Frisco, Id. 1890-1897. Eighty-five documents, mostly autograph letters, signed, totaling 103 pages, almost all on some version of Helena & Frisco Mining Company letterhead. Original mailing folds, occasional minor foxing, smudging, or light staining, many with secretarial stamps reading "Received" or "Answered." All letters sleeved in chronological order in two three-ring binders. Very good. Item #2263
An informative collection of correspondence almost exclusively written by Joseph MacDonald, Manager of the Helena & Frisco Mining Company at Frisco, Canyon Creek, Idaho to D.P. Patenaude of the A.M. Holter Hardware Company in Helena, Montana. A handful of letters were written by other officials of the two companies, including two letters on stationery featuring the company’s original name, the Helena & San Francisco Mining Company, both dated 1890. The present letters are largely concerned with the machinery and equipment necessary to operate a mining company in the Far West in the last decade of the 19th century.
The letters contain a wealth of information on equipment such as air compressors, oil, screens, furnaces, wire, fuses, valves, and much more, as well as appraisals of specific suppliers, queries about equipment ordered, and reviews on the efficacy of various materials and machinery. For example, a letter dated April 15, 1896 reads, "Dear Sir, Enclosed you will please find our order #465. I am told that one of these hand grenades thrown into a fire is equal to about 20 buckets of water, and if that is so I think it would be a good caution to have about 4 dozen distributed all over the works...." Particularly useful is a two-page list of supplies enumerating over fifty line items from cylinders and rotating bars to jam nuts and leather packing; this is one of the few documents here that is not correspondence. There are also a handful of letters regarding damages caused by the railroad to an order of pipe. One example from this group reads, in part: "Enclosed I send you a communication received from Mr. Boyd Asst. Divisions Supt. N.P.R.R. Co. at Wallace, upon my inquiry regarding claims to damages I sent him some time ago...."
The Helena & Frisco Mining Company operated mines along Canyon Creek in the Coeur d'Alene mining district of Shoshone County, Idaho. The most productive district in Idaho, the area chiefly produced lead, zinc, and silver. The company was owned by a group in Helena, Montana with principal owners being S.T. Hauser, A.M. Holter, and John T. Murphy. A.M. Holter was also the proprietor of the A.M. Holter Hardware Company, to whom most of the letters are addressed, though MacDonald mostly writes specifically to Holter's manager, D.P. Patenaude. It is a bit curious that the mining company, partially owned by Holter, is buying supplies from a separate company owned by him, but this was apparently a fairly regular practice in the mining industry (and other industries in the age before anti-trust laws). The author of most of the letters, Joseph MacDonald was the manager of the Helena & Frisco Mining Company and other mines throughout the West. Interestingly, MacDonald was the manager at the time of the Coeur d'Alene labor strike of 1892 which ended in violence, including a shootout and the destruction of the Frisco Mill.
A valuable source for the equipage and economics of the mining industry in the American West in the last decade of the 19th century.