(Above) View of downtown Bisbee from the Copper Queen Mine.  The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum (two story building with grey metal roof) and the Copper Queen Hotel (building with three red tiled turrets on the roofline) are located above the highway underpass.


(Right)  Bob and Cathy Spude and their daughter join other MHAers on the mine train for the underground tour of the famous Copper Queen Mine.  Following the tour, the annual Awards Banquet was held at the mine.


View looking north across the Lavender Pit located south of Bisbee (in the foreground).  The Copper Queen Mine is located in the hill beyond the pit.  A shaft headframe can be seen on the hillside.  The far left pit wall is from the Sacramento Pit which operated from 1917 to 2931.The town of Bisbee is on the far side of the hill.

View looking south across the Lavender Pit toward the town of Lowell.  Several famous underground mine sites were consumed when the open pit mine was operated between 1950 and 1974.

 (Left)  View of the south rim of the Lavender Pit with the Junction Headframe and mine buildings in what remains of Lowell.  Most of the town of Lowell was consumed by the expansion of the Lavender Pit.


(Above) An exploration drill probes the east side of the Lavender Pit where another ore body is known to exist. It may some day bring a rebirth of mining to Bisbee.  A large thickener can be seen along the side of the road above and to the right of the drill.  It is all that remains at the reclaimed site of an ore concentrator in Lowell.
NOTE TO MEMBERS:  We would like to add more photos from the conference activities in Bisbee, Tombstone, and Cananea.  If you have photos, please share them with us so we can include them on the web page.  We will gladly scan hard-copy prints and return the originals.  Many thanks.

Photo Credits Bob Spude and Mike Kaas

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