Mining on the Iron Range
by Greta Bahnemann, Metadata Librarian, Minnesota Digital Library, Minitex
Think Like a Historian
Observe a Primary Source Item and Record Your Thoughts
- What is happening in the photograph or letter, diary, etc.? What just happened, or what is about to happen?
- Describe the people you see in the image. How do they relate to each other and to the photographer? If there are no people in the image, what is the subject of the photograph?
- Look for details that show when the photo was taken – time of day, season, and year. Do the people in the photograph look different than people today? How are their clothing, shoes, and hair styles different? Also look for differences in things like transportation, housing, equipment, and general infrastructure.
Think about the Creator, Audience, Context, Relationships
- What is the author/creator's point of view? What was the author's purpose?
- Who is the intended audience for this primary source material?
- Explain how the source tells its story.
- What was happening locally, regionally, or nationally when this primary source material was created?
- How does this item relate to other content in this Primary Source Set and/or the rest of the Minnesota Digital Library collection? Compare and contrast two resources.
Finally, using the clues you have observed, try to figure out why the source was created. By asking these questions, you have begun to understand the what, who, where, when and why of the primary source material – and ultimately, the story it tells.
Discussion Questions & Activities
- Why did so many immigrants become miners on the Minnesota Iron Range?
- Based on the photographs of the freight train and the ore boats, how did these forms of transportation help shape iron mining? What role did Lake Superior play in sending ore to other locations?
- Examine the photographs of the Company Picnic and the Company Vegetable Garden in Ely. How do you think the mining companies shaped the communities miners lived in? Was it a postiive or negative influence?
- Use the items in this set to think about different perspectives within iron mining - including mine owners, supervisory employees, mine workers, children of iron miners, the role of women, etc. Break students into small groups and assign each group a particular point of view (or character) represented by these sources. These might include the mine owners, a miner, the wife of a miner, the child of a miner, etc. Each group should use items in this set to considering the following: Describe this character’s role in iron mining. How do they participate? How does this character feel about the institution of mining? What are its advantages and/or disadvantages from his/her perspective? What are this character’s goals? Dreams? Anxieties?
eLibrary Minnesota Resources (for Minnesota residents)
Additional Resources for Research
- Alanen, Arnold R. “Years of Change on the Iron Range.” In Minnesota in a Century of Change: The State and Its People Since 1900, edited by Clifford E. Clark, Jr., 155–194. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1989.
- Holmquist, June Drenning, ed. They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.
- MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society. "Immigration to the Iron Range, 1880–1930." Accessed April 22, 2016. http://www.mnopedia.org/immigration-iron-range-1880-1930
- MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society. "Opening of the Mesabi Iron Range." Accessed April 22, 2016. http://www.mnopedia.org/event/opening-mesabi-iron-range