Mesabi Iron Range

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MESABI IRON RANGE contained the richest deposit of iron ore in the United States, but the peculiar quality of the soft hematite ore (nonmagnetic and powdery rather than rock) delayed discovery and exploitation until the 1890s. The ore existed in some eighteen town-ships in northeastern Minnesota. When its great value became known, there was an unparalleled scramble to enter the land through abuse of the Preemption Act (1841) and the Homestead Act (1862) and for the choicer deposits with the rarer forms of land scrip. Leonidas Merritt and his seven brothers made some of the greatest finds, though, lacking capital to build a railroad to Lake Superior, they were unable to market their ore and lost their rich deposits to John D. Rockefeller. He, in turn, sold them to Andrew Carnegie, who transferred them to the United States Steel Corporation. More than 2.5 billion tons of ore have been mined from the Mesabi range, but by the mid-1960s the richest of the hematite ore was gone. Only then were the deposits of taconite appreciably valued.


Goin, Peter, and Elizabeth Raymond. "Recycled Landscapes: Mining's Legacies in the Mesabi Iron Range." In Technologies of Landscape: From Reaping to Recycling. Edited by David E. Nye. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

Walker, David Allan. Iron Frontier: The Discovery and Early Development of Minnesota's Three Ranges. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1979.

Paul W.Gates/h. s.

See alsoIron and Steel Industry ; Menominee Iron Range ; U.S. Steel .