Field Trip Quests: Iron Mine

Field Trip Quests: Iron Mine

Iron Mine

In the Mine Quest, students don a hard hat and explore the challenges of  mine work in Northern Minnesota during the early 1900s.

Level 1:  Students try the three essential jobs in the mine - driller, blaster, and backman - and complete the level by being successful at each job.  Students explore the concept of risk versus reward by noticing some jobs pay more than others!

Level 2:  Students pick any job in the mine (do they like safe or risky jobs!?) and try to earn a full days wage of two dollars to complete the level.

Digital Artifacts

Anton Antilla

Anton Antilla is 17 years old and works as a trammer in a Biwabik mine. He immigrated from Finland in 1906 and had to work 10-14 hour days in dangerous conditions. Anton became involved in worker strikes after seeing many of his fellow miners get seriously injured on the job. After the strike Anton was blacklisted, no mine would hire him because he had joined a union, so he became a farmer near Palo, Minnesota. He married Ida and they had 4 children, Toivo, Arvo, Anton, and Esther.

Check out this MNHS Collections photo of Anton and his family outside their home in Palo, MN.

Anton Antilla

Anton Antilla is 17 years old and works as a trammer in a Biwabik mine. He immigrated from Finland in 1906 and had to work 10-14 hour days in dangerous conditions. Anton became involved in worker strikes after seeing many of his fellow miners get seriously injured on the job. After the strike Anton was blacklisted, no mine would hire him because he had joined a union, so he became a farmer near Palo, Minnesota. He married Ida and they had 4 children, Toivo, Arvo, Anton, and Esther.

Check out this MNHS Collections photo of Anton and his family outside their home in Palo, MN.

Backer Pole

The backer's job was the most dangerous in the mine. His job was to check the site after it was blasted by dynamite. They used a backer pole to check for loose rock by tapping the rock to make sure it was sturdy and safe to mine there. There was always danger of a cave-in if they tapped the wrong spot.

See an MNHS Collections photo of backers at work 

Backer Pole

The backer's job was the most dangerous in the mine. His job was to check the site after it was blasted by dynamite. They used a backer pole to check for loose rock by tapping the rock to make sure it was sturdy and safe to mine there. There was always danger of a cave-in if they tapped the wrong spot.

See an MNHS Collections photo of backers at work 

Cents

$1.00 scrip note printed for the Oliver Iron Mining Company by the Christie Lithograph & Printing Company (both of Duluth, Minnesota) in 1907. The bill's central image shows miners working, evidently panning and picking for gold; the name of the company spans its top.

Take a closer look at the MNHS Collections photo of this scrip note.

Cents

$1.00 scrip note printed for the Oliver Iron Mining Company by the Christie Lithograph & Printing Company (both of Duluth, Minnesota) in 1907. The bill's central image shows miners working, evidently panning and picking for gold; the name of the company spans its top.

Take a closer look at the MNHS Collections photo of this scrip note.

Drill

Drillers on the Iron Range used large diamond tipped drills to create holes for dynamite. They had to be careful not to drill a hole too shallow or too deep. This job came with many dangers. There was very little protective gear in hte early days, so it was common to lose an eye while drilling.
Look at a MNHS Collections photo of drillers in an Iron Range mine

Drill

Drillers on the Iron Range used large diamond tipped drills to create holes for dynamite. They had to be careful not to drill a hole too shallow or too deep. This job came with many dangers. There was very little protective gear in hte early days, so it was common to lose an eye while drilling.
Look at a MNHS Collections photo of drillers in an Iron Range mine

Dynamite

Blasting is one of the most dangerous jobs in the mine. Carelessness or trying to hurry can lead to serious injuries or worse. After holes are drilled into the rock, dynamite is very carefully packed together before the fuses are lit. The miners only have a short time to take shelter before BOOM goes the dynamite!

Check out a MNHS Collections photo of blasters in an Iron Range mine

Dynamite

Blasting is one of the most dangerous jobs in the mine. Carelessness or trying to hurry can lead to serious injuries or worse. After holes are drilled into the rock, dynamite is very carefully packed together before the fuses are lit. The miners only have a short time to take shelter before BOOM goes the dynamite!

