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The Heart of Copper Country: 1905

The Heart of Copper Country: 1905

Calumet, Michigan, circa 1905. "The heart of the copper country." Panorama made from four 8x10 glass negatives. This doesn't look like much until you click View full size, whence you are transported into a wondrous cuprous panorama.


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Ghost Image

I got interested in this picture when I noticed that the image I use as a computer background had a double exposed plate and this picture was the ghosted image. I hadn't imagined that I would actually find the source of my desktop background let alone the source of the double exposed image.

Now that I have, I was curious about the actual place. Reading the description here I was able to find the approximate location of where the photo was actually taken on a modern map (Google Maps).

The coordinates are: 47°14'43.2"N 88°27'47.2"W, facing north and at some elevation above ground level ( The intersection that is front and center on the photo is the current intersection of Oak St & Spruce St. The duplex home at the bend in that intersection, where the woman is walking in front, is still there, though clearly it's seen better days (

A couple of the other houses on the curving 2nd street are also still there and between these houses I was able to confirm the rough spot that the photo was taken from. Anyway, this web site helped me a great deal in figuring out the mystery so I thought I'd at least contribute that info back. Cheers!

What are the trees for

When the scorification is coming to an end, enough coal dust is thrown on to sufficiently coat the surface of the metal. Then the refiner shoves a tree in the furnace and presses it into the metal as strongly as he can. Because one uses elms or young oaks from four to six inches in diameter which have been freshly cut or left to lie in water to keep them damp, a violent bubbling occurs in the copper when one pushes the tree into it. This is allowed to continue for several minutes. Then one throws coal dust over the copper again and the bubbling recurs. This process continues until the copper has reached the requisite degree of purity. One ascertains. This passage was taken from a English copper smelting manual from the late 1700's , from what I have read the purification process using wood was still in use in the early 20th century.

Sears houses

I attended Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan back in the 1980s and took a class called something like "Social Geography". We traveled all over the Copper Country figuring out why towns were laid out in certain ways.

I do remember going through Calumet and finding rows of nearly identical houses like those shown in the photos above.

Turns out many of them were bulk-ordered straight from the Sears catalog!


The changing shadows across the photo are surreal, but somehow make it seem more physical. I can almost feel myself turning about on top of the hill, the warm breeze carrying the scents of fresh cut lumber and copper mill smoke.

Thank You

Due to that 8,461px × 2,000px picture I now have the perfect reason to explain to my wife why I need a new monitor with a resolution of at least 9000 x 2400 so I can use that fantastic panorama work as a background.

She is an artist at heart and has a love of olden times and things so I believe I do have a shot.

I found Waldo!

Standing by the garden. Man, it's even tougher in black & white.


This is a superb reference point for anyone wanting to create a prototypical, period, industry-representative model railroad layout. Fabulous detail, and all authentic.


This picture is a real gift. A panoramic moment in time. I agree with RoccoB. One of the best ever in the Shorpy Collection and one that could easily take up a couple of hours of close examination. Thanks, Dave.


It was Malvina Reynolds who wrote "Little Boxes." Pete Seeger covered the song, but always gave credit to Malvina.

Spectacular, one of the best on Shorpy

So much going on in this view I can look at it for hours.
It almost looks like it was all CGI work done by some FX studio.


The steep roof pitches also help prevent snow from piling up too quickly, but with the amounts alluded to you couldn't be too careful The houses shown set me to remembering the Pete Seeger ditty about all the houses that look alike, but, the name escapes me. The breadth of coverage is breathtaking, amazing. But that snowfall amount is staggering; we had 67 inches over three storms a short time back and thought that was bad.

300 inches of snow

Calumet is on the Keweenaw Peninsula -- the Upper Peninsula's upper peninsula.

U.P. snows are legendary, especially in the Keweenaw Peninsula, where 300-inch winters aren't that unusual. (Sticking far out into Lake Superior, it really gets nailed with Lake Effect snows.) Ladders nailed to roofs are there for a reason. When accumulated snows threaten to collapse the roof, the ladders give a foothold from which to clear off the stuff.

Ladders + Chimneys = Sweepings

The reason for the roof ladders is to access the chimneys. You will notice that almost every roof ladder is placed along side a chimney, which in the day of constant use required frequent sweeping to prevent flue fires.

Scene from an imaginary movie

Probably arthouse, maybe Scandinavian?

What's up

with all the ladders on so many of the houses?

Stacked odds

I can only imagine what the houses would look like if those logs decided to tumble down upon them there does not appear to be anything holding them back other than gravity.

Is it roofing season?

This is puzzling. Can anyone explain why there are so many ladders up to and across the rooftops? Perhaps the first day of clear weather for repairs?

[What's more likely is that most of those ladders are always there, or there for months at a time. The reason might have something to do with snow. - Dave]

Future two by fours

I spend a couple of weeks a year in the UP (Upper Peninsula for you non-Michiganders) near Calumet, and train cars carrying lumber south are still a common sight.

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