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Taconite Dreams

The Struggle to Sustain Mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range, 1915-2000

2015
Author:

Jeffrey T. Manuel

Taconite Dreams

The first history of the fight to maintain an industry and a way of life on Minnesota’s Iron Range

Jeffrey T. Manuel examines how Minnesota’s Iron Range fought the dislocation that came with economic changes, technological advances, and global shifts in industrial production. Taconite Dreams demonstrates how the area fit into a larger story of regions wrestling with deindustrialization in the twentieth century.

Taconite Dreams is an important contribution to the national and international history of industrial decline. By taking us to the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota, Jeffrey T. Manuel connects the resource frontier to the large cities of the industrial heartland—an analysis that is long overdue.

Steven High, Concordia University

The Iron Range earned its name honestly: it was once among the world’s richest iron ore mining districts. The Iron Range propelled the U.S. steel industry in the late nineteenth century, and iron mining sustained generations in the region with work and a strong economy. But long before most other parts of the country faced the realities of industrial decline, Minnesota’s Iron Range was already striving to maintain its core industry.

In Taconite Dreams: The Struggle to Sustain Mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range, 1915–2000, Jeffrey T. Manuel examines how the region fought the dislocation that came with economic changes, technological advances, and global shifts in industrial production. On the Iron Range, efforts included the development of taconite mining as a technological fix for the drop in hematite mining. Manuel describes the Iron Range’s modern history and how the downturn was opposed by individuals, civic groups, and commercial interests. The first book dedicated to thoroughly exploring this era on the Iron Range, Taconite Dreams demonstrates how the area fit into a larger story of regions wrestling with deindustrialization in the twentieth century. The 1964 taconite amendment to Minnesota’s constitution, the bruising federal pollution lawsuit that closed a taconite plant, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board’s economic development policy are all discussed.

Ultimately, the resistance against economic decline is also a battle over mining’s memory and legacy, one that continues today. Manuel’s history sheds much-needed light on this important yet widely overlooked mining region as well as the impact of the past century’s struggles on the people who call it home.

Awards

Northeastern Minnesota Book Award — Nonfiction

Midwestern History Association’s Hamlin Garland Award for Popular History

Taconite Dreams

Jeffrey T. Manuel, a Minnesota native, is associate professor of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Taconite Dreams

Taconite Dreams is an important contribution to the national and international history of industrial decline. By taking us to the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota, Jeffrey T. Manuel connects the resource frontier to the large cities of the industrial heartland—an analysis that is long overdue.

Steven High, Concordia University

Taconite Dreams is a great example of how, when undertaken intelligently, local historical studies can have global reach. Jeffrey T. Manuel provides a mirror for communities across the world, from the mining regions of South Africa to the oil fields of North Dakota, through which they can assess the opportunities and threats contained in economic development strategies that rely on extractive industries. This book challenges not only planners, politicians, and labor activists, but also we public historians who construct images of the past that might influence debates about future development strategies.

Peter Rachleff, executive director, East Side Freedom Library

In Taconite Dreams, Jeffrey T. Manuel has done something difficult and truly important. He’s built a historical bridge from the nostalgic, often over-romanticized early days of iron mining to the all-too-real struggles of our present Iron Range region. He takes the controversial issues of economic decline, environmental impact, and cultural struggles and provides a clear-eyed assessment of how things got this way and what it might mean for the future.

Aaron Brown, journalist, author, and host of Great Northern Radio Show

One of the most fascinating and detailed accounts ever of the challenges faced over the years by the mining industry in northeastern Minnesota.

Ely Timberjay

Taconite Dreams

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: An Industrial Mining Region in a Postindustrial Age
1. A Technological Fix? Edward W. Davis and the Creation of Taconite
2. Creating a Tax Cut Consensus on the Iron Range: The 1964 Taconite Amendment
3. Taconite Bites Back: The Reserve Mining Pollution Trial and the Environmental Challenge to Industry
4. Economic Development Policy, Regional and Local: The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board
5. The Turn to Heritage: Conflicts over Mining’s Memory
Conclusion: Lessons for a Future Iron Range
Notes
Index