Combination in the Mining Industry by Henry Raymond Mussey: a short review

A