Gold and Tailings: The Standard Mill at Bodie, California

When examining industrial facilities, industrial archaeologists often pay greater attention to the facilities’ products than they do to the facilities’ byproducts. Nevertheless, paying close attention to byproducts is an important facet of making an industrial facility profitable. This articl examines the Standard mill, a turn-of-the-20th-century facility for treating gold ores at Bodie, California. Focusing on some easily ignored equipment in the Standard mill, namely the Frenier pumps used for moving tailings, the article aims to show how understanding and interpreting the pumps can lead to greater appreciation of what it took to make the Standard mill profitable over a relatively long period of time.

The primary focus in industry is generally on the process of production and on that which is produced. Managers, directors, and workers sometimes pay relatively little attention to the byproducts of industry. The same is true of the work of those who study industry, including industrial archaeologists and historians of technology.[1] We focus on the commodities and artifacts that are the products of industry; we investigate the buildings, equipment, skills, and ideologies that are parts of the means of production; and we examine the lives of the families, workers, engineers, managers, and capitalists who are engaged in one way or another with production. But we often ignore the byproducts of industry—the management of which is usually as important to ongoing operations as the management of products.

The mining industry is one in which there has been a long tradition of attention to wastes and byproducts. That attention has not always been with an eye toward environmental protection, but it has been for the purpose of improving the overall process of production with an eye on profits. By means of a case study of the Standard mill at Bodie, California, this article explores how a focus on byproducts can enhance understanding of how important attention to wastes has been in the mining industry. This case study thereby encourages industrial archaeologists and historians of technology giving attention to wastes.

Bodie is a ghost town owned and administered by California State Parks.[2] It is one of the largest ghost towns in the U.S., and Cal Parks uses it to interpret aspects of the history of gold mining in the American West. The Standard mill at Bodie is significant as an intact example of the “model California stamp mill” that emerged from the flowering of 19th-century developments in mining and milling technologies in the wake of the California gold rush. The building represents the standard form of the California stamp mill, and it houses the full array of equipment that exemplified stamp-milling practice at the turn of the 20th century. At the heart of the Standard mill are the batteries of stamps that pulverized ore in order to expose particles of gold and make them available for recovery during subsequent steps in the process. The stamp mill derived its name from those stamps. It was the deafening stamps that made, by far, the most noise when a stamp mill was in operation. It is around the stamps that Cal Parks understandably orients much of its interpretation of the Standard mill. But, as with any industrial operation, there was much more to profitably milling gold ore than stamping, including close attention to wastes.

In the 19th century, as now, several factors contributed to determining whether a metallurgical operation was profitable. At the head of the list was the nature of the ore, including its richness, its chemical and physical character, and the cost of producing it at the mine. Then there were the operating costs of capital, equipment, energy, and labor. Also important was the effectiveness of the operation at removing the desired metal or metals from the ore. Finally, there were the cost of transporting the product to market and the price the operation was able to fetch for its product.[3] Activities at the mine and the dynamics of the market are beyond the scope of this article.

The Standard mill portrays the typical characteristics of the California stamp mill, but two of the mill’s special features make it a noteworthy historic industrial resource. One feature, its early electrification, may be familiar to readers aware of the early milestones of electrification in the U.S. Indeed, electrification of the Standard mill is a facet of the means of production and the reduction of operating costs by reducing the cost of energy that is more typically a subject for students of the mining industry.

The other special feature is more subtle and has escaped the notice of everyone else who has studied the Standard mill. The subtle feature is the mill’s set of modifications allowing it to economically reprocess tailings. Until recent environmental histories of the mining industry, technologies for handling tailings have received little attention among historians of the mining industry.[4] Yet it was the close attention to tailings paid by managers and engineers of the Standard mill around the turn of the 20th century that allowed it to more effectively extract gold from ore and to operate another dozen or so years and likely contributed to the mill surviving to present. This article highlights the attention paid to tailings at the Standard mill and suggests that interpreting the tailings-related features of the mill can give today’s visitors a fuller appreciation of how mining companies remained profitable.

The Metallurgical Challenge of Extracting Gold from Ore

A brief summary of the characteristics of gold is important to understanding the challenges faced by miners at Bodie and elsewhere in the 19th century. Gold often occurs in nature in its native state, meaning gold is rarely chemically bound with other elements to form mineral compounds. On the other hand, native gold, when found in nature, is almost always alloyed to some degree with silver in what may be called a solid solution. Gold that is alloyed with silver (15–35 percent silver) is often called electrum. Both gold and silver amalgamate readily with mercury, a property that has long been a boon to the practice of extracting gold. When gold exists in ore in such a state that it can be extracted by simple amalgamation, it is called free-milling gold. The amalgam of gold, silver, and mercury can be converted to a block of bullion by treating it in a retort, which is essentially a mercury still. The amalgam is placed in a furnace and heated to a temperature in excess of 400° C, at which point the gold and silver are molten and the mercury vaporizes. The mercury vapors are captured in tubing, cooled, and condensed back to liquid mercury, which can be reused for subsequent amalgamation. The molten gold and silver are cast into bullion bars for shipment to the mint, which separates gold from silver in the process of refining.[5] Separating gold from silver is of little concern to the miner.

Although silver also occurs in nature in its native state (often alloyed more or less with gold), it differs from gold in that it will also frequently occur chemically bound with other elements, like chlorine or sulfur. Historically, the process for recovering free-milling silver was very like that for recovering free-milling gold. Some rich silver ore deposits, however, feature the metal in a more complex mineral, like a sulfide, in which form the silver is not amenable to extraction by simple amalgamation. Over the years, miners and metallurgists devised methods for treating silver ores, like leaching or roasting with salt, that either put the silver in solution or chemically changed the mineral so that the silver was susceptible to amalgamation.[6]

Although gold rarely presented such problems, it nevertheless was not always found as free-milling gold. Ores not readily susceptible to amalgamation were called “rebellious ores” in the 19th century.[7] Particles of gold may be coated with a thin film that prevents the mercury from wetting the gold. Gold may occur in the presence of sulfides of other metals, like iron or lead (called sulphuretes in the 19th- and the early-20th centuries), which inhibit the amalgamation of gold and mercury. Gold may also occur with elements like arsenic or antimony, which form a thin coating on the mercury and thus discourage amalgamation.[8] Such problem ores are called refractory ores, especially if they cannot be treated by cyanidation.[9]

The process of treating gold ore to extract gold (and silver) and, therefore, produce bullion is called milling. The building housing the process is called a mill. The finely pulverized material that is rejected from the mill after the gold has been extracted is called tailings. Operators of mills exhibited keen interest in tailings, the waste product of their milling process. Mill operators were in the habit of assaying their tailings to see how effective the milling process was. If there was still considerable gold in the tailings, then operators knew that there was the potential to improve the effectiveness of the milling process and thereby increase revenue and profits.[10] That potential had to be weighed against other factors, like the cost of storing tailings for later re-treatment and the profits available by using existing capital and plant for treating fresh ores that would yield their riches relatively easily.[11]

Managers of the Standard mill at Bodie had to struggle with these characteristics of gold in their ore. The building and equipment that survive embody components of the strategies Standard’s managers devised to make their company profitable while others in the district quickly fell by the wayside. In its shape and layout, the building is a superb specimen of the model California stamp mill that by 1900 had evolved through several decades of trial and development. The Standard mill houses nearly a full complement of the kinds of equipment that the California mill utilized for crushing ore and recovering gold by amalgamation. Moreover, the Standard mill houses early electrical apparatus that is indicative of the mill’s pioneer status in the electrification of the American West. But the chapter of the Standard mill’s history in which Standard’s managers triumphed over their rebellious ores is nearly hidden from view by the mill’s major equipment. That chapter involved the treatment of tailings with cyanide, a process that took place in another building, long ago destroyed. Fortunately for the fuller understanding of Standard’s history, a set of novel but prosaic-looking pumps link the extant mill to that chapter in its history. To appreciate those pumps and that chapter, Bodie’s earlier history must be reviewed.

