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“Company Town: Arizona’s Copper Mining Communities During 100 Years of Statehood” (exhibit)

Alfred T. Diaz, San Manuel, Arizona, 1962./Fom the personal collection of Joseph R. Diaz

Dates: January 6, 2012 - March 30, 2012

Location:   Science-Engineering Library

Contact: Bob Diaz


A new exhibit at the UA Science-Engineering Library shares 100 years of stories, struggles and triumphs from Arizona’s copper mining communities. “Company Town: Arizona’s Copper Mining Communities During 100 Years of Statehood,” on display from Jan. 6 – March 30, is one of several exhibits, lectures and events hosted by the University Libraries in celebration of the state’s Centennial.

The history of mining in Arizona is rich and colorful with silver, gold, and copper all having been discovered and mined in the state. The first mining company in Arizona was established in Ajo in the 1850s. The arrival of the railroad brought a booming industry to Clifton-Morenci, Bisbee and Jerome, all yielding vast quantities of rich copper ore.

Throughout the 20th century, while companies like the Phelps-Dodge Corporation made significant profits, the mining workers’ salary was often not a living wage. Conditions in the mines were dangerous and unhealthy; many miners developed a lung disease now referred to as “miner’s lung.” In this context, labor relations between workers and the mine owners throughout Arizona’s history have been volatile, and at times violent. And, as mining was the primary source of economic stability in these communities, when those companies left town so too did the stability and livelihood of entire communities.

“Company Town” features a broad range of unique material selected from Special Collections extensive Southwest and Borderlands holdings, as well as Special Collections mining-related archives. An in-depth selection of photographs, pamphlets, original manuscripts, ephemera, federal and state reports and personal papers illustrates a century of experiences by depicting daily life, health issues, labor disputes and political struggles endemic in Arizona’s mining communities. Highlights include photographs from the turn of the century of mining operations in Bisbee, Morenci, and Ajo, as well as original documents, some as early as the 1880s.

The materials on display detail the history of eight Arizona mining communities – Ajo, Bisbee, Clifton-Morenci, Globe-Miami, Jerome, Ray-Sonora, San Manuel and Superior – and show that these communities were more than just a mine, and the people more than just mining workers.

One community in particular, Clifton-Morenci, was the epicenter of the Arizona copper mine strike of 1983. Anna Ochoa O’Leary, a professor in the UA department of Mexican American and Raza Studies, lived in Clifton during the strike and was the president of the Morenci Miners Women's Auxiliary in Clifton from 1985 to 1986. Professor Ochoa O’Leary will deliver a closing lecture recalling those experiences as well as sharing the stories of life and family in Arizona’s mining communities from a female perspective. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held on March 6 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. in the UA Science-Engineering Library.

Related Coverage
AZ Daily Star | Netos' Tucson: Mining's history interwoven with Arizona's
UANews | Mine Exhibit Brought to Life Through Special Collections (video)