Mar 13-11

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2011: March: Mar 13-11
Prince's Fuse Factory    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos from Bill Haller
Explosive Memorabilia    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos from Bill Haller

Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 09:02 am:

During this anniversary month - as we begin our 14th year of the Pasty Cam - our Shoebox Memory has been about the old fuse factory in Eagle River, that burned in 1957. But there was at least one other company that cranked out the burning rope. Bill Haller sent the top photo of Prince's Fuse Factory, with a note that said it was located near the present location of McLain State Park. I found one other reference on the 'net that talks about the "Prince and Vivian" fuse factory started in 1867, which was reportedly in East Houghton. We would be grateful to anyone who could shed some light on these references.

Bill also sent along the second photo, very interesting for a couple of reasons. It is a good example of the fuse material they manufactured in those plants, ready to set off that dynamite from the Atlas Powder Company, about which Bill Haller wrote the book. (Don't anybody strike a match!). Also, take a look at those titles... Especially compelling is "BLOWN TO BITS IN THE MINE". This collection of books and mining-era antiques came from Bill's recent exhibit at the Carnegie Library in Houghton, as he was packing it up to head home. Bill says if anyone is interested, he can provide more information about the titles.

Next week we'll take a look at how they made the spools of product at the Lake Superior Fuse Factory. As always, any photos and information on the subject would be welcome, to

Have a good week :o)

By JAD, Orgnst (Jandalq) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 09:52 am:

Gerry McCauslin, who served as manager APC was an active member of the First Presbyterian church in Houghton while my husband, Lloyd Dalquist, was pastor (1955-1965). He and Lulabelle his wife, had a daughter, Nancy (I think). They left Houghton sometime during that time period. I found only one reference to him (there are many others of the same name) under an ACS on Google. In that reference he was president-elect of either ACS or a section of it. It was on pdf which I did not open.

By DEAN SCHWARTZ SR. (Lulu) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 09:59 am:

The book on top of the pile "Blasters Handbook", I hope the reader only had to read it once. I don't think you could go back after a "Oop's, There a few job's that I would not apply for, and a blaster would one of them.

By Richard L. Barclay (Notroll) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 11:11 am:

I found a site this morning
that has some pictures of old blasting caps along with the following warning:
fused blasting cap
Example of the dumbest thing you could do.
Please do not use your teeth
to crimp a non-el cap!

By Jim (Keweenawpress) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 11:27 am:

Hello All,
I found a photo from the Tech Archives of the Vivian and Prince fuse factory. The notes with the photo say it was where the old Houghton swimming beach was. I believe that was on the shore of Portage Lake near the Tech golf course, correct? When you look at the photo from Tech you can see the buildings match up, but there are more trees. Don't know where the McLain reference ties in. All the references I see point to Houghton.

I did not find anything about the "Prince" in Vivian and Prince, but Captain (as in mining captain) Johnson Vivian (1820-1900?) was, of course, a prominent figure in Copper Country History. This Cornish miner and later prosperous businessman came to Eagle Harbor in 1853 and was involved in many mining operations and other businesses over the years, including a power company, Superior National, a store in Laurium, etc. When he passed away he lived on College Avenue in Houghton. Charlie added the photos above
Jim (Keweenawpress) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 11:37 am:

The most interesting mine blasting activity I read about (in the Blown to Bits... book I believe) was putting dynamite on a stove to warm up. As I remember from the book, dynamite (at least in those days) would freeze at a relatively high temperature. When that happened, some miners would place the dynamite container on a stove or other heating element to thaw. Yep, you know what happened next. Classic "what were they thinking?" moments...

By DEAN SCHWARTZ SR. (Lulu) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 01:02 pm:

Jim, I guess they didn't read the chapter about heat and dynamite, in the "Blasters Handbook". Or it was in the next edition.

By Jim (Keweenawpress) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 01:26 pm:

Still not finding much on Mr. Prince. I've found references to an S.L. Prince via a marriage of a daughter and the death of a son. There is a photo of a house in east Houghton in the Tech archives.

Side note: There is a place along the Portage Waterway next to Tech that is called "Prince's Point" and also "Princess Point". It is a small point with a sand beach near where a stream (name?) comes into the waterway. There is also a "Princess Point" near South Entry on the Jacobville side. Also "Princess Point Drive" on the Houghton sands area. Anybody got any info on what name is the correct one for the point near Tech? Origins of the name(s)? Relationship if any to the "Prince" of Vivian and Prince Fuse company?

By Alex "UP-Goldwinger" (Alex) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 01:52 pm:

Say hey good lookin', whatcha got cookin'?
How's about cookin' someth...KABOOM! :)

By Pat & Glenda (Gormfrog) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 03:00 pm:

Benjamin Franklin had a nice saying over the door of the fuse factory: "To cease to think is but little different from ceasing to be."

