Housing Development on Abandoned Mine

color photograph, 18 x 24 inches


Minneapolis, MN

Sleeping Giant

For centuries the Ojibwa of Northern Minnesota called the Laurentian divide Mesabi, which means Sleeping Giant. Aptly named, as the upwelling to tectonic plates brought the massive deposit of iron formed deep in the earth to the surface, waiting to be mined. Operations began in earnest in the later 19th century with the first ore shipped to the steel mills in the east in 1892. Subsequently, the giant awoke to become the most important story in Minnesota history as well as that of the United States.

The mining boom attracted 45 nationalities seeking escape from tough economic conditions in their home countries, and perhaps their fortune. Mostly, they worked hard mining the red ore under tough conditions. Organizing the miners helped, and together they mined the iron to produce the steel that built America and won two world wars.

Mining is typically fraught with economic ups and down which became more severe on the Range with the playing out of high-grade ore. New techniques were developed to recover the iron in the lower grade taconite and hematite. That came with high technology and fewer jobs. Sleeping Giant is a photographic journey of the landscape, sociology, culture, economy and evolution of this intriguing area of Minnesota, as one would experience it today. It is a story of a determined, indomitable people in an inspiringly beautiful but demanding landscape.