The Smelter

A look at the C&H Smelter, as seen in a high-resolution panoramic image taken around 1905 (click on the image to view the full image). The prominent sandstone building in the center of the cropped image above is the smelter’s blast furnace building, otherwise known as the Cupola building. This structure shares several traits with its Quincy contemporary, including the protruding elevator shaft at the center of the building. Contrary to the Quincy Complex, the C&H smelter features an almost exhaustive number of furnace buildings, no less then five of which can be seen in this photo alone. These buildings looked to have been retired after a certain length of time, as some are seen here without stacks. Sanborn maps label these retired buildings as “general storage”, though their sandstone construction and layout proves they held a more important role at one time.

A few more details I found interesting…

Visible in the full sized image are these guys, struggling against what looks like a large tram car. Though it looks empty in the photo, the fact that it’s taking two men to push it makes me think otherwise (unless its just a really heavy piece of equipment). Considering they are leaving the Cupola Building it could contain copper or slag. Or its empty and they are on their way to the coal yard for a load of coal.

Meanwhile we have this poor guy working all alone to load up a cart full of slag. He does, however, have the benefit of a nearby derrick to make his work at least a tad bit easier. Interestingly he’s loading the slag into a horse drawn rail-car instead of the metal push cart used by the other men.

Speaking of that slag, here’s another large pile sitting off to the left of our derrick operator. The slag’s bowl-like shape is from the similarly shaped wheeled containers also seen in the larger photo. These slag pots were used to store and cool the slag after coming out of the cupola furnace. Once cooled they were apparently just dumped here where they would later be loaded onto horse drawn rail cars and brought out to the slag pile for disposal.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection

Show More


  1. Craig…

    I realized the same thing when I saw this shot. Its amazing how close the two buildings are. Quincy might of done some “borrowing” when it came for them to build their own smelter. I think its interesting that in both shots (this one and yours) the pile of slag bowls sit in the same place. Either the two shots were taken close to each other time wise, or that spot is the actual storage area for that slag.

  2. I think that guy loading the car with slag does have help. I don’t see anyway he could control the cable for lowering the load, even if he was at the base of the boom. I think the guy in the little shack attached to the left side of the cupola building is controlling the up and down motion.
    Another interesting thing is the lids on all the stacks, it looks to be cable operated.
    Also notice the two gauges of track, one looks to be standard gauge where the car the guy is loading is sitting and the rest looks narrow.

  3. It looks like in the first photo,maybe, the two men are pushing an empty car up a slight grade.On the way back with a full car gravity would help them.

  4. hey this is a union shop…you have to make it look like the labor is absolutely BACKBREAKING, & requires 2 men to push an empty cart.

    i mean damn, you’re asking ’em to push it UPHILL after all! :D

  5. ROC… makes sense, but I’m also sure the thing is heavy.

    BTW, congratulations! Your comment is CCE’s 3000th! You don’t win anything, I just thought I’d let you know the historical significance of it all…

  6. If you look at the deck on the left hand side of the piture,the ground is either going uphill or it was built out of level.Of course these guys are probably haming it up for the piture too.I love the piture in the book Old Reliable of the workers posing while building the many gabled # 6 rockhouse.The guy on the edge of the very top gable looks to be getting ready to take a head first dive.

  7. Has anyone else noticed the break in the picture? Just to the right of the Cupola building the power lines suddenly change angle and aren’t connected. The rail lines also break off and change angle, which explains why it looks like the two men are pushing the car uphill. Any ideas for the shift? I also noticed a rather well dressed man entering the Cupola building to the right of the elevator shaft and another mysterious pair of legs appearing in the entrance to the left of the shaft. And in the small shack that appears to be the control for the slag derrick, there are actually two men in there.

  8. Because its actually two photos stitched together. The collection that these photos are from have many like this. The guy would take the camera take his first photo, pick up the camera and turn it, over lapping a bit and take another.
    Not quite as nice as a modern camera.
    The nice part is all the detail in the photo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *