Monday, March 15, 2010

Globe: The Greatest Copper Camp
Survived Without Copper

Searching for gold, prospectors found silver instead, in the rugged mountains south of the Salt River canyon in the early 1870s. Within a few years, Globe City would be built along Pinal creek, in a small valley between the Pinal Mountains on the southwest and the Apache Mountains on the northeast. Globe would be the business center of a “mineral belt” in Cobre Valley, and then about six years later the county seat of newly created Gila County. When the silver played out, copper would bring even greater wealth. And after about 50 years of mining copper, after all the copper mines at Globe closed, the city would survive nevertheless.

The military, operating out of a western ring of forts had been determinately confining the Apache people to a reservation in the mountains of eastern Arizona created by executive order of President U. S. Grant November 9, 1871. This allowed prospectors into the Pinal and Apache Mountains where they found small globes of silver. One group of men filed a claim on the Globe Ledge discovery in 1873. This was followed by adjacent claims in 1874 and 1875. Whether impressed by the shape of the silver nuggets or more likely the world renown they were sure was to come, they named it the Globe Mining District in the Globe Hills with the streets of Globe City laid out down on the creek. When a survey was made, all this was found to be on Apache reservation land. No problem. Friends in Washington got the reservation boundary line moved east several times to accommodate each new discovery. Still, proximity to Apache lands has always played a role in the history of Globe.

This Apache family depicted about 1910, possibly camped near Globe, would have traveled there to trade at the stores. At first, the Department of Interior and the military tried to round up all Apache tribes in the southwest on the San Carlos reservation east of globe, with shrinking reservation boundaries every few years. Then, a policy change sent Apache families to five reservations across the state. (Postcards from this era were made from colorized black & white photos.)

I don’t know who owned this general store or where it was in Globe, but the photo appears to date from about 1907. It undoubtedly shows the staff, including two young boys in an express wagon who delivered groceries and probably a salesman in a buggy. The butcher is all in white, and since women rarely worked in a store unless they owned it, I assume that the owners are the lady and the well-dressed man to her left. The other four men and boys would be clerks and stock clerks. Then again, maybe the butcher was the owner. A lot of the details of history have been lost.

Riches poured out of the land. Hinton (1878) in his Handbook to Arizona reported that red oxide of copper ore could produce $200 to $400 a ton in silver even if the copper was discarded. Rich silver ores within a few miles of Globe were yielding 200 to 400 ounces per ton. To attract investors and labor, some mines claimed to extract $1,300 to $4,000 per ton of ore, and even “ores producing from $5,000 to $15,000 per ton,” were reported. Smelters and furnaces were profitably roasting rocks all along the mineral belt even though all supplies had to be transported to the remote area by wagon teams.

This view of the Old Dominion works about 1906 is looking approximately south toward the town of Globe in the valley at left with the snowcapped Pinal Mountains on the horizon. The head frame for the underground shaft is out of view at left. A recently added concentrator has five smoke stacks and a growing pile of waste in the right foreground. Behind is the big stack of the smelter. The correspondent who mailed this postcard in 1909 has written on the front, “Talk about your mining towns, Globe is sure one, believe me.” On the back he related, “I am now in a town where a person must be careful, truly a mining town. Being in Arizona on business and near Globe, I thought I would take a run up and see it. It is not on the main line but 124 mi. from it, 743 miles from L.A. Talk about being in the mountains, all surroundings are like the picture on the reverse side.” The William Ryan drugstore in Globe had the photo sent to Germany to be printed as postcards, which were then sold at the drugstore.

This is a scene inside the smelter pictured above about the same year. At the end of the mining, concentrating and smelting process pure molten copper is poured into molds to become ingots. Today, an electrolytic process produces pure copper cathodes.

The Southern Pacific railroad had built across the state to New Mexico by the end of 1880. Heavy mining machinery, furnace clay, lead catalyst and everything else needed in Globe could be transferred from relatively cheap railroad shipping to relatively expensive wagon train 130 miles from Globe. This arrangement lasted more than 15 years and still mining proved profitable, even during the mid-1880s recession. “In few places in the world is copper ore found in such manner and of so high a grade as in the vicinity of Globe,” wrote Arizona Commissioner of Immigration John A, Black in 1890. That kind of treasure deserves a rail link he concluded. (see, Black, Arizona, the land of sunshine and silver. . .) Several attempts had already been financial failures, but finally with mining company money, in 1894 the Gila Valley, Globe and Northern Railway was formed and tracks reached Globe four years later. The line would eventually became part of the Southern Pacific empire but is now operated again by a small company.

Though laborious hand drilling of blasting holes gave way to steam drills in the 1890s, hand drilling contests were popular events bringing out huge crowds for another couple decades. This is a Globe team in 1908. The little girl is ready with a water hose to cool and lubricate the bit and clear dust.