Origins of the Bodie District

The Bodie mining district is not contiguous with California’s primary quartz mining areas, and its discovery and development occurred later. During the first couple years of the famed 1849 California gold rush, individuals and small companies of miners staked mining claims along streams on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. They used water to wash and separate specks of gold from fluvial sands and gravels. The miner’s simplest tool was the hand-held pan. To process greater quantities of sands, a miner might use a “rocker box” or “long Tom,” but individuals were generally limited in how much material they could move through their gold-gathering tools. Companies of men assembled, so together they could use shovels and the flow of a stream to move larger quantities of sands through sluice boxes, which were long wooden flumes with periodic riffles along the bottom, behind which gold collected. Excavation down to bedrock allowed miners to find nearly all the gold there was to be found. The migration to California was of such magnitude, however, that by the end of 1852, gold seekers had worked most of the easily excavated streamside and streambed materials.[12]

Meanwhile, miners near Nevada City, California, had discovered in 1850 that there was also much gold to be found in the gravel hills flanking streams. They did not have to limit their diggings to the banks, bars, and beds of the streams themselves. At first miners used shovels to dig shafts into the hills, employing a method called “coyote mining.” In a series of backbreaking tasks, the miners hoisted gravels from the shafts and carried the material to streamside where they could wash it and separate out the gold. The first man to devise a more efficient method to work the Tertiary gravels on his hillside claim near Nevada City was Anthony Chabot, a French-Canadian whose trade was that of a sailmaker. In 1852, he built some wooden penstocks, which delivered water to his claim under a 50-foot head. He used the skills of his trade to make a canvas hose to run water from the bottom of the penstocks out across his claim with enough pressure to erode the ground. Aiding the force of water with his own shovel, he ran the eroded material through a ditch on his claim. Periodically, he would shut off the water so that he could collect bits of gold that had settled in the bed of his ditch. Chabot’s method came to be called ground sluicing.[13]

As placer mining grew more sophisticated in the transition from simple pans, rockers, and sluices to mammoth hydraulic excavations, another type of mining gradually emerged that turned gold mining in California into a truly industrial enterprise. Called quartz mining, the method had two salient characteristics: digging gold-bearing rock from the earth and crushing the rock mechanically to expose and recover particles of gold locked within. Placer miners believed that the gold they were mining had probably originated in similar rock, that eons ago the rock had weathered and eroded, and that subsequent fluvial action had deposited the gold in the alluvial beds they were working. The putative source rock was called the mother lode—the vein of gold-bearing rock somewhere upstream from which the placer gold had eroded.[14]

In the 1860s and 1870s, Grass Valley and Nevada City, both located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada in the drainage of the South Fork Yuba River (Nevada County), were California’s principal quartz-mining towns. Intensive quartz mining also occurred along a 120-mile-long belt further south known as the Mother Lode. By the mid-1860s, though, quartz was not yet the main source of gold in California. California was still the nation’s leading producer of precious metals in 1866, producing an estimated $25,000,000 worth of gold and silver. Of that, about $2,000,000 came from easily won surface placers, perhaps as much as $9,000,000 came from quartz operations, and well over half came from the deep placers that were worked by using hydraulicking. Early quartz mines employed relatively crude stamp mills, but the technology began to improve greatly in the late 1860s when a few miners returned from the Nevada silver mines where pan amalgamation and the chlorination process had been greatly improved for the recovery of precious metals from complex ores. Those improvements fostered more permanent communities in California’s mining country, based on an industrial order, and many of the mines continued to be productive well into the 20th century.[15]

Bodie is located in Mono County, near the California-Nevada border and east of the Sierra Nevada range. A small group of prospectors, including a man named William Bodey, first discovered gold in the high valley that would become Bodie. The group made its discovery in 1859, but the following year a discovery 12 miles to the northeast drew attention to the new boomtown of Aurora, Nevada. Meanwhile, the Bodie camp showed little more than promise. The Bodie Bluff Consolidated Mining Company, of which Leland Stanford was president, was Bodie’s first corporation in 1863, but the company invested little in development and soon failed. Through the 1860s and 1870s, several individuals and small companies continued to explore claims on Bodie Bluff and other hills near Bodie, working their ore with crude mills and arrastras and occasionally earning some profits, but the camp languished generally. One important firm, the Syndicate Mining Company, incorporated in October 1875 and acquired the old Empire mill. Two years later, when the newly organized Standard Gold Mining Company began hoisting ore from its Bunker Hill-Bullion property, it sent its ore to the Syndicate mill for treatment, proving the wealth of Standard’s ore body. There followed a boom in new companies incorporated to develop other properties in the Bodie district, and a sudden rush of capital flowed to Bodie to underwrite development.[16]

Having proved the value of its ore at the Syndicate mill, the Standard Company decided almost immediately to build its own mill at the base of the hill on the east side of town. Completed in July 1877, the mill housed 20 stamps, blanket sluices, a series of 20 settlers, 16 pans, and 2 agitators, all for treating pulp discharged from the stamps. An aerial tramway delivered ore to the mill from the company’s shaft near the top of High Peak. The company sent tailings washed from the pans to impoundments west of the mill along the east side of Bodie Creek. In February 1879, the Standard Gold Mining Company reorganized as the Standard Consolidated Mining Company.[17] By setting tailings aside for possible re-treatment, the Standard Company’s management exhibited its progressive character. Mill operators on the Comstock Lode in Nevada had been recognizing the potential value of tailings for at least a decade and had developed practical means of impounding tailings in reservoirs for re-treatment. Some entrepreneurs in the Comstock district had built mills solely to reprocess tailings, including those saved in reservoirs as well as tailings deposited along the floodplain of the Carson River. In like manner, not long after milling began at Bodie, entrepreneurs built tailings mills in the canyon downstream (north) of the camp to reprocess wastes discharged from stamp mills.[18] The Standard mill’s location made it convenient to impound its tailings on the large flat adjacent to the mill rather than lose the tailings for someone else to reprocess.

The new Standard Consolidated prospered for several years, but in the late 1880s, as most of Bodie’s other mining companies went out of business, Standard began to languish as well.[19] Before describing how the Standard Company pulled itself out of its doldrums, largely through improvements to its milling process, a review of the evolution of the model California mill is in order.

Development of the California Stamp Mill

The beginnings of quartz mining in California in 1850 more prominently featured the stamp mill, based on northern European sources rather than Spanish methods like the arrastra or the Chile (or Chilean) mill.[20] A stamp mill is similar to a mortar and pestle. Indeed, the vessel holding the ore being crushed is called a mortar. A stamp mill works by repeatedly dropping one or more heavy stamps on ore in the mortar. To mechanize the repeated lifting and dropping of the stamps, a rotating cam typically engages a tappet on the stem of each stamp. A battery of stamps dropping in a single mortar can all be lifted by cams arranged along a single shaft. Georgius Agricola, in his 1556 treatise on mining, De Re Metallica, illustrated such an arrangement featuring five stamps being lifted by a water-powered camshaft.[21] The method spread throughout Germany and by the early-17th century was also widely used in Cornwall. The technology imported by American miners was often called the Cornish stamp. It had been used in quartz mines of the southeastern U.S. for several decades prior to its adoption by California miners in the early 1850s. The Cornish stamp mill typically had four stamps per battery. The wooden stem or shaft of each stamp had a rectangular section. At the bottom of each stem was a head of cast iron. The head gave the stamp its great weight, and its bottom side provided the crushing surface that dropped on ore sitting in the bottom of the mortar.[22]

Various claims exist for the first stamp mill in California. One was put in operation in 1850 by John Burnett of Mariposa County, where California’s first quartz vein was discovered. Burnett’s mill had several mortars, each with but a single stamp of about 300 pounds. The next year at Grass Valley and Nevada City, both in Nevada County, several parties built stamp mills. W. J. Wright of Grass Valley built a four-stamp mill in January 1851. Stanford, Fisk & Company built a similar mill on the Cosumnes River at about the same time. By the end of the year, a handful of other stamp mills had also been built in Nevada County. Typically, the stamps had wooden stems, and each stamp weighed about 500 pounds. Early mill operators simply ran the crushed pulp through riffled sluice boxes to recover the gold.[23] From these crude beginnings an important metallurgical industry grew.

In the first few years of quartz mining in California, miners troubled themselves only with ores that would yield gold and silver in arrastras or in stamp mills. They knew, however, that there were many rebellious ores that would be profitable to mine only if a method (be it mechanical, thermal, or chemical) could be found to extract the precious metals. Much of the technical innovation in the 19th century was therefore aimed at recovering gold that was not free milling. Nevada was the scene of several important developments, including improved methods of pan amalgamation, such as the Washoe process, in which chemicals like salt (sodium chloride) and bluestone (copper sulfate) were added to the pulp of finely ground ore and quicksilver being worked in the pan. Pan amalgamation became one of the important features of what came to be called the California stamp mill.

A California stamp mill was a building housing all the basic equipment needed to crush ore and recover gold and silver. Typically set into a hillside so material could move through most stages in the process by gravity, the mill received ore on the uphill side. Ore delivered to the mill dropped on “grizzlies”—a series of parallel iron bars spaced a couple inches apart that allowed the finer ore to drop into ore bins and sent the coarser ore to a rock breaker. Ore from the bins and the breaker went to the stamps, the central feature of a stamp mill, to be pulverized to the desired particle size. A slurry of water and fine particles of ore, called pulp, passed through fine screens and flowed across aprons coated with mercury. The easily recovered gold particles in the pulp would amalgamate with the mercury, and periodically mill workers would clean the amalgam from the aprons. The pulp flowing off the ends of the aprons would then be subjected to a variety of other processes to recover additional gold. The California stamp mill typically included vanners, which were mechanical devices for separating concentrates (heavier, metal-bearing particles) from tailings (lighter, nonmetal-bearing particles). Concentrates were then charged to amalgamating pans, where further grinding and chemical action exposed additional gold to mercury so that more amalgam could be formed and recovered.[24]

Although a process called chlorination was also sometimes effective in releasing gold from rebellious ores, a significant breakthrough with widespread application did not arise until metallurgists learned how to use cyanide effectively in mineral processing. Potassium cyanide (KCN) had been known since the late-18th century as among the few chemical compounds that will dissolve gold. A group in Scotland known as the MacArthur-Forrest syndicate patented a method of using this property of cyanide in 1887. Over the next few years, they worked to develop their patent into a practical process, establishing subsidiary companies on several continents to hold the patent rights while various mines tried to use cyanide. After 1889 the cyanide process breathed new life into many dwindling mining camps, first in New Zealand, then in Australia and South Africa, and finally at Mercur, Utah, in 1892, giving operators a means of extracting gold that could not otherwise be won.[25] Pan amalgamation and the cyanide process were to be important in sustaining the operating life of the Standard mill at Bodie.

Professional Engineers Continue Standard’s Success

To pull the Standard Company out of its decline, the officers asked Arthur Macy to inspect the property in 1890 and make recommendations. Macy was an experienced mining engineer who had worked at Arizona’s Silver King mine and elsewhere in the West. After submitting a positive report, he agreed to take charge of the operations on condition that the company would make $50,000 available to him for capital improvements. Although Macy spent most of the money making underground improvements, he did make a significant improvement to the Standard mill as well. During the summer of 1890, he installed Frue vanners and showed that gravity concentration prior to sending the pulp to the amalgamating pans could help put the operation on an economical footing.[26] Macy’s hiring began a practice by Standard Consolidated of employing skilled engineers to superintend the operation at Bodie. Such was not always the case at small western stamp mills where companies often put men in charge who were noteworthy for their mechanical skills, not their understanding of metallurgical theory or practice.[27]

The Standard Company next hired Thomas Leggatt to superintend the mine and mill at Bodie. His two most important changes in improving economies of the operation were (1) to experiment with and add the cyanide process to the operation, thereby increasing net revenue; and (2) to shift from steam to electrical power, thereby reducing costs. Use of the cyanide process grew out of a series of tests Leggatt undertook to find a way to recover additional gold from the Standard mill’s tailings. During summer 1892, he had an area of the Standard tailings dump plowed in an attempt to accelerate oxidation of minerals in the pulp. Then he had the tailings excavated and re-treated in amalgamating pans, yielding inferior bullion. Leggatt sent a sample of more than a ton of Standard tailings to the Denver laboratory of the Gold and Silver Extraction Company of America, Ltd., the U.S. representative of the MacArthur-Forrest syndicate in Glasgow, Scotland, which held the patent on a cyanide process for recovering gold from ore. The results showed, he concluded, that gold recovered by the Forrest-MacArthur process would not pay for costs plus licensing fees. In 1893, Leggatt began corresponding with J. S. C. Wells, one of his old professors at the Columbia School of Mines, to find a means of leaching gold from Standard ore, concentrates, or tailings to improve the company’s overall gold recovery rate. Leggatt sent samples to Wells’s Columbia laboratory for tests using chlorination under pressure. The Standard Company also received letters that year from companies using the cyanide process, including the Gold and Silver Extraction Company, which was still soliciting Standard’s business, and the Mechanical Gold Extraction Company of New York, which used cyanide in a higher concentration than that recommended by the MacArthur-Forrest patent.[28]

While visiting San Francisco in 1893, Leggatt met Alexis Janin, who was running experiments on the cyanide process, in a laboratory with Charles W. Merrill, both of whom were important in the dissemination of cyanide technologies throughout the American West. After Janin and Merrill demonstrated impressive gold recovery on the sample Leggatt sent them, the company’s officers authorized construction of a separate mill capable of treating 100 tons of Standard tailings daily using the cyanide process. Construction began in June 1894 on a mine waste dump near the entrance of the Bulwer Tunnel mine opening, north of the Standard mill and up the hill from the Standard Company’s tailings. The plant began operating that September. Leggatt claimed it was the first of that size on the West Coast.[29] The plant had several vats 20 feet in diameter. Each vat had a capacity of 80 tons of tailings. Leaching with cyanide and washing with water took as long as 40 hours per vat. The “liquor” holding the gold in solution was drained from the vats and sent to zinc boxes, where the gold precipitated out as a slime, which had to be collected from the boxes and melted to yield bullion.[30]

A month after Standard’s cyanide plant started re-treating tailings, Merrill’s analysis showed that costs of operation were less than $1.25/ton to extract gold and silver worth about $4.00/ton. By December 1894, Standard’s new cyanide plant had recovered $16,000 worth of gold and silver, an important contribution to the company’s total receipts of $259,790 for 1894. One drawback of the cyanide operation, however, was that the tailings impoundments froze in cold weather, making it unfeasible to continue operations through the winter. By Christmas 1894, Standard’s profitable new cyanide plant was closed for the season. In 1895, of a total $197,106 in revenue, the Standard Company derived 40 percent ($78,937) from re-treating tailings at its cyanide plant. During the winter of 1896–97, Standard began experimenting with a method for pumping tailings through a pipe directly from the stamp mill to the cyanide plant, hoping to obviate the need for winter closure. The Standard Company also built a second cyanide plant down in Bodie Canyon, where natural topography had collected a sizeable deposit of tailings that flowed out of Bodie’s other mills. By that time, three other companies were operating cyanide plants at Bodie as well. One of them was the Southend Cyanide plant, also called the Booker Flat plant, owned by a group that included J. S. Cain, who would become important in Standard’s later history. The Southend plant began operating in September 1895. By 1898, the cyanide plants at Bodie were treating about 15,000 tons of tailings each month.[31]