Check out a MNHS Collections photo of blasters in an Iron Range mine

Helmet

Helmets were one of the few pieces of safety equipment used in the early days of mining. Waterproof helmets kept the miners' heads safe and protected, while attached lamps lit the way for them to do their jobs. This helmet has a kerosene lamp fixture attached to the front. It was worn by Adam Shapic circa 1910-1930s. Mr. Shapic immigrated to Minnesota from Croatia in 1910 and wore this helmet in iron mines near Virginia, Minnesota, until he was injured in a mining accident that left him paralyzed. Did you get a chance to see the actual helmet in the exhibit?

Check out the helmet in the MNHS collection

Helmet

Helmets were one of the few pieces of safety equipment used in the early days of mining. Waterproof helmets kept the miners' heads safe and protected, while attached lamps lit the way for them to do their jobs. This helmet has a kerosene lamp fixture attached to the front. It was worn by Adam Shapic circa 1910-1930s. Mr. Shapic immigrated to Minnesota from Croatia in 1910 and wore this helmet in iron mines near Virginia, Minnesota, until he was injured in a mining accident that left him paralyzed. Did you get a chance to see the actual helmet in the exhibit?

Check out the helmet in the MNHS collection

Iron Mine Map

From the 1880s to the 1910s, dozens of towns were built near the huge iron ore deposits in northeastern Minnesota. This is an example of how natural resources affected settlement.

Iron Mine Map

From the 1880s to the 1910s, dozens of towns were built near the huge iron ore deposits in northeastern Minnesota. This is an example of how natural resources affected settlement.

Matti Pelto

Matti Pelto works as a trammer in the Pettit mine near Sparta, Minnesota.  He arrived from Finland in 1908 when he was 27 years old.  He joined his brother and worked on the Iron Range for many years before returning to Finland where he married and farmed

Matti Pelto

Matti Pelto works as a trammer in the Pettit mine near Sparta, Minnesota.  He arrived from Finland in 1908 when he was 27 years old.  He joined his brother and worked on the Iron Range for many years before returning to Finland where he married and farmed

Mike Zakotnik

Mike Zakotnik works as a miner in the Milford mine.  He was born in 1887 and came to America seekinga better life in 1901 when he was 14 years old from Yugoslavia.  Mike is married to Josephine and they have 5 kids: Josephine, Albin, Mike, Tony, and Girdon.  Mike was one of only 7 miners who managed to narrowly escape one of the worst disasters on the Iron Range, a mud slide that killed over 40 miners on Febrary 5, 1924.

Mike Zakotnik

Mike Zakotnik works as a miner in the Milford mine.  He was born in 1887 and came to America seekinga better life in 1901 when he was 14 years old from Yugoslavia.  Mike is married to Josephine and they have 5 kids: Josephine, Albin, Mike, Tony, and Girdon.  Mike was one of only 7 miners who managed to narrowly escape one of the worst disasters on the Iron Range, a mud slide that killed over 40 miners on Febrary 5, 1924.

Miners

The discovery of iron ore in northern Minnesota sparked a rush of people to the region.  Most of them were immigrants who had come to Minnesota to work in the iron mines.  The oliver Mining Company employed workers from a long list of foreign countries including: Finland, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Poland. Work days were long - up to 14 hours.  The miners were paid by the amount of iron ore they produced, instead of by the hour or by the day.  To earn more money, they had to bribe their supervisors (called foremen) to let them work in places where the ore was most plentiful and easiest to remove.  In the early 1900s, a miner earned about $1.65 per day in wages. 

Miners

The discovery of iron ore in northern Minnesota sparked a rush of people to the region.  Most of them were immigrants who had come to Minnesota to work in the iron mines.  The oliver Mining Company employed workers from a long list of foreign countries including: Finland, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Poland. Work days were long - up to 14 hours.  The miners were paid by the amount of iron ore they produced, instead of by the hour or by the day.  To earn more money, they had to bribe their supervisors (called foremen) to let them work in places where the ore was most plentiful and easiest to remove.  In the early 1900s, a miner earned about $1.65 per day in wages.