Scrapbook Friday: Phonebook Edition

Several years ago I created an interactive presentation on the Champion No.4 shaft/rock house and surface plant for the good folks at Painesdale Mine and Shaft Inc – an organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of that structure for future generations. During my work I was allowed unprecedented access to not only the site but to the vast treasure trove of archival materials they had acquired. I selected a handful of those materials and used them as “artifacts” in the DVD; hidden items that could be found scattered about the menus of the disc. Since that time the only people that could find these artifacts were those lucky enough to both own the disc and be able to find them. Unfortunately over the years I even have forgotten where I hid most of those features. Luckily I also stored them at home on my computer, and am able to share them with everyone else over on CCE’s scrapbook pages.

One of those DVD artifacts is the subject of our scrapbook post for today. This particular item is a phonebook, or more correctly a “telephone directory”. The telephone company in question is Copper Range itself, which was quite common in the Copper Country. While larger cities like Houghton would employ their own independent service provider, small mining communities such as those found along the southern range were dependent on the mine companies to provide such public services. The Copper Range telephone company served the company’s mines and railroad as well as the mining communities of Baltic, Trimountain, and Painesdale (South Range was not under Copper Range control, and as such had their own private telephone company).

The year for which this phonebook covers is 1942, smack dab in the middle of the second World War. While telephones had been around for awhile by that time, the system in use in the Copper Country was relatively primitive compared to what most of us are accustomed to today. At this time in telephone history private lines were a luxury of the rich and powerful and party lines were the rule. This meant that numerous people would share the same line. Before area codes and exchange numbers, this meant that a person’s “phone number” was often just a one or two digit number with a specific “ring number” attached. The Copper Range company offered a total of 70 party lines in its service area, each shared by about 3-4 individual customers.

Skimming through the various customers in the phonebook provides a who’s who of the southern range, as well as an interesting look into the businesses and services available in the region. You’ll also find quite a bit of Champion Mine buildings, such as the various shaft houses, hoist houses, compressor house, dry houses, captain houses, and more. No number to the underground, however.

Check out the entire document in PDF format over at the scrapbook. Just follow the link HERE.


  1. Much like dcclark’s experience, the home where I grew up in the thumb of Michigan had a party line well into the 1970′s. Not only did you have to listen for the correct number of rings before picking up the phone – the call wasn’t always for you – when you made a call you also had to listen first to make sure that someone else wasn’t already in the middle of a cal. There was no indicator on the phone that told you if another party was already on the line.

  2. i noticed on the back of the directory it’s stamped “Guelf Ptg Co, Marquette”
    isnt Guelff Printing the building that Das Vierling restaurant is in now? or nextdoor or somehting? i could swear ive seen that name painted on the side of a blg somewhere around there.

    BTW, i’m loving the new header banners you’ve got for the site now!

  3. LOL! nice ;) ;) ;) you know i love the old-school phone geekery…can’t believe i somehow missed it in the DVD.

    i grew up with my ma being an operator for Michigan Bell in Dearborn, so we had the luxury of a private line, and i never had the experience of a party line.

    i love the fact that there are still independent telephone companies in the Yoopee, such as Baraga & Ontonagon areas. thats so cool.

  4. Very cool! I remember having a party line until I was about 5, and always having to listen for the right number of rings — or else accidentally picking up the neighbor’s call.

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