Miners immense pride in their skills of the craft led to mining competitions. Miners competed in mucking, pushing cars, machine drilling and the greatest contest of all them, hand drilling. To be successful in a hand drilling competition one has to master ,team work, technique, and have speed, with fantastic endurance. Danger always lurkers with the possibility of a hand destroyed by a miss of the steel by the hammer. The best drillers will be striking the steel 60 to over 70 hits a minute.
The contest were held using all styles of hand drilling with additional style call single hand . It is done like double jacking except the driller does all the hitting except no switching with the person turning the steel.
There is a lot of disagreement and misinformation on the drilling records set. Most of the misinformation is from the lack of understanding how to drill.
The important factors to consider in comparing early drilling contest
Rock type – hardness, consistence
Some contests limited the number of steel changes I personally believe this hurts the contest a critical part of the drillers skill is to know when it is time to change steel. If the steel is change to much or too little the driller will lose time drilling. The difficulty of pulling the longer drill steels from a deep hole without missing a hammer strike proves great ability.
Drillers had their steels custom made with specific tapers, edges and flaring, some of the them went as far as having custom made hammers. The Bisbee Mining and Historical museum has in their collection a beautiful set of custom steels. These were supposed to have been made by the blacksmith James O’Malley for the Calumet and Arizona team and used in the July 4th 1913 contest in Bisbee
Champion rock drillers were the rock stars of the day, Mrs. Hugh Brown describes them like this “Champion drillers were kings, known and feted throughout the mining world. Prize money was accompanied by cases of champagne and liquors”.
One of the greatest contests was held August 18,1907 in Butte Montana. McIvor and Pickens of Bisbee won a purse of $1250.00 by drilling 45 31/32 inches in front of a crowd of 25,000 spectators .
With the introduction of pneumatic drills, hand drilling went to the wayside. In 1913 Bisbee’s hand drilling contest came to an end. They were replaced with machine drilling contest which never took hold and they were eventually stopped. Bisbee’s hand drilling contest were restarted but have never reached their past glory.
Today the “Iron Man” represent Bisbee’s hand drilling past. A statue of a miner holding a single jack and steel, mounted atop the block of Gunnison granite which the contest drilling was done.
Iron Man circa 1940’s
Fred Yockey Single Jack world record holder 23 ¼” in 15 minutes
The 1907 Butte Montana drilling contest won by Melvor and Pickens of Bisbee, Arizona
Bisbee 1903 drilling contest, note raised boulder for single jack event
Drilling scores Bisbee daily review July 5th 1903
Prize money for the Bisbee 1913 drilling contest
Bisbee 1903 drilling contest, The lowered boulder for double jack event
Hammer strokes from the Bisbee 1902 competition
Drilling rules used at the Arizona state fair 1905
Annie Larkin 2010, pers. comm., 8 March
Arizona Republican December 28, 1905
A treatise on metal mining vol 3 1899, Burr printing house New York, section 38 pp. 55-56
Benton-Cohen, Katherine 2009,Borderline Americans: racial division and labor in the Arizona borderlands, Harvard university press, p96
Bisbee Daily Review July 5th 1902
Bisbee Daily Review July 5th 1903
Bisbee Daily Review June 27th 1903
Bisbee Daily Review June 29th 1913
California Hardware Co. Catalog 1962,Catalogue No. 16-D Los Angeles, California
Colliery Engineer February 1907 Vol 27 p291
Compressed Air Magazine May 1918 Vol XXIII No.5 p8766
Graeme, R ‘ Bisbee Arizona” Mineralogical Record Sept- Oct 1981 Vol 25 p 274
Horace Jared Stevens, Walter Harvey Weed, 1911, The Copper Handbook, Vol 10
Journal of Leisure Research C. Frank Zarnowski Vol 36, Number 2, 2004pp. 257-281
Mines and Minerals, February, 1907 Vol XXVII, No.7
Mining & scientific press, July 19, 1913 p.108
Mrs. Hugh Brown, Railroad Days: A Memoir of Tonopah, 1904, The American West, 5, November, 1968, p.28.
Montana Butte Standard March 4,1932
Peele, R 1941, Mining Engineers’ Handbook 3rd edition John Wiley & Sons, Inc pp. 5-07,5-08
Young, Otis, Western Mining, University of Oklahoma press, 1987 pp.185-186
The Arizona Republican, September 9, 1903
The Arizona Republican, September 4, 1903
The Arizona Republic November 12, 1960
Richard Graeme IV 2010, pers. comm., 8 February
Richard Graeme III 2010, pers. comm., 2 February
Reno Evening Gazette January 14,1903
University Missourian October 28 1908