Leggatt’s other major innovation was to use electricity to power Standard’s mining and milling operations at Bodie. Because Bodie is located in high, open country, fuel presented an early problem to miners, especially after the Standard Mining Company struck its rich vein in 1877. In the absence of nearby streams with sufficient flow for water power or of nearby coal deposits, the only practical fuel source was wood hauled from the east slopes of the Sierra Nevada or the hills around Bridgeport. Bodie residents needed sawn lumber for erecting buildings and wood to keep warm during the town’s bitter winters. The mines needed vast quantities of wood to stoke their boilers year-round. The tremendous demand for firewood and the uncertainty of the severity of winters led to some wild speculation and high prices in the lumber business supplying Bodie.[32] Several entrepreneurs turned their attention to supplying Bodie with its lumber needs rather than trying to strike it rich by finding gold. Firewood cost $11.00 per cord. During the first six months of 1891, Standard burned 671 cords of wood (worth nearly $7,400) to fire its boilers at the mine and 1,873 cords of wood (worth more than $20,600) to fire the boilers at the mill. Looking for an alternative to firewood, Leggatt learned of L. L. Nunn’s use of electricity in 1891 to power the San Miguel Gold Mining Company’s operation at Telluride, Colorado. Nunn transmitted electricity 3 miles from a hydroelectric generating plant to the mine. The project was said to have been the first “long-distance” alternating current transmission system in the U.S.[33]

Concluding that electricity could greatly reduce costs for power at Bodie, Leggatt decided that a location along Green Creek, about 12 miles west-southwest of Bodie, would be the best place to build a hydroelectric generating plant. A tributary of the East Walker River, Green Creek flows out of the Sierra Nevada with enough volume during the dry months to satisfy Standard’s power requirements as Leggatt calculated them. His measurements taken while the steam engine powered the mill had shown that the mill needed an average of 90 horsepower and a maximum of 101.5 horsepower. He consulted with an electrical engineer in San Francisco, W. F. C. Hasson, who recommended a system made by Westinghouse. According to Hasson, Standard’s electrical system at Bodie was the first installed in California strictly for the purpose of providing industrial power, as opposed to lighting.[34]

Construction began in summer 1892. The plant featured a ditch extending 4,570 feet from the diversion on Green Creek to a 1,571-foot pipeline that delivered water to the power plant under a 355-foot head. Four Pelton wheels drove the AC generator and DC exciter. The 3,000-volt transmission line consisted of wood poles carrying a pair of wires along an almost straight right-of-way between the power plant and Bodie, a distance of 12.46 miles. At the Standard mill, electricity drove a 120-horsepower motor, which in turn powered the mill’s equipment. The drivetrain for the mill included a friction clutch on the shaft between the electric motor and the main drive pulley. The Standard Company began testing its new electrical apparatus during summer 1893. In 1895, Leggatt resigned his position as superintendent of Standard’s mine and mill and moved to South Africa to continue his career as a mining engineer. Robert G. Brown took Leggatt’s position at Bodie.[35]

Shortly after he assumed his position with the Standard Company, Brown wrote an article for Engineering & Mining Journal providing details about the Standard mill’s equipment and operations. With the improvements Macy and Leggatt had made, the Standard mill fell squarely within the parameters of what had come to be recognized as the California stamp mill, with one exception. A California stamp mill typically had a long sloping roof roughly parallel to the hillside; the Standard mill had the ridge of its gable roof perpendicular to the west-facing hill, and the roof sloped down to the north and the south. The Standard mill treated about 54 tons of ore daily running at full capacity. Ore arrived at the mill in 1.25-ton cars drawn up an inclined ramp by means of a winding drum. The cars dumped the ore on grizzlies with a space between bars of 2.5 inches. Fine material went through the grizzlies directly to the ore chutes behind the stamps. The grizzlies directed coarse material to a Blake rock breaker. Brown complained that the size of the rock breaker was inadequate for the amount of hard ore Standard treated.[36]

Challenge feeders delivered ore from the chutes to the batteries of stamps. Crushed pulp from the batteries flowed along amalgamating plates 9 feet 6 inches long. The pulp then flowed through sluices to the vanners. Concentrates produced by the vanners and amalgam scraped from the plates were treated separately in pans. The Standard Company used the Washoe process in its amalgamating pans. To a batch of 1,200 pounds of battery sands, workers added 20 pounds of salt and 6 pounds of lye, grinding the stuff for 16 hours. Then they added quicksilver and ground the batch for another 4 hours before sending it to a settler. To a batch of 2,000 pounds of concentrates, workers added 80 pounds of salt, 4 pounds of lye, and 14 pounds of bluestone (copper sulfate), grinding the stuff for 12–14 hours. Then they added quicksilver and ground the batch for another 5 hours before sending it to a settler. The bullion produced from the concentrates was fairly base (because of the iron content) and largely silver (only about 100 fine gold and 650–850 fine silver). Tailings went to the ponds, where water drained from the solids until they were thick enough to be excavated and re-treated in the cyanide plant.[37]

The New Standard Mill

In 1898, the original Standard mill was 20 years old. In early October, the electrical system was shut down for repairs, and the mill’s crew fired the boiler, which was still in place for just such exigencies. In the early-morning hours of the 5th, a fire broke out in the boiler room and spread throughout the entire mill, destroying it completely. Because the mill was insured, because the company had blocked out ample reserves in the mine, and because the methods being used in the old mill had been well adapted to the ore body in the Standard mine, the company decided to rebuild immediately using a similar milling scheme. All the milling equipment had to be replaced, however, because the intensity of the fire destroyed even the iron and steel parts. By November, construction of the new mill’s structural frame was well underway, and corrugated iron sheathing for the building was in transit to Bodie. By late December, crews had enclosed the building, and mill equipment was beginning to arrive. The new mill was operating by early February 1899.[38] The new Standard mill, including the building’s profile, was built according to the plan of “a modern California twenty-stamp mill.”

With the improvements in the delivery of power to the mine and mill, and with the certainty that the cyanide process would bring longevity to the Bodie operation, Standard superintendent Brown made very few changes to the mill’s pre-fire scheme to gain more economical results. Instead of trying to devise a better stamp mill, he continued to attend to the problem of treating tailings with cyanide. The relatively high proportion of clay in Standard’s ore continued to vex the cyanide operation. After being run through the stamps, the clay was so fine that it took overly long to settle. It also resisted efforts at filtering, because even 1/8-inch of slime coating rendered a filter impervious. As a consequence, while the company continued to search for a more effective means to process tailings directly from the stamp mill, it continued to use its tailings impoundments as the most effective method of settling slimes. By directing tailings first to one cell and then to another, the company could allow virtually all the water to drain or evaporate from the tailings, leaving a caked bed of fine solids. Standard laborers could then excavate caked tailings from a cell that had fully settled. To facilitate handling in the cyanide plant, workers mixed sand with the slimes after they had been excavated.[39]

In summer 1903, the Standard Company began experiments with the Moore filter process, which featured filter panels consisting of canvas stretched over perforated vacuum pipes. The filter panels could be lowered into a tank of tailings. Water drawn out through the vacuum pipes left a deposit of solids caked against the canvas filters. The panels were taken out of the tanks periodically and cleaned of solids. The Standard Company built a small experimental plant at Bodie that summer with a capacity to treat one-half ton of tailings per day. The tests were encouraging enough to merit rebuilding the cyanide plant one-half mile north of the stamp mill according to the newly devised flow sheet. Construction took place during summer 1904. After a year of fine-tuning, Standard had its new cyanide plant running on a regular basis, treating all the ongoing production of tailings, to which the company added old tailings from the ponds, where excavation continued.[40]

Improvements to the Standard Mill for Treating Tailings

Remodeling the cyanide mill made it possible to send tailings directly from the stamp mill. To make the stamp mill capable of doing this, the Standard Company made the only significant alteration that has occurred at the Standard mill since it was built in 1898, installing a series of four Frenier pumps to lift the tailings 63 feet to an elevation sufficient to launder them 1,800 feet to the cyanide plant by means of a flume 4 inches wide and 9 inches deep. To accommodate the pumps, Standard built a small addition on the north side of the ore bins. Each of the lower three Frenier pumps has a lift of 16 feet 4 inches, and the uppermost has a lift of 14 feet.[41] The four pumps are still in place at the Standard mill today.