Globe Becomes a Hotbed of Labor Union Strife

Copper mining at Globe became increasingly profitable, leading workers to join unions and demand higher wages and better benefits. After a number of strikes, the Greatest Copper Camp finally suffered the greatest miners strike in 1917. When the United States entered the European war that year, patriotism reached a fever pitch. President Wilson criminalized speaking against the war effort and demanded greatly increased copper production for shell casings and electrical wiring in battleships. Globe was a multi-ethnic community with Hispanic workers paid less than union scale. Rumors spread through town that Austrian immigrants working in the mines were planning fifth-column sabotage on behalf of the Huns. Irish workers were also suspect. Hadn’t their country just kicked out British rulers through revolution? The unions were fractured between socialists like the Industrial Workers of the World who took a moral stand against warfare and moderates like the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers Union. The Fourth of July holiday fell right in the middle of a desperate and extremely contentious walkout by 2,000 miners from both unions. The companies hired armed guards and the county sheriff deputized citizens. Republican Governor Thomas Campbell showed up with federal army troops since the National Guard had gone off to war. A Loyalty League recruited patriots to oppose the workers. There were mass arrests. Replacement workers were brought in from Texas, though they couldn’t get production going. It seemed chaos reigned for nearly four months, but in the end a compromise was found and most of the workers went back to work for higher pay and somewhat better benefits. Jurors refused to convict the only union leader brought to trial. Remarkably, with all the brandishing of loaded guns, only two deaths occurred, a train ran over a soldier and a horse kicked a federal conciliator. (see, James W. Byrkit, Forging the Copper Collar (1982); Daphne Overstreet, “The 1917 Walkout at Globe, Arizona,” Journal of Arizona History Summer 1977; and “The Arizona Copper Strike,” The Outlook 25 July 1917, pages 466, 468)

This Arizona Historical Society photo shows one of several poses for the camera made by the famous/infamous 14 armed guards at the Old Dominion smelter during the strike of 1917. Their pistol-packing leader is sitting down in front.

This truck was one of the entries in the Fourth of July parade at the beginning of the strike. It was labeled a “scab car,” so the men must be some of those brought in from New Mexico and Texas to cross picket lines.

In contrast to labor wars, Globe’s history has long been animated by genuinely violent stories of murders, holdups and hangings in the 1880s. When it wasn’t an Apache brought to the gallows, then it was a claim jumper, drunken cowboy or highway robbers masquerading as Apaches. Long after hangings at county jails were banned in 1909 and hanging was replaced by the gas chamber in 1933, Globe holds the distinction of claiming the last legal hanging in Arizona. It was a gruesome, botched strangulation of an Apache under the federal death penalty statute in 1936. (see, “Globe Arizona History” by Paul R. Machula [1996] at

Despite the violence, despite its remote location and despite unstable copper prices the boomtown survived. It rebuilt after fires in 1885 and 1894. Earthquake damage in 1887 and periodic floods, the worst in 1891, couldn’t dampen profits for long. The 1880 census found Globe the seventh largest town in the territory. By 1890 it had dropped to tenth. After the railroad came it bounced up to fifth place in 1900 and fourth in 1910. Being county seat helped. Government jobs, taxes and appropriations have always kept some Arizona communities afloat, as others faded into ghost towns. Nearly half of all employment in Gila County in 2008 was in some level of government.

The town was built around a single main street, Broad Street, seen here about 1913. This is the block between Oak and Sycamore on the west side of Broad Street. At left is the Dominion Hotel, Globe’s finest when it was built in 1905. It’s now gone, having burned in 1981. Next is the office of Globe Light & Power Company which also piped gas into homes, and then Charles T. Martin’s theater. By 1940 the electric company had become part of Arizona Edison Company, next door to the renamed Fox theater.

Looking north at the east side of Broad Street about 1927 in the same block shown above, the Gila County Courthouse (1906) is on the corner with a flag on the roof, across Oak Street from the Hotel Globe. The other building with a flag, farther down the street, is the Trust or European Building (1906). The photo (colorized) was undoubtedly taken from a balcony on the Dominion Hotel. In the distance you can just see the Old Dominion smelter smoke stack. The courthouse, now Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, is still a point of pride. The Trust Building burned in 2005.

The opening of large mines at the new town of Miami from 1907 to 1911, a few miles away, benefited the county seat. Copper production from Globe-Miami mines surpassed Bisbee in 1916 and remained in the lead until the 1930s. But while other copper mines in Arizona shifted to open pit extraction, the Old Dominion remained an underground operation. Tunneling reached the aquifer in 1894 and pumps had to be installed, adding to the cost. By 1914, 3.8 million gallons of water had to be brought to the surface every day. With the coming of the Great Depression copper mines all over the state closed, including the Old Dominion in 1931. It never reopened. When copper prices rose again the workforce in Globe drove to Miami for high paid jobs.