By Paul H. Meier (Paul) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 04:45 pm:

Back in those good old days, the miners had to pay for the "powder" they used. Discarding frozen dynamite was like throwing money away. They took risks and actually many times it worked. It depended on how fresh the dynamite was. Old dynamite at any temperature was dangerous. Also, the powder companies had winter formulations that reduced the risk of freezing. It was a way of life that we all find pretty unacceptable now.
While I was in the Army I was cadre at Ft. Leonard Wood. For one nerve racking week, I had to teach future Combat Engineers how to detonate TNT. This included crimping caps on fuses and inserting them into the explosive. Nothing like hearing a clicking sound a finding a "Trainee" (I won't use the non-PC word common back then) trying to stick the fuse end into the TNT while the cap end bounced around on the rocks. That could have ruined the whole day for about 6 of us. Maybe even the whole week.

By Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 05:07 pm:

Alicia Marshall emailed us the following about "Stephen Prince" from the 1880 United States Federal Census:

Name: Stephen Prince
Home in 1880: Portage, Houghton, Michigan
Age: 54
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1826
Birthplace: England
Relation to Head of Household: Self (Head)
Spouse's Name: Caroline Prince
Father's birthplace: England
Mother's birthplace: England
Occupation: Fuse Maker
Marital Status: Married
Race: White
Gender: Male
Household Members: Name Age
Stephen Prince 54
Caroline Prince 45
Thomas Prince 25
Leoena Prince 24
Adeline Prince 21
Stephen A. Prince 18
John N. Prince 16
Mary S. Prince 14
Bessie B. Prince 12
William B. Prince 6
This certainly must have been the "S.L. Prince" whose residence is mentioned on the caption that Jim (Keweenawpress) posted above.

Alicia also include this link about the lawsuit involving Prince and Vivian
Eddyfitz (Eddyfitz) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 05:41 pm:

Can I add a few words on Mr. Prince, more on Mr. Vivian later today:
PRINCE FAMILY The head of this family was Stephen Prince, born in England around 1826, probably in Cornwall. He was in the Copper County by the 1860s in Keweenaw County, working at the Phoenix Mine. He shifted to the Portage Lake Mining District. He lived in Houghton and also had some property that became Prince’s Point, not far from Dollar Bay.

In any case, Stephen Prince teamed up with Captain Johnson Vivian, in that era probably the best connected mining man. He had been captain or superintendent at the Copper Falls, Phoenix, Hancock, Franklin, Pewabic, and Huron mines. He had also created an extensive, successful commercial empire, and owned huge tracts of land in Houghton and Hancock. One of his operations was Vivian & Prince, makers of safety fuses for the mining industry.

The 1880 census lists the Prince family as living in the village of Houghton, where young Thomas “keeps a fancy store.” The father, Stephen, was listed as a safety fuse maker, as were daughters Leona and Adeline, in their early twenties. Thomas may have later joined the firm. In later years Thomas
was a printer in Hancock. It is not known when the firm of Vivian & Prince stopped production, but it was probably before the death of Captain Johnson Vivian in 1909.

One of Stephen’s sons, John, born in Keweenaw County in 1864, became a mine machinist, then moved to Anaconda, Montana, around 1890. He died at the family home in Houghton in 1901. Another son, Stephen A. Prince, born in 1866, was part of the Copper Country Cornish group for years. He married Fannie Trezona of Houghton, daughter of a mining captain.

Stephen spent most of 1898 in Gogebic County, where he was the supply clerk at the Tilden Mine in Wakefield. In early summer of 1899 he shifted to Ontonagon County, where he became the clerk and purchasing agent of the Adventure Mining Company. Life of a mine clerk is not necessarily without excitement. In 1905, a miner at the Adventure Mine was arrested for sending threatening letters to Prince. He was convinced that Prince kept a “black list” regarding what men to hire; there had been a strike at the Adventure, and the disgruntled miner blamed Prince for his troubles.