The Frenier pumps were made by J. H. Frenier & Son of Rutland, Vermont. Each pump consists of a hollow steel drum with a horizontal axis. The drum is encased in a wooden box, which contained the pulp to be pumped. Thickness of the drum in Frenier pumps may range from 6 to 10 inches, and the diameter from 44 inches to 54 inches. Inside the drum is a steel plate spiral, like a clock spring, formed as follows: There is a single opening along the side of the drum. The steel plate forming the outside of the drum runs from the opening around the circumference, gradually decreasing in diameter so that when it again reaches the opening there is a difference of about 2.5 inches. The plate continues to spiral toward the center of the drum; its edges welded continuously to the disks forming the ends of the drum. The result is actually a spiral tube of square section. The spiral continues until it approaches the hollow discharge shaft at the center. Each time the drum rotates inside the box, it scoops some pulp into the spiral and then some air, forcing earlier scooped material further into the spiral and finally out the hollow shaft at the center of drum. The pressure induced by forcing pulp into the spiral and the hydrostatic head developed inside the spiral is sufficient to force material out the center discharge shaft and up a pipe as much as 22 feet. A drum 10 inches thick can pump as much as 5,500 gallons of pulp per hour. The lifting force is not dependent on the speed at which the drum revolves but, rather, on the diameter of the drum and the number of turns the spiral has within it. Frenier & Son recommended a speed of about 20 rpm. Centrifugal pumps lifting half that quantity a comparable distance may operate at over 600 rpm. Although easier to install and less apt to malfunction during intermittent operation, centrifugal pumps have a pulverizing effect on soft minerals. The Frenier pump operates well under constant conditions and performs best if the level of the pulp in the surrounding box is kept about 7 inches below the discharge shaft, which is the axis of the drum.[42]

Brown was general manager of the Standard Company when it built the new cyanide plant in 1904 and installed the Frenier pumps at the stamp mill. Theodore Hoover, Herbert Hoover’s brother, was superintendent. Writing in Mining and Scientific Press about the new cyanide process, Brown assessed the performance of the Frenier pumps in the stamp mill, saying

The Frenier pump, for a regular flow and for lifts within its capacity, is most satisfactory; the consumption of power is nominal and the wear is confined to the stuffing-box at the discharge; however, it requires more attention in operation, particularly in starting or stopping, and a great deal of pains in erecting.[43]

That the Frenier pumps are still in place suggests that they continued to provide satisfactory performance, despite the attention they required. Selection of the Frenier pumps had come after trying several other methods to elevate tailings from the stamp mill to the level of the flume running to the cyanide mill. The Standard Company had already tried a bucket elevator during the earlier attempt to launder tailings to the cyanide mill, prior to the old mill burning in 1898, but it did not work in winter because quartz sand froze to the buckets. So the company turned to more elaborate pumps. The Standard Company first tried an air lift, but when a section of the stamp mill sat idle, the decreased velocity of material flowing through the lift allowed the quartz sand in the pulp to settle back against the vertical delivery pipe and block it. The company tried a centrifugal pump, but the wear on the runners was excessive, and consumption of power was much greater than Standard was willing to tolerate. With the Frenier pumps, the company was able to lift 90,000 gallons of water and about 60 tons of solids daily.[44]

According to Brown, his company initially installed two Frenier pumps to lift the pulp 45 feet. That was sufficient for a flume that had a grade of 5/16-inch per foot. Experience showed, however, that such a gradual grade was insufficient to keep solids from settling along the bottom of the flume. Using two Frenier pumps for lifting material to that height also exceeded the recommended maximum lift (22 feet) for each pump. Therefore, when the company rebuilt the flume to a grade of 7/16-inch per foot, it also installed two additional Frenier pumps, rather than just one, to gain the additional 18 feet of lift required while keeping each individual lift below the maximum recommended.[45]

The Standard mill today is nearly intact.[46] Its exterior reflects the model California stamp mill: it is built into the hillside, and the main body of its roof slopes down to the west, nearly parallel to the slope of the hillside. The ore bins are at the upper end of the Standard mill, and the receiving floor at the top of the bins looks much as it did when the mill operated. The grizzlies below the bins are intact, as is the Blake ore breaker. The mill was originally equipped with four five-stamp batteries, two of which are fully intact and a third that is partially intact. Challenge feeders for supplying the mortars with ore are still in place. On the battery floor, all four aprons still extend from their mortar boxes. To the north of the battery floor is the pan room, where three amalgamating pans are still in place, although their shoes and some other parts are missing. The vanner room, along the west end of the mill, is the lowest in the building. It houses two relatively intact vanners. In the areas along the north side of the mill, and between the battery floor and the pan room, are the four Frenier pumps, each located at a greater height than the previous, so arranged for lifting tailings from the aprons, pans, and vanners to the tailings launder, which was once attached to the top of the mill near the northeast corner. A single bent from the launder’s trestle survives at the point where the trestle met the mill.

Along the south side of the mill are three ancillary rooms: the boiler room, a machine shop, and the electric motor room. The main clutch, line shafts, pulleys and some belts for transmitting power from the electric motor to equipment throughout the mill, including the Frenier pumps, are still in place. Although the electrical apparatus in the motor room was manufactured by the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the same company that supplied the apparatus for the original 1892 installation, it is doubtful that any of the electrical equipment from the old mill survived the 1898 fire. Ancillary buildings house such important features as the retort for distilling the amalgam and producing bullion.

The Closing Years of the Standard Mill

The Standard Consolidated Mining Company continued mining ore, treating ore at its stamp mill, and using cyanide to treat tailings from both the mill and the old ponds until late 1912. That winter, the company closed the stamp mill and cyanide plant and focused on exploring the mine workings for more ore. Enough was found to justify restarting both plants in spring 1913. The supply of old tailings was exhausted in September 1913. By that time, only enough ore came from the mine to operate the stamp mill at one-third capacity, which the company’s management did not consider to be economical. After another month’s work, Standard’s entire operation at Bodie closed in October 1913. During 37 years of mining and milling at Bodie, the Standard Company had produced more than $16,000,000 in gold and silver and paid its investors more than $5,000,000 in dividends. The Standard Company’s property sat idle all of 1914, as the officers began negotiations with prospective leasers or buyers. Meanwhile, J. S. Cain and Thomas Cain filed a complaint against the Standard Company, alleging that since 1891 it had mined ore worth $700,000 from a claim they owned. After months of wrangling, J. S. Cain offered to dismiss the suit if the company would sell him its Standard properties at Bodie. In February 1915, 16 months after the Standard mine and mill closed, the company sold all its property at Bodie to J. S. Cain for $25,000. Later that year, he reopened the mine to leasers and put both the stamp mill and cyanide plant in operation.[47]

From 1915 until the beginning of World War II, Bodie and Cain’s Standard properties operated intermittently. Mining ended with the onset of World War II, when the federal government prohibited gold mining so that all the nation’s mining efforts could be focused on metals needed for the war effort. Several fires struck Bodie in the years following World War II, including a 1954 blaze that destroyed the cyanide mill. In 1962, the State of California acquired the property at Bodie, including the Standard mill, and the town became a state park.[48] Since then, Bodie and the Standard mill have been important components in the system of California State Parks, interpreting to thousands of visitors each year the industry that was a major lure to migrants moving to California during much of the 19th century.


The Standard mill at Bodie is an outstanding example of the fully developed California stamp mill of the 19th century. The mill is especially important because nearly all of its turn-of-the-century equipment is in place. Therefore, operation of the mill can be interpreted to tourists who visit Bodie. The mill’s inventory includes all the typical pieces of equipment used for conventional amalgamation, including vanners and amalgamating pans, which demonstrate the efforts mining companies made to recover more gold than was available through simple amalgamation on the aprons or plates. The mill also houses Frenier pumps, equipment representing the re-treatment of tailings using the cyanide process, which proved to be a vitally important addition to the array of technologies available for extracting gold from ore. The Frenier pumps were added shortly after 1900, when technological advances made it possible for the Standard Consolidated Mining Company to deliver tailings from its stamp mill directly to its cyanide plant by a flume, rather than having to allow the tailings to settle in impoundments, as had been the practice for a quarter century.

