[Various locations including Baltimore, Texas, Arizona, Mexico, and Peru: 1916-1980s]. Approximately 5,000 photographs, of which perhaps a third are duplicative. Mostly loose black and white photographs, many 8 x 10 inches or larger. Additionally, thousands of stock certificates for ASARCO companies, several official typescript works and documents, and a handful of ephemera and other manuscript materials. Altogether, approximately 7.5 linear feet. Condition generally strong, with images clean and sharp, though some chipping and wear to scrapbooks and earlier photos. Overall, very good. Item #1565
Massive photographic archive documenting mining activities of the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). Originally organized in 1899, ASARCO consolidated numerous mining and smelting operations at its inception and added to its operations over time. It is still in business today, though the company was acquired by Grupo Mexico in 1999 and declared bankruptcy in 2005. Today it operates only two smelters in the United States and is responsible for over twenty superfund sites.
The images present here show operations at numerous plants across both North and South America. These include Baltimore and Tacoma; various locations in Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico; smelters in Idaho, Colorado, and Montana; plants in Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri and several other eastern locations; and numerous mines in Peru and Mexico. Images generally depict the exterior and surrounding areas near the smelter and mine, as well as workers preparing ore and various metal products. Often these can be found in sequence, providing a detailed and step-by-step picture of the processes involved. Most appear to be professional and likely promotional photographs commissioned by the company -- some are noted as being for the newsletter, some for specific magazines or other publications. A substantial number of images in the archive have a photographer's stamp on the verso, and these include such notable firms as Manley Commercial Photography of Tucson, Arizona; Cal-Pictures of San Francisco; Fluor Utah, Inc. in San Mateo; and Tom Upper of Tacoma, Washington. The bulk of the images date from the 1950s through the 1970s.
A substantial portion of the archive focuses on ASARCO plants in the American West. There are significant caches of photos from Texas (ca. 300), Arizona (ca. 200), Tacoma (ca. 300), and Montana (ca. 200). There are about a hundred photos each from California, Idaho, and Colorado. Images from San Francisco show the operation and later demolition of the smokestack at the Selby smelter; the plant there closed in 1970. The earliest images are from ASARCO operations at the copper refinery and mill in Baltimore, dating to 1916 and continuing through the 1950s. Photographs of Baltimore are the most numerous of any single smelting operation, numbering more than 700, together with other documentation. Interestingly, the early photos include several panoramic views of the plant and operations there, comprised of two or more individual photographs combined. Operations continued in Baltimore until the 1970s. The next largest group of images is from Peru. The Toquepala mine and Ilo smelter were opened by the Southern Peru Copper Corporation in 1960, and the images here depict the establishment of operations at those locations. Many of the photos in Peru depict miners down in the mines, as well as their ASARCO housing villages, humanizing the industrial documentation. Throughout the archive, miners can be seen at various phases of work, across time and cultures.
In addition to hundreds if not thousands of stock certificates, other printed and manuscript documentation herein includes a typed history of the Tacoma plant from 1890 to 1980 (38pp.); a typed appraisal of the Federated Metals Division in St. Louis dated 1938 (143pp.); and an ASARCO laboratory manual, dated 1971 -- housed in a very large and official three-ring binder, this item details laboratory safety, analytical methods, and information on thirty-two individual minerals ranging from arsenic to chromium to molybdenum to zinc. There are also numerous pamphlets on safety regulations from individual plants, as well as some union information and other related material.
Altogether, this archive represents a significant photographic record of one of America's largest mining conglomerates, spanning the better part of a century. Despite having been produced by a variety of commercial agencies, there is a general consistency to the prints that one does not always see in such archives. Furthermore, many of the images in the collection have a strong artistic quality, as well, such as the abstracted overhead views of the mines, which are quite striking and unusual. Undeniably useful for students of industrial history, mining history, and photographic documentation. More information regarding the individual breakdown of regional photographs is available upon request.