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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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ZINC. Zinc was also known during the 1800s as "drybone" or "blackjack." There was no market for zinc ore previous to 1860. It was considered so worthless that streets in Hazel Green, Wisconsin, were paved with it.

The rise in the price of zinc ore in 1887 caused miners here to begin operations.

MINING operations began when it was discovered that zinc combined with copper would create bronze. Often explorations for zinc took miners back to the same areas in which they had mined LEAD. Slag heaps of zinc, once an eyesore, became valuable property.

One of the first significant mines in Dubuque was located in Center Grove. Discovered in 1877 at a depth of ten feet, the ore was shipped to LaSalle, Illinois. It was analyzed and found to be of excellent quality. (1) Rich deposits were discovered by J. F. Redman in a crevice forty feet wide. The Avenue Top Mine on Julien Avenue was worked in the 1880s by the firm of Hird, Oatey and Watters. Another mine was opened at Center and Fourteenth STREETS. A boom in zinc mining occurred in 1899 with such mines as Buncombe Hill and Big Dad Mine doing a majority share of the business. (2) It was proposed in 1890 to establish a zinc rolling mill with a capital stock of $100,000. (3)

The Dubuque Zinc Company began operating in 1893 with a capitalization of $100,000. In 1891 E.T. Goldthorpe shipped fifty carloads of ore on which freight charges amounted to $1,600. Zinc mining was a profitable enterprise at the Goose Horn Mine along South Grandview. In 1910 a strike was made at a depth of 170 feet and engineers were continuing to dig in anticipation of even more ore. The Goose Horn was one of the few active mines in 1913 with ore taken at a depth of 190 feet. (4)

In 1944 thirty percent of the zinc mined in the United States came from six counties in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. There were twenty-six active mines in the area employing one thousand men. In addition a new process of electrolysis increased the amount of zinc extracted from the ore from 70% to 90%. Six of the new plants were located in the three state district servicing the twenty-six miles and twenty sites of residue from previous mining operations. With an estimated total of five million tons of zinc in the area, the supply was expected to last 270 years. (5)



1. "A New Mining Enterprise," Dubuque Herald, May 15, 1877, p. 4

2. "Good News From the Goose Horn," Telegraph Herald, March 13, 1910, p. 8

3. "Local News in Brief," The Herald, February 4, 1890, p. 4

4. Minerals Yearbook, United States Bureau of Mines, 1913, p. 96. Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=FowoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA96&lpg=PA96&dq=Goose+Horn+Mine+%28dubuque%29&source=bl&ots=E5S7nqu8Em&sig=tDjHBHETBb6kI4LMMEhDFVrPDLQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CpNyVJSPM4WuyQTN_4L4Cw&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Goose%20Horn%20Mine%20%28dubuque%29&f=false

5. "Area Produces Third of Zinc," Telegraph-Herald, October 3, 1944, p. 3