It was a land surveyor blazing a path through the swampy highlands in the Keweenaw’s interior who first discovered the great Calumet Conglomerate lode. It was a discovery he kept to himself for several years as he secured the investors necessary to buy the mining rights to the land and form the Calumet Mining Company. Soon after a second company – the Hecla Mining Company- would began work along the lode just south of the Calumet’s holdings. These two mines proved to be highly rich in copper and would later merge to become the most successful mining company in the Keweenaw – the Calumet and Hecla Mine.
Originally known as Red Jacket, the town of Calumet first formed to the north of the great mine in 1864 to serve the workers of the newly formed Calumet Mine. As the mine’s success grew, the town of Red Jacket expanded and profited in response. By 1900 the small town had grown to nearly 5,000 residents, which together with the surrounding mining communities created a sprawling metropolis of nearly 30,000 people. Along its brick-paved streets were all the trappings of a modern metropolis: multi-floor department stores featuring the latest in European fashion, an opulent 1200 seat opera house featuring nationally touring stage plays and acts, and a large elegantly manicured city park designed by one of the country’s most renowned landscape architects.
Calumet was far from a simple mining town. Of course mining was the reason for Calumet’s existence, and it was the mine that provided its residents with most of the modern conveniences they enjoyed. C&H invested large amounts of resources in the community for the construction of modern schools, hospitals, libraries, bath houses, churches, and hundreds of houses for its workers. The mine also provided the town with many of its basic services including water, steam heat, and trash collection. But these resources and services didn’t come without a price. In return for its corporate paternalism C&H exerted a great deal of social control over the town and its residents – squelching dissent and limiting the influence of labor organizations. The result was an environment that nurtured a content and productive work force.