Archives Launches CCI Historical Records Website

A project to digitize historical records of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company has been completed by the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives. A new website offers online access to more than 70,000 documents, 250 maps, an assortment of photographs and fourth-grade lesson plans that adhere to Michigan Education Standards.

Shown seated is Rachael Bussert (Archives), who managed the project, along with three of the students who assisted her with the digitization effort: Olivia Ernst, Chris Kern and Miranda Revere. Missing from the photo is Megan Warnos.

The collection spans the period from 1882-1960. It documents major turning points in the history of American iron ore mining: the industry’s shift from a reliance on low- to medium-grade ore supplies in the eastern Alleghenies to a reliance on high-grade ore in the upper Midwest; the long-distance shipping required to transport product from the Lake Superior basin to the lower Great Lakes; the consolidation of iron ore mining in the hands of large corporations from 1895-1904, stimulated by the emergence of U.S. Steel as America’s first billion-dollar corporation; and the replacement of natural with artificial, pelletized ores in the aftermath of World War II.

“There is an enhanced encoded archival description (EAD) finding aid that guides researchers to content in the online database and provides a contextual understanding of how that record came to us,” said Bussert. “It guarantees the authenticity of the material.”


Annual reports of the company’s land, lumber and mining division document the operations and provide detailed cost data. They also provide accounts of the ethnic composition of the workforce, labor union and strike activity and the company’s social welfare and safety programs.

“In essence, the annual reports bring together all the various financial, production and labor records found in the other disparate components of the collection into one easily accessible source,” said Marcus Robyns (Archives).

The historic maps and plans describe individual mines and their surrounding communities on the Marquette, Minnesota and Wisconsin iron ranges, timber interests of CCI and other large landholders in the central and western Upper Peninsula and the watersheds that CCI tapped in the early 20th century to produce hydroelectric power for its mining and related operations.

Electric Hoists at the Cliffs Shaft MineCCI once owned and managed nearly one million acres of forest land in the Upper Peninsula. The record series explains how corporate logging operations were carried out and how forestry practices evolved. It includes copies of each logging contract, maps showing the location of the job, monthly cost sheets and monthly details of deliveries to other operations and outside parties broken down by species and cuts of wood.

The fourth-grade lesson plans explore mining history, maple syrup production on Grand Island and wildlife on Grand Island. They teach students how to critically analyze primary resources and are based on Michigan Content Level Standards and Expectations.

The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company digitization project was funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

To access the collection, visit



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Updated: June 16, 2011

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