Sunday, August 16, 2009

Steam Drills Get the Lead of Out of Platteville - Literally!

In the late 1600s European traders on the upper Mississippi River began bartering with the natives. One of the more valuable traded assets was lead ore mined near Dubuque, Iowa. Later, more lead was discovered in nearby limestone deposits. One of these locations was in present day Platteville, Wisconsin. Here the lead mining business was centered for many years from the late 1800s through mid-1900s.

A relic from the lead mining heyday is this steam powered rock drill pictured above. It was made by the Ingersoll Drilling Company and is on display in front of Wisconsin's first state normal school (a college for teachers.) In 1905 the building was the home to the Wisconsin Mining Trade School.

Platteville's extensive mining history is visible throughout the town. An extensive Mining Museum complete with a gas-powered train (ore carts) and a portion of an actual lead mine can be toured. There you can observe the transition from pick and axe mining to steam powered rock drilling that helped get the lead out (and zinc) of the Platteville area. Know that.