In the period prior to the advent of cyanidation, assayers at stamp mills knew that the tailings being discharged contained measurable quantities of gold and silver. Mine and mill managers prior to cyanidation understood that it was often uneconomical, given technologies available at the time, to treat the tailings further in order to recover the remaining precious metals. But the managers also understood that future technological developments might make it possible to rework the tailings to recover those precious metals. It therefore became the practice, when practical, to store tailings in the hope of some technological breakthrough. That there is a recognizable area at Bodie where the Standard Company once stored tailings represents the managers’ forward thinking. That the tailings storage area is devoid of tailings, as is most of the rest of the Bodie landscape, illustrates that an effective technology, cyanidation, did indeed appear on the scene. That the managers did not again put the tailings in storage attests to how completely they believed the cyanide process worked. No industrial process can be 100 percent effective, but the managers did not believe that the small percentages of precious metals remaining after cyanidation justified storing tailings again in the hope of an even more effective technology. Over time, managers at the Standard mill kept attending to their tailings until they had removed virtually all the gold, the product that was the primary focus of their efforts.

The cyanide mill for re-treating tailings is gone, but the Frenier pumps, used to move tailings from the Standard mill to the cyanide mill, survive. The Frenier pumps afford Cal Parks the opportunity to describe how important attention to tailings was during the operating life of the mill.


The author presented an earlier version of this article at the Society for Industrial Archeology’s annual meeting at Montreal, Quebec, in May 2003. Thanks to Bob Spude and the other reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier manuscript.


1. Fredric L. Quivik, “Landscapes as Industrial Artifacts: Lessons from Environmental History,” IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology 26, no. 2 (2000): 55–64. One field that actually does pay as much attention to byproducts as to products is known as industrial ecology; see T. E. Graedel, Industrial Ecology (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995); and the quarterly Journal of Industrial Ecology, which began publication with the winter 1997 issue. See especially Marina Fischer-Kowalski, “Society’s Metabolism: The Intellectual History of Materials Flow Analysis, Part I, 1860–1970,” Journal of Industrial Ecology 2 (Winter 1998): 61–78 and “Society’s Metabolism: The Intellectual History of Materials Flow Analysis, Part II, 1970–1998,” Journal of Industrial Ecology 2 (Fall 1998): 107–36, for an overview of how extensively wastes have been overlooked throughout modern history.

2. In 2000, Cal Parks contracted with the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) to document the Standard mill at Bodie. Richard O’Connor was in charge of the HAER recording project (HAER No. CA-299). A team of architects under the direction of Dana Lockett spent a few weeks in Bodie measuring the mill in September 2000. Jet Lowe photographed the mill. HAER contracted with the author to write the mill’s history. This article grows out of that work.

3. An excellent description of the historical interactions of the nature of the ore, operating costs, price, and other factors determining profitability is found in Logan Hovis and Jeremy Mouat, “Miners, Engineers, and the Transformation of Work in the Western Mining Industry, 1880–1930,” Technology and Culture 37 (July 1996): 429–56.

4. It would be inaccurate to state that historians have ignored tailings. Otis E. Young’s classic history, Western Mining: An Informal Account of Precious-Metals Prospecting, Placering, Lode Mining, and Milling on the American Frontier from Spanish Times to 1893 (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1970), makes some mention of the importance of re-treating tailings in prolonging the life of the Comstock Lode in Nevada (pp. 265–66), but his section on the cyanide process (pp. 283–85) does not indicate how important the cyanidation of old tailings dumps was to gold production in the 1890s and early 1900s. Larry Lankton’s history of the copper mining industry on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Cradle to Grave: Life, Work, and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), suggests that reprocessing tailings was critical to prolonging the life of several mining operations (pp. 248–50), but it is not a major focus of his work. Robert L. Spude’s “Cyanide and the Flood of Gold: Some Colorado Beginnings of the Cyanide Process of Gold Extraction” in Essays and Monographs in Colorado History, No. 12 (Denver: Colorado Historical Society, 1991) stresses that early experimentation on the cyanide process was conducted on tailings, and that once the process was perfected many defunct mining camps were brought to life as their tailings were reworked. Recent examples of environmental historians’ works on tailings include Nicholas A. Casner, “Toxic River: Politics and Coeur d’Alene Mining Pollution in the 1930s,” Idaho Yesterdays 35 (Fall 1991): 5–19; Katherine Morrissey, “Mining, Environment, and Historical Change in the Inland Northwest” in Northwest Lands, Northwest Peoples: Readings in Environmental History, ed. Dale D. Goble and Paul W. Hirt (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1999), 479–501. The author’s dissertation pays considerable attention to technologies for treating copper tailings in the Butte district of Montana; see Quivik, “Smoke and Tailings: An Environmental History of Copper Smelting Technologies in Montana, 1880–1930,” (doctoral diss., Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1998).

5. General discussions of the properties of gold and gold ores, as they were understood during operation of the Standard mill, may be found in Henry Louis, A Handbook of Gold Milling (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1894), 21–43; T. Kirke Rose, The Metallurgy of Gold, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1896), 1–19; M. Eissler, The Metallurgy of Gold: A Practical Treatise (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1900), 3–6; Arthur F. Taggart, Handbook of Mineral Dressing (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1956), 1:70–73. As chemistry and the scientific understanding of the atom have developed over the past century, there has been a corresponding growth in understanding of the metallurgy of gold, which may be traced in the above texts. For a late-20th-century depiction of the properties of gold, see Robert W. Boyle, Gold: History and Genesis of Deposits (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1987), 11–13; J. C. Yannapoulos, The Extractive Metallurgy of Gold (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991), 1, 11–22, 79–85.

6. Early texts include Thomas Egleston, The Metallurgy of Silver, Gold, and Mercury in the United States, Vol. I, Silver (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1887); M. Eissler, The Metallurgy of Silver: A Practical Treatise (London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1889).

7. The term “rebellious ores” was used throughout the literature to characterize ores that were not free milling; see Egleston, Metallurgy of Silver, 153 (n. 6); and Eissler, Metallurgy of Gold, 7 (n. 5).

8. T. Kirke Rose, The Metallurgy of Gold, 5th ed. (London: Charles Griffin & Co., Ltd., 1906), 14–16, 40–41, 147–51; H. W. MacFarren, Practical Stamp Milling and Amalgamation (San Francisco: Mining and Scientific Press, 1910), 130–36.

9. Yannapoulos, Extractive Metallurgy, 79 (see n. 5). Although Yannapoulos claims on p. 79 that use of the term refractory is “relatively new,” W. J. Adams used the term in 1899 in Hints on Amalgamation and the General Care of Gold Mills (Chicago: Modern Machinery Publishing Co.), 109.

10. Indications of the importance of monitoring the gold content in the tailings stream at turn-of-the-20th-century gold-milling operations may be seen in Edward B. Preston, California Gold Mill Practices, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin No. 6 (Sacramento: State Mining Bureau, 1895), 48–51; Henry Louis, Handbook of Gold Milling, 3rd ed. (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1902), 524–26.

11. The understanding metallurgical engineers possessed of the interrelationships of their plant’s effectiveness, the costs of mining, market prices, and other factors determining profitability may be seen in the following statement by Edward Dyer Peters, Jr., describing the attitude toward tailings exhibited by companies operating the copper mines of Butte, Montana, in the 1880s in “The Mines and Reduction Works of Butte City, Montana,” Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year 1883–1884 (Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, 1885), 384:

The loss of copper in the tailings is considerable, and under eastern conditions could not be tolerated; but it must be considered that in Butte the ore is the cheapest thing we have, while fuel, labor, and machinery are extremely expensive, and that the copper contained in the ore has cost so little to mine that it does not acquire any considerable value until a certain amount of labor has been expended on it.

While I do not deny that a more perfect sizing, a graded system of crushing, and a more systematic effort to concentrate the finer classes of ore might even now prove remunerative, I doubt very much if it would pay expenses to greatly extend the present system of slime treatment, in which department the principal losses occur.
12. Young, Western Mining, 102–18 (see n. 4); Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California, Vol. 23 (San Francisco: The History Co., Publishers, 1888), 409–12; Thomas Egleston, The Metallurgy of Silver, Gold, and Mercury in the United States, Vol II, Gold and Mercury (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1890), 11–30; Aug. J. Bowie, Jr., A Practical Treatise on Hydraulic Mining in California, 10th ed. (New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1905), 47–48.