Prince appears to have remained at the Adventure through World War I. However, by 1920 he was living in Itasca County, Minnesota, teaching agricultural courses. He was still there into the 1930s, director of the school’s garden programs

By Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 06:00 pm:

Let me propose a theory about this factory, which I hope you might research to either support or refute. By the way, I have to apologize if you tried to follow the link in my first post about the "Prince and Vivian" fuse factory, which was entered incorrectly. Taking the information from all of the links and pictures, here is my theory:

Theory: Johnson Vivian and Stephen L. Prince started a safety fuse factory in East Houghton in 1867, when Prince was 41. They operated successfully until the parcel of the original factory location was condemned for the purpose of constructing the railroad. They were forced to move the fuse factory, at which time Captain Vivian sold his interest to Stephen Prince. The new factory (known simply as “Prince’s Fuse Factory”) was constructed at the site of the present day park a mile west of Hancock known as Hancock Recreation Area - Beach & Campground on M-203.
There’s my theory. It would suggest why Bill Haller heard that the factory was near McLain State Park, farther up the road on M-203. It would account for the alternate names of “Prince and Vivian Fuse Factory” and “Prince’s Fuse Factory”, and it fits the topography of the winter/summer pictures above, along the Portage Canal west of Houghton/Hancock, when records show the original was built east of the sister cities.

Oh – one final note – the name of the street that runs through the present day recreation area is: Powder Drive.
a mile west of Hancock on M-203
courtesy of

kay Moore (Mskatie) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 06:05 pm:

Writing about explosives and the results...seems to me that once I read (in maybe Reader's Digest) about a horrid explosion at Halifax, Nova Scotia that almost totally destroid that city. The cause as I rember, was a ship of explosives used in mining that caught fire in the harbor. Suppose to have been compared to so much nuclear bomb in history. Any one else ever heard of that?

By Mr. Bill (Mrbill) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 06:35 pm:


An old plat, shame on me I cannot remember the date, showed the property about where Hancock Park is today as belonging to the PRINCE FUSE COMPANY.

Great input - more than is published about this short-lived manufacturer.

Pasty's history eagles strike again!

By Mr. Bill (Mrbill) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 06:56 pm:

Another tidbit:

Richard Taylor's "HOUGHTON COUNTY 1870 - 1920", page 58, cites the following:

"... in later years, the area on the Portage Lake in front of the plant would become a popular swimming beach called Princes Point"

By Eddyfitz (Eddyfitz) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 07:08 pm:

a small part of info on Johnson Vivian
The Huron Mine needs a considerable outlay of money to provide all the facilities for working the mine as the other mines in the vicinity of Portage Lake are worked. There is no mine under better management, none where more has been accomplished under such adverse conditions. Capt. Vivian has put a world of energy in the work of rehabilitating this old mine. He knows perfectly well what is necessary to render it a success, and knows that what he is able to do is far from adequate to accomplish such a result. Still, he does not relax any effort. In fact, it requires the greatest watchfulness, the best management—and no management could be better than his—to hold to the position already achieved. He illustrates that Johnny Bull perseverance and tenacity of purpose that in so many ways have done so much for the world’s advancement.

Vivian was well known, respected, and becoming wealthy. He erected a fine home in Houghton, and opened a merchant house in Laurium, the J. Vivian, Jr. & Company, a large general firm with more than fifty employees, mostly serving copper mining camps and towns. Vivian was also a major stockholder and on the board of Superior Savings Bank in Hancock, the State Savings Bank in Laurium, the Electric Light & Power Company, and the Lake Superior Soap Company. He was also the senior member of Vivian & Prince, a firm that manufactured safety fuse for mine blasting work.

Captain Johnson Vivian retired in 1896 and died in Houghton on June 16, 1909. Son John was a local druggist, son Joseph was an agent for the Boston & Montana Copper Company, and Vivian, Jr., remained at the helm of the merchant house in Laurium. Captain Vivian had inherited the Cornish interest and talent for mining, and in the New World he had half a century of success in responsible leadership positions, in the mining as well as in the commercial worlds
Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 11:43 pm:

The ship that exploded in the Halifax harbour in 1917 was the Mont Blanc. I don't remember its full payload, but it carried gun cotton and TNT in addition to other explosive chemicals. Another ship, the Imo (I think), struck the Mont Blanc as both of them were leaving the harbour. Fire broke out and the crew of the Mont Blanc abandoned ship immediately. With no one steering the ship, it came to rest against some of the docks in Halifax and exploded. Pieces of the ship landed all over Halifax, causing extensive damage and killing about 2000 people. When I was a kid in Canada, I vaguely remember hearing that it was the largest non-nuclear explosion caused by man. I have no idea how true that statement is, because there have been other major explosions, such as the Valley Camp in Galveston Texas, which was carrying a load of fertiliser when it exploded. You can still see pieces of the Valley Camp where they landed all over Texas City.

By Deb S. (Usedtobeayooper) on Monday, March 14, 2011 - 08:05 am:

This is just a test to see if I can log in or not. Having sooooo many problems.

By Martha Kirk (Misschiefie) on Monday, March 14, 2011 - 03:43 pm:

Actually, the Mont Blanc wasn't carrying mining supplies, but explosives and munitions and was to be part of a convey headed to Europe in World War I. And it is, indeed, still the largest man-made accidental explosion.

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