Transportation spending brings prosperity for many Arizona communities. While Globe remained far from a railroad mainline it did end up on well-traveled highways. In 1905, Globe became a freight hauling point on the newly constructed Apache Trail, a dirt road from Mesa to Roosevelt Dam and on to Globe and Miami. Most of this freight would come from Mesa, but the Southern Pacific railroad began bringing tourists to Globe. There, they would board buses for a scenic ride over the Apache Trail, returning to the train in Mesa. When transcontinental highways were built and lined with gasoline stations and motels, Globe was a stop on the Lee Highway beginning in 1921. Later it would be numbered US Highway 180 and by 1938 renumbered Highway 70. Another highway, connecting Phoenix with Springerville, Highway 60, was routed through Globe in 1932.

Travel on Highway 70 led to a healthy food and lodging industry at Globe’s northeast entrance, from the junction with Highway 60 to the downtown. The common design of cabins with garages around a central court provided a bed for the night. They were called auto courts or motor hotels or by some variation. The El Rey (still in business) opened in 1938 and probably issued this card the same year. “One of Arizona’s finest,” said the back of the postcard, “recommended by Duncan Hines.”

These photos appear to have been taken when the new eatery opened in December 1938. There’s a sign on the covered wagon tarp that says, “Welcome! You’re in the West. It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed.”

The last few decades have been brutal for Arizona copper towns, finally leaving most of Globe and Miami out of work. Housing development peaked and investors turned to driving up metal prices. Just before the present economic depression, high copper prices looked to reopen the Miami mines. In 2007 the Arizona Republic reported, “Many of Miami's houses and commercial buildings were abandoned years ago and are crumbling and uninhabitable. Neither Miami nor Globe, four miles to the east, has enough dwellings to accommodate the new miners and their families. Miami's aging water and sewer systems can barely handle existing residents, and in Globe there is little private land available on which to build homes.” Nobody expected copper prices to go up so fast, explained the Miami Vice Mayor.


  1. Fascinating read! Thank you.

  2. I appreciate the good word, Thanks.

  3. Enjoyed the information and pictures, used to live in Globe and was familiar with the Old Dominion Library and Pic-A-Rib.

  4. Fabulous!!! Love it & will pass the site along! ;)

    ~Molly (I have a shop in the Historic courthouse in Globe)

  5. Thanks Molly. Hope to visit your shop some day.

  6. Was searching for information about the photo of the two men drilling the boulder in
    Globe, Arizona, and found your blog. I was born and raised in Miami, AZ. I'll be back to do more reading!

  7. Glad you found my history, AZ. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Mr. Lucas, are you out there? I thought I'd mention to you the photo you have posted of the 4th of July decorated truck driving in Globe -- it needs to be flipped -- the driver is sitting on the passenger side of the truck. I stared at that picture a long time before I realized what was the matter with it. I'm still reading your blog, very interesting.

  9. Thanks for your sharp eye AZ. However, some pre-1920 autos and trucks were right-hand drive. The truck pictured could be an Atterbury, manufactured 1909-1934 in Buffalo NY. Or, the negative could have been flipped. It's hard to tell when there are no signs or writing visible in the photo. And the truck nameplate is covered. Negative flipping was common and even intentional for artistic effect. Let me do some more research before flipping.

  10. AZ, I looked at the original graphic, both as blogged and flipped. There is an auto behind the truck that looks like it is probably left-hand drive. When flipped it looks right-hand drive, which wouldn’t be expected. I looked at pictures of Atterbury trucks, which were right hand drive at least until 1920. There is nothing about the truck in Globe that says it’s not an Atterbury. It’s tough to tell for sure, but I’m going to leave the graphic as is. But keep up the scrutiny, AZ. I appreciate the comments.

  11. Loved the info and the photos.
    Re: the truck - looks like it is going down Cedar Street on correct side of road. Cars in background are parked correctly. One car has left hand drive. All appears correct. If you mirrored the photo, the cars would be parked incorrectly and truck would be on wrong side of road.
    I think it is correct.

  12. Thanks for the info on the truck, Mr. Peace.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. It was fun reading through your Blog. What an interesting experience!

    Herbal Incense

  15. Thanks for the memories as Bob Hope would say. I visited Globe from the forties on and was pastor at First Christian Church on Broad Street for 16 years and just recently came back. Lots of memories. Thanks again.

  16. Do you have any information on the names from the stained glass windows on Holy Angels Catholic church in Globe?