Mar 20-11

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2011: March: Mar 20-11
Spinning the fuse    ...scroll down to share comments
Courtesy MTU Archives
Explosive seamstress    ...scroll down to share comments
Courtesy MTU Archives
Patented process    ...scroll down to share comments
from Bill Haller
Factory site - Eagle River Falls    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Jonathan Hopper

Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 07:07 am:

During this anniversary month of the Pasty Cam we've been exploring the old fuse factory in Eagle River that was destroyed in 1957. Previous installments have dealt with the buildings and locations where safety fuse was manufactured. This week we take a look at how the product was made.

The first two shots from 1953 appeared in the Daily Mining Gazette "Green Sheet", with thanks to the MTU Archives and Bill Haller for handing them off to Pasty Central. Basically it's a process of infusing white string with black powder, weaving it together on spools. Len Hill watches over this spooling process in the first photo, and Helen Kangas sews the bindings in the second. The patent diagram is from the original filing by Richard Uren, Thomas Dunstone, and Joseph Blight in 1862, the idea that started this whole operation.

We found an interesting video of a similar method being used today to make fuses for fireworks in China. And just to think: this is a process patented by folks from the Keweenaw 149 years ago!

Finally, I had to include a very up-to-date picture of the fuse factory site, which Jonathan took just hours ago as the Supermoon rose over Eagle River Falls. The main fuse factory building stood in the extreme left of the photo, where the moonlight is reflecting in the clearing among the trees. Next Sunday we'll wrap up our visit to this once-thriving business here in our home town.

Have a good week :o)

By DEAN SCHWARTZ SR. (Lulu) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 07:27 am:

I sure enjoy the pictures from the archives. I was wondering if there are list of names of men that worked in the mines ? Charlie I hope you had a very good Birthday .

By Mr. Bill (Mrbill) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 01:50 pm:

Since it appears to be a slow day, I thought this tomb might not be minded:

Lake Superior Safety Fuse Company

aka Joseph Blight & Sons,aka Blight Fuse Factory,
aka The Original Lake Superior Safety Fuse Company
aka the Bawden & Son Fuse Company

Fuse manufacturing began in England as a method of igniting black powder charges in the tin and copper mines of Cornwall. The early versions consisted of hollow goose quills filled with black powder. These proved un-reliable, as did powder filled hollow cat-tail reeds and processed bull-rush pith.

In 1831 the firm of Bickford, Smith & Co. Ltd. of Cornwall, England was issued the first British Patent for safety fuse manufactured by the introduction of black powder inside the twisted fibre plies in twine making machines. A final exterior application of asphalt completed the water-proofing step, and the modern day "safety fuse" was invented.

The manufacturing steps, isolated by various spaced buildings for reason of the eminent explosion hazards, also provided a perfect barrier preventing employees from seeing the entire “secret” manufacturing procedure that while patented, still concealed several unique “state of the art” manufacturing nuances.

In the 1840's, a young Cornish girl by the name of Mary Ann Terrill worked for Bickford-Smith Safety Fuse Company, which was then located in Camborne, England. Mary Ann married Joseph Blight and they moved to the Lake Superior mining district in 1852 , arriving in Copper Harbor. Joseph

Blight trained in Cornwall as an architect and carpenter, began working at the old Keweenaw mine. He later moved to the Copper Falls mine where he aided the construction the first stamp mill in the Keweenaw. After leaving the Copper Falls mine, he and Mary moved to Humbolt, Michigan.

As mining in the United States grew, Bickford established a manufacturing facility in Connecticut, thus making Bickford the only manufacturer of safety fuse in the United States.

While in Humbolt, Joseph Blight met Thomas Dunstan, who along with the advice and direction of Joseph’s experienced fuse-making wife Mary , spent the next three years developing a fuse-making machine. It is not known how they met Californian Richard Uren, but he provided the capital to file for United States Patent No. 37,079 for fuse design, December 2, 1862. Later that month, an obscure company called the Lake Superior Safety Fuse Company was started at the waterfalls of Eagle River, Michigan*, then the center of Michigan's copper mining industry . Initial customers included Calumet & Hecla, Phoenix, North American and Eagle Harbor mines .

[* Although one hand-written document indicates the name was Blight, Uren and Dunstan , as does the History of the Explosives Industry .]

One researcher cites Mrs. Blight as being known very aptly as the “Queen of Fuses”, but unfortunately the source is un-named . Five employees begin working ten hour shifts, producing 25,000 feet of fuse per day .

It should be noted that the Lake Superior Safety Fuse factory was not the first firm to be attracted to the thirty-five foot drop of the river at Eagle River location. Seven years earlier in 1855, the Eagle River Mining Company attempted to blockade and harnesses the river to power eight stamp mill heads. The following spring the blockade was washed away .

Sometime between 1863 and 1865, Uren and Dunstan, but oddly without Blight, form an off-shoot company in California, named the Lake Superior and Pacific Fuse Company. Uncertainty of supply due to the Civil War gave rise to the formation of several fuse manufacturers on the west coast .

... more upon request.

By Mr. Bill (Mrbill) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 03:14 pm:

.. or tome

By ILMHitCC (Ilmhitcc) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 07:13 pm:

Interesting to note that Mary Ann Terrill Blight did
not get her name on the patent, though she was
clearly the fuse-making expert.

By ILMHitCC (Ilmhitcc) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 07:15 pm:

Oh, and Thank You Charlie and Mr. Bill for these
great stories of Keweenaw

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 09:22 pm:

Nice little summary, Bill!! J
Hoping maybe we can get together for lunch this summer and talk some Keweenaw history....

By Charlie at Pasty Central (Chopper) on Monday, March 21, 2011 - 03:45 am:

Here is the original patent number 37079 mentioned above. Notice the spelling of Dunstone's name (later histories often refer to him as Dunstan). Also, notice the witnesses who signed:


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