13. J. S. Holliday, Rush for Riches: Gold Fever and the Making of California (Oakland: Oakland Museum of California, 1999), 202–12; Robert L. Kelley, Gold vs. Grain: The Hydraulic Mining Controversy in California’s Sacramento Valley (Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1959), 24–27; Philip Ross May, Origins of Hydraulic Mining in California (Oakland, Calif.: Holmes Book Co., 1970), 33–34, 40–41.

14. Adolph Knopf, The Mother Lode System of California, Professional Paper No. 157 (Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, 1929), 4–5. As described in an earlier paragraph, the actual source of the placer gold in the streams along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada was the ancient bed of the large river in the Tertiary Period. As Knopf describes, however, the notion of a mother lode for California’s placer persisted among miners for several decades in the 19th century. Early expressions of the mother-lode theory for the origins of California’s placer deposits may be seen in John S. Hittell, Mining in the Pacific States of North America (San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft and Co., 1861), 54, 60–61.

15. Knopf, Mother Lode System, 4–7 (see n. 14); Rodman W. Paul, Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848–1880 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963), 92–93; Clarence A. Logan, Mother Lode Gold Belt of California, Dept. of Natural Resources, Division of Mines Bulletin No. 108 (Sacramento: California Division of Mines, 1924), 8–12; J. Ross Browne, Report of J. Ross Browne on the Mineral Resources of the States and Territories West of the Rocky Mountains (Washington, DC: U.S. Treasury Department, 1868), 8; Rossiter W. Raymond, Statistics of Mines and Mining in the States and Territories West of the Rocky Mountains; Being the Fifth Annual Report (Washington, DC: U.S. Treasury Department, 1873), 329–428. Note that Bancroft published an identical version of Browne’s report under the title, Resources of the Pacific Slope: A Statistical and Descriptive Summary (San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft & Co., 1869). Also, the University of New Mexico Press has published a new paperback addition of Paul’s history with addition chapters on the social history of the mining west by Elliott West; see Rodman W. Paul and Elliott West, Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848–1880 (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2001).

16. H. A. Whiting, “Mono County” in Eighth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the Year Ending December 1, 1888 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1889), 383; Joseph Wasson, Bodie and Esmeralda (San Francisco: Spaulding, Barto, & Co., 1879), 7–10; Frank S. Wedertz, Bodie, 1859–1900 (Bishop, Calif.: Chalfant Press, 1969), 129–31, 175–78; Michael H. Piatt, Bodie: “The Mines Are Looking Well …” (El Sobrante, Calif.: North Bay Books, 2003), 21–40.

17. Wasson, Bodie and Esmeralda, 28–30 (see n. 16); Wedertz, Bodie, 181–83 (see n. 16); C. L. Anderson, “Map of Bodie Mining District, Mono County, California” (San Francisco: Edward Eysen, illustrator and publisher, 1880); First Annual Report of the Standard Consolidated Mining Company for the Year Ending February 1, 1880 (San Francisco: Standard Consolidated Mining Co., 1880), frontispiece, 34 (this and other annual reports of the Standard Consolidated are held by the Bancroft Library and Archives, University of California at Berkeley).

18. Rossiter W. Raymond, Mineral Resources of the States and Territories West of the Rocky Mountains (Washington, DC: U.S. Treasury Department, 1869), 53–54; Raymond, Statistics of Mines and Mining in the States and Territories West of the Rocky Mountains for the Year 1871 (Washington, DC: U.S. Treasury Department, 1872), 400–02; Raymond, Statistics of Mines, 430–31 (see n. 15); “General Mining News: California,” Engineering & Mining Journal (hereafter cited as E&MJ;) 28 (9 Aug. 1879): 94; Piatt, Bodie, 132–33 (see n. 16).

19. Piatt, Bodie, 156–71 (see n. 16).

20. Hittell, Mining in Pacific States, 155–57 (see n. 14); Almarin B. Paul, “Beginning of Quartz Mining in California,” Mining and Scientific Press (hereafter cited as M&SP;) 76 (29 Jan. 1898): 108; Rodman W. Paul, California Gold: The Beginning of Mining in the Far West (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1947), 135–36; Young, Western Mining, 69–72 (see n. 4).

21. Georgius Agricola, De Re Metallica, trans. Herbert Clark Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover in 1912 (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1950): 284.

22. Henry Louis, The Dressing of Minerals (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1909), 156–58; Paul, California Gold, 133–34 (see n. 20).

23. A. Paul, “Beginning of Quartz,” 108 (see n. 20); C. P. Stanford, “Origin of the California Stamp,” M&SP; 76 (29 Jan. 1898): 107; Bancroft, History of California, 414–15 (see n. 12).

24. Edward B. Preston’s California Stamp Mill Practices, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin No. 6 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1895) is an entire book published by the California State Mining Bureau to describe the operation of the typical California stamp mill. See also such standard texts as Louis, Dressing of Minerals, 164–70 (n. 22); and T. A. Rickard, The Stamp Milling of Gold Ores (New York: The Scientific Publishing Co., 1897).

25. Alan L. Lougheed, “The Discovery, Development, and Diffusion of New Technology: The Cyanide Process for the Extraction of Gold, 1887–1914,” Prometheus 7 (June 1989): 61–74; Spude, “Cyanide and the Flood,” 4–14 (see n. 4); Rose, Metallurgy of Gold, 248–49, 345 (see n. 8); H. W. MacFarren, Text Book of Cyanide Practice (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1912), 1–3, 21–27; Roger P. Lescohier, The Cyanide Plant: More Gold from the Same Ore (Grass Valley, Calif.: Empire Mine Park Association, 1992), 13–18; Roger Burt, “Innovation or Imitation? Technological Dependency in the American Nonferrous Mining Industry,” Technology and Culture 41 (April 2000): 334–35. Note, sometimes the Cyanogen radical is abbreviated “Cy,” so in some texts potassium cyanide is given as KCy; see MacFarren, Text Book of Cyanide, 7 (above). Note also that sodium cyanide (NaCN) has nearly the same properties as potassium cyanide, especially regarding the dissolving of gold and silver. Both NaCN and KCN were used in metallurgical plants; see MacFarren, 9–10 (above).

26. Henry De Groot, “Mono County,” Tenth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the Year Ending December 1, 1890 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1890), 337; T. A. Rickard, “Thomas Leggatt: An Interview” in Interviews with Mining Engineers (San Francisco: Mining and Scientific Press, 1922), 260.

27. MacFarren, Practical Stamp Milling, 148 (see n. 8); Rickard, Stamp Milling, 216–25 (see n. 24).

28. J. S. C. Wells to Thomas Leggatt, 9 February 1893, folder 001; Wells to Leggatt, 16 August 1893, folder 002; W. O. Ross to Standard Consolidated Mining Company, 26 May 1893, folder 003; and Gold and Silver Extraction Company of America to the Standard Consolidated Mining Company, 20 December 1893, folder 009—all in box 91, RG-36 (Linknum 1178), Bodie State Historic Park Archives, held at the California State Archives, Secretary of State’s Office, Sacramento, Calif. (hereinafter cited as BSHP); Rickard, “Thomas Leggatt,” 261 (see n. 26); “Mill-Work, Concentrates and Tailings at Bodie,” M&SP; 66 (24 June 1893): 386–87. When Leggatt recalled that he had sent a tailings sample to the Gold & Silver Extraction Company of America in 1892, he probably meant the Gold & Silver Extraction Mining & Milling Company, a corporate predecessor; see Spude, “Cyanide and Flood,” 8–9, 15–16 (n. 4). The Gold & Silver Extraction Company of America was organized in 1893.

29. Rickard, “Thomas Leggatt,” 261 (see n. 26); Rockwell D. Hunt, ed., “Charles Washington Merrill” in California and Californians, Vol. 5 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1926), 318. Leggatt’s claim for Standard’s cyanide plant’s primacy in California is substantiated by A. Scheidel, The Cyanide Process: Its Practical Application and Economical Results, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin No. 5 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1894), 88–95. According to Spude, earlier cyanide mills were built in California and Oregon, but they were not successful; see Spude, “Cyanide and Flood,” 11 (n. 4).

30. “Mono County,” Thirteenth Report of the State Mineralogist for the Two Years Ending September 15, 1896 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1896), 231.

31. C. W. Merrill to T. H. Leggatt, 17 Oct. 1894, folder 009, box 92, RG-36 (Linknum 1179), BSHP; “General Mining News: California” in the following issues: E&MJ; 58 (15 Dec. 1894): 565, E&MJ; 59 (2 Mar. 1895): 204, E&MJ; 61 (29 Feb. 1896): 211 and (4 April 1896): 332; “Mining Summary: California” in the following issues: M&SP; 69 (22 Dec. 1894): 394, M&SP; 71 (21 Sept. 1895): 186, M&SP; 72 (18 Jan. 1896): 50 and (4 April 1896): 270, M&SP; 73 (19 Dec. 1896): 506, M&SP; 74 (20 Feb. 1897): 151, M&SP; 77 (6 Aug. 1898): 137.

32. Emil W. Billeb, Mining Camp Days (Berkeley, Calif.: Howell-North Books, 1968), 45; Wedertz, Bodie, 154–58 (see n. 16); Russ Johnson and Anne Johnson, The Ghost Town of Bodie: As Reported in the Newspapers of the Day (Bishop, Calif.: Chalfant Press, 1967), 51.

33. “Report of through June 1891,” Progress Reports of Manager Thomas H. Leggatt, June 1891 to December 1895, folder 6, box 94, RG-36, BSHP; Thomas Haight Leggatt, “Electric Power Transmission Plants and the Use of Electricity in Mining Operations” in Twelfth Report of the State Mineralogist, Two Years Ending September 15, 1894 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1894), 438; Thomas Parke Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880–1930 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1983), 162. Note that in Leggatt’s article he states that wood was $10.00 per cord, while the records of the Standard Company in the Bodie Archives show that, in 1891 at least, the company was paying $11.00 per cord.

34. Leggatt, “Electric Power Transmission,” 419, 429 (see n. 33); Thomas H. Leggatt, “Twelve-Mile Transmission of Power by Electricity,” Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers 24 (1895): 316–17, 329; “The Water and Electric Plant at Bodie,” M&SP; 66 (17 July 1893): 370; W. F. C. Hasson, “The Successful Application of Electricity to the Operation of Mines,” M&SP; 69 (1 Dec. 1894): 341–42. A letter to Mining and Scientific Press in March 1899 claims that California’s first electrical plant installed to deliver industrial power was at Big Bend on the Feather River in 1888; see A. K. Beatson to the Editor, 14 March 1899, M&SP; 78 (25 March 1899): 318. According to Beatson, the electricity was intended to power pumps and derricks being used in mining the riverbed, but the plant delivered unsatisfactory service and was disassembled in 1889. On early electrification in California, see James C. Williams, Energy and the Making of Modern California (Akron, Ohio: Univ. of Akron Press, 1997); Jessica B. Teisch, “Great Western Power, ‘White Coal,’ and Industrial Capitalism in the West,” Pacific Historical Review 70 (May 2001): 221–53.

35. “The Water and Electric Plant at Bodie,” M&SP; 66 (17 June 1893): 370; “General Mining News: California” in the following issues: E&MJ; 54 (20 Aug. 1892): 181 and (29 October 1892): 420, E&MJ; 55 (13 May 1893): 439–40; Leggatt, “Electric Power Transmission,” 419–35 (see n. 33); Leggatt, “Twelve-Mile Transmission,” 315–38 (see n. 34); Robert Gilman Brown, “Additions to the Power-Plant of the Standard Consolidated Mining Company,” Transactions of the AIME 26 (1897): 319.

36. Robert Gilman Brown, “A Bodie Gold Stamp Mill,” E&MJ; 61 (27 June 1896): 615.

37. Brown, “Bodie,” 615–16 (see n. 36); see also “Mill-Work, Concentrates and Tailings at Bodie,” M&SP; 66 (24 June 1893): 386.

38. Bridgeport Chronicle-Union 36 (8 Oct. 1898): 3, (12 Nov. 1898): 3, (24 Dec. 1898): 3, (11 Feb. 1898): 3; “Mining Summary: California” in the following issues: M&SP; 77 (8 Oct. 1898): 357, (17 Dec. 1898): 611, (24 Dec. 1898): 637; M&SP; 78 (11 Feb. 1899): 155; “General Mining News: California” in the following issues: E&MJ; 66 (8 Oct. 1898): 435, (17 Dec. 1898): 732, (31 Dec. 1898): 795; E&MJ; 67 (11 Feb. 1899): 190.

39. R. Gilman Brown, “Cyanide Practice with the Moore Filter—I,” M&SP; 93 (1 Sept. 1906): 261.

40. Brown, “Cyanide Practice,” 261–62 (see n. 39); “General Mining News: California,” E&MJ; 77 (23 June 1904): 1020; Walter W. Bradley, “Tube-Mill Lining,” M&SP; 94 (5 Jan. 1907): 17; MacFarren, Text Book, 137–42 (see n. 25); Robert Peele, Mining Engineers’ Handbook (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1918), 1829; Arthur F. Taggart, Handbook of Ore Dressing (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1927), 1015–16.

41. R. Gilman Brown to The Editor, 4 April 1904, and published in M&SP; 77 (14 April 1904): 597–98; Robert H. Richards, Ore Dressing, Vol. 3 (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1909): 1587–89, 1594–95.

42. Robert H. Richards, Ore Dressing, Vol. 2 (New York: Engineering & Mining Journal, 1903), 870–71; Richards, Ore Dressing, 3: 1588–89 (see n. 41); Peele, Mining Engineers’ Handbook, 1703 (see n. 40); Taggart, Handbook, 1107–08 (see n. 40); MacFarren, Practical Stamp Milling, 159 (see n. 8).

43. Brown, “Cyanide Practice,” 261 (see n. 39).

44. Brown, “To Editor” (see n. 41); Edward K. Judd, ed., The Mineral Industry during 1904 (New York: Engineering and Mining Journal, 1905), 202–03; On the design, construction, and operation of an airlift, see Taggart, Handbook, 1111–17 (n. 40).

45. “Mining Summary: California,” M&SP; 74 (20 Feb. 1897): 151; Brown, “To Editor,” 598 (see n. 41); Brown, “Cyanide Practice,” 261 (see n. 39).

46. For a detailed description of the Standard mill, see Quivik, “Standard Gold Mill,” Historic American Engineering Record report, HAER No. CA-299 (2000), 67–78.

47. Thirty-Fourth Annual Report of the Standard Consolidated Mining Company for the Year Ended February 1913 (San Francisco: Standard Consolidated Mining Co., 1913), 2–4, 11–12; Thirty-Sixth Annual Report of the Standard Consolidated Mining Company for the Year Ended February 1915 (San Francisco: Standard Consolidated Mining Co., 1915), 3–4; Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year 1913, Part I, Metals (Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, 1914), 488; Arthur S. Eakle and R. P. McLaughlin, “Mono County,” Report 15 of the State Mineralogist (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1919), 150–51; Deed between Standard Consolidated Mining Company and J. S. Cain, 23 February 1915, pp 537–42, Deed Book Y, Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Mono County Courthouse, Bridgeport, CA.

48. Ella M. Cain, The Story of Bodie (Sonora, Calif.: Mother Lode Press, 1956), 53–55; Warren Loose, Bodie Bonanza: The True Story of a Flamboyant Past (Las Vegas: Nevada Publications, 1979), 212–15; Charles W. Chesterman, Roger H. Chapman, and Clifton H. Gray, Jr., Geology and Ore Deposits of the Bodie Mining District, Mono County, California, Division of Mines & Geology, Bulletin 206 (Sacramento: California Department of Conservation, 1986), 32; Piatt, Bodie, 264 (see n. 16).




By: Fredric L. Quivik



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