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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 17

 1955] Ihde & Conners—Chemical Industry in Wisconsin 
more commonly, the zinc ore was shipped by rail to central Illinois for smelting
near the coalfields.2' 
 Copper. Wisconsin charcoal never played an important role in the smelting
of copper, though there were sporadic efforts at production of the metal.
Wisconsin copper discoveries always proved to be a part of the glacial drift
brought in from the Lake Superior region so Wisconsin never had a copper
boom such as hit the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan in the forties.
Since the Michigan deposits represented native copper, the smelting problem
was never more than one of melting the metal to separate it from contaminating
rocks. When charcoal was used, it was obtained from nearby forests and used
primarily as a fuel rather than as a reducing agent.22 
 Iron. Charcoal needs at midcentury shifted to the eastern part of the state
with the development of iron smelting in the Iron Ridge Region and soon thereafter
in Milwaukee County. A charcoal furnace was in operation at Mayville in 1849.23
The charcoal was produced locally. This furnace, or another at Mayville (built
in 1853) was operated by the Northwestern Iron Company, the owners of the
Mishawaka furnace in Indiana.24 
 In 1857, two more charcoal furnaces were put into operation. The one near
Black River Falls was operated for only a short period by a company of German
immigrants. The Ironton furnace was built by Jonas Tower to produce iron
for castings. It had a capacity of three tons of iron per day, using ore
mined in the nearby Baraboo Range. Another charcoal furnace was built in
1865 at Iron Ridge, near Mayville, by the Wisconsin Iron Company, operating
out of Milwaukee. 
 The next decade saw a vigorous development of iron smelting in Wisconsin.
Seven charcoal furnaces were put to blast in the lower Fox River valley during
the years 1869—72. These furnaces were located where they could benefit
from lake transport of ores from the Marquette Range which was being opened
at that time in the Michigan peninsula. Hardwood forests in the counties
adjacent to the Fox River provided the charcoal supply. 
 Milwaukee also began to develop as an iron working center. 
Two furnaces were put into operation by the Milwaukee Iron 
Company in 1870 and 1871. Another was built for the Minerva 
Iron Company in 1873. All three furnaces utilized Lake Superior 
 21Merk, F., "Economic History of Wisconsin During the Civil War Decade",
Wis. [list. Soc., Madison, 1916, p. 114—5. 
 22Ibid, p. 120—21. 
 "Raney, ref. 18, p. 335. 
 ~ Swank, J. M., "Statistics of the Iron and Steel Production of the United
States", in Censiss of Mc~nafactures of the U. 5., 1880, p. 109 (folio p.
845). 


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