Iron Country Programs

Mining Images

Iron Country #101

"It's Geologic Past, Geography, and Prehistory" -- This is the story of Minnesota's Iron Country, the Mesabi, Vermilion and Cuyuna Ranges, and the people who have made this place their home. Our story begins with the introduction of the ranges, their geological formation, and the prehistoric people who were the first Iron Rangers. From the fires of Iron Country's origin, to the ice bound world that the first nomadic hunters found here, historian Marvin Lamppa leads us through an epic story, the story of Iron Country.

Iron Country #102

"Historic Indian People and the Fur Trade" -- Descriptions of Iron Country's mineral laden hills were entered into the journals of French and British explorers long before our nation was born. By this time the region had already been home to Indian people for a least 70 centuries. The Cheyenne, Assiniboin, Souix, Cree, and Ojibwe; all are thought to have lived in Iron Country at one time or another. This chapter of the epic story of Iron Country focuses on the native people of this region, their wars, and the introduction of the French fur trade.

Iron Country #103

"The Years 1804-1870: The End of the Fur Trade, Treaties, and a Gold Rush" -- 1804 was a pivotal year. It marked the beginning of momentous changes, which lead us to the Iron Country of today. This chapter of the epic story of Iron Country takes us through the end of the fur trade, the agreements and treaties which gave political boundaries to this part of the nation, and a wild rush for gold that brought hundreds of people, prospectors, merchants, and swindlers, to the Lake Vermillion wilderness.

Iron Country #104

"From Gold to Iron (1867-1880)" -- There was a lasting effect of the Vermilion gold rush…the thousands of prospectors who came to the region made public one fact…there was iron here. It was the amount and richness of this ore that would attract a new breed of investor. This chapter of the epic story of Iron Country focuses on the discovery of Vermilion's iron ore deposits, businessman Charlemagne Tower, and his plans to develop the Vermilion Range.

Iron Country #105

"The Opening of the Vermilion Iron Range (1881-1892)" -- Charlemagne Tower risked it all in the development of the first mine and railroad on the Vermilion Range. The gamble paid off, as great underground mines…and wild mining towns and lumber camps sprung up on Minnesota's new frontier. In this chapter of the epic story of Iron Country we meet the men and women who would hew a new life out of the rocks and pines of the Vermilion range.

Iron Country #106

"The Mesabi Replaces the Vermilion as the Great Mining Frontier (1883-1900)" -- Noted evangelist Billy Sunday once said, "The only difference between Ely and Hell is that Ely has a railroad to it." While Tower and Soudan moved toward a settled and law abiding way of life…the old frontier moved 21 miles up the track to the new boom town of Ely. On this chapter of the epic story of Iron Country we see a larger and even wilder mining frontier opening on the Mesabi Range…which would eventually become the greatest mining region the world has ever known.

Mining Images

Iron Country #107

"The Mesabi: How Iron Mining Began (1889-1901)" -- Many kicked the red dust of the Mesabi, and left the region in disgust, never realizing that the dust was the very iron ore they were looking for. It would be the seven sons of Duluth pioneer Lewis J. Merritt who would finally unlock the secret of Mesabi's ores. On this edition of Iron Country we tell the story of the Seven Iron Men, who for a few brief years, held in their hands an empire in iron. We'll look too at the ten-year period of unscrupulous manipulation and heavy litigation that preceded the birth of America's industrial giant, the United States Steel Corporation.

Iron Country #108

"The Mesabi's Earliest Mining Towns and Incorporated Villages" -- On June 15,1891 Edmund J. Longyear began a 90 mile walk across the Mesabi Range. The Mesabi iron boom was just beginning, and Longyear and his associates were hunting for diamond drilling contracts. The trip would take them from Mesaba station on the Duluth & Iron Range Railway to Grand Rapids on the Mississippi River. In this chapter of the epic story of Iron Country we'll join the Longyear crew for a walk back in time…to the early days of the first six towns on the Mesabi Range.

Iron Country #109

"Mines and Mining Centers on the Mesabi (1892-1925)" -- Mesabi is an Ojibwe word for giant. It was well named. By 1905 it was out-shipping all of the other ranges combined. None of this could have happened without the mergers that took place in the steel industry from 1885 to 1903. But because the consolidations involved people like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan, fears were aroused that the nation would soon be dominated by big business. It's the days of "the Oliver," big steam shovels, and locomotives in this chapter of Iron Country.

Iron Country #110

"Giant Corporations Industrialize the Range (1904-1924)" -- The great ironmaster Abram Stevens Hewitt once wrote, "Consumption of iron is the social barometer by which to estimate the relative height of civilization." If this is true, then the progress of American civilization during the years following the discovery of Iron Country's ores was nothing less than extraordinary. On this edition of Iron Country, we chart the rise of the giant corporation U.S. Steel, the opening of the Cuyuna, and tell the tale of a legendary mine disaster.

Iron Country #111

"Immigrant Labor, Unions and Range Politics" -- They came by the thousands…young men and younger women from all parts of Europe…in search of a new way of life. What they found were the stark towns of Iron Country, and work in the region's mines, camps and boarding houses. They built vibrant communities, rallied to the cause of labor, stood fast during violent strikes, and gave birth to a particular variety of politics that they could call their very own. Their story is the one we tell on this edition of Iron Country.

Iron Country #112

"Depression, War, and Taconite" -- Depression hit Iron Country hard. Within two years Minnesota's iron range ore production fell from thirty-five million tons to two million tons. Jobs in St. Louis County mines dropped from twelve thousand to less than twenty five hundred. By 1935 the New Deal came to the range—NRA, WPA, and CCC. The war in Europe finally brought a measure of economic relief. Production in Minnesota mines reached 49 million tons by 1940. American involvement in the war brought new challenges. Industry and labor worked hand in hand in the greatest wartime steel production effort in United States' history. When WWII was over, Iron Country's mines were depleted. Instead of the end, there was a new beginning. The age of taconite had arrived.