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Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)

Ihde, Aaron J.; Conners, James W.
Chemical industry in early Wisconsin,   pp. 5-20 PDF (5.8 MB)


Page 16

 16 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 44 
sin and Fox Rivers to Green Bay from where it was shipped eastward on the
Great Lakes. Milwaukee became a similar port for the shipment of lead after
suitable roads and railroads had been built. Bullets and shot were the main
products made from lead although the manufacture of white lead for paint
was started in 1841 at Buffalo, New York.19 
 Shot was even manufactured in Wisconsin following the construction of a
shot-tower at Helena.2° Daniel Whitney, a Green Bay merchant, initiated
construction of the tower in 1831 on a cliff overlooking Pipe Creek, a tiny
tributary of the Wisconsin River. A vertical shaft was dug through the soft
sandstone for a depth ' of 120 feet and connected to the stream ' bank by
a horizontal tunnel 90 feet long. The molten lead, alloyed with a trace of
arsenic, was prepared in a melting house at the top of the cliff and poured
through a sieve into a wooden enclosure, or tower, which connected to the
top of ' the vertical hole (Fig. 1). The drops of lead fell a total distance
of 180 feet, twirling and solidifying as they fell and finally landing in
a pit of water at the bottom of the shaft. Here they were collected, removed,
' sorted, and prepared for shipment. Shot was produced here until the decline
of lead mining in the fifties. 
 The lead mines drew heavily upon nearby forests for the wood used in smelting
the ore. The depletion of the mines after a quarter century coincided with
the depletion of local wood resources and the discovery of more important
lead ores in states to the westward. The miners turned to full-time farming
on the cleared lands or, if mining was permanently ingrained in their system,
joined the copper boom in ' the Lake Superior region or the gold rush to
California. Some lead continued to be produced in southwestern Wisconsin
but it was marginal production. Operations rose and fell with the price of
lead. Wisconsin never again became the leading producer it had been in the
forties. 
 Zinc. Interest in the zinc ores associated with the galena ' of the region
did not develop until 1860. Up until that time, the smithsonite (ZnCO3, called
"drybone" by the miners because of its resemblance to partially
decayed bones)
had been discarded as not worth smelting. In 1860 some 160 tons were successfully
smelted. Production of smithsonite and the deeper-lying zinc blende (Zn~S,
called "blackjack" by the miners) increased rapidly as a zinc boom
hit the
region. Charcoal did not figure in zinc smelting, however, since coal was
shipped in from Illinois or, 
 19 Libby, 0. G., "Significance of the Lead and Shot Trade in Early
Wisconsin
History", Wis. Hist. Coils., 13, 319 (1895). 
 20 Libby, 0. G., "Chronicle of the Helena Shot-Tower", ibid, p.
335—74.
The shaft gnd tunnel can still be seen in Shot-Tower State Park near Spring
Green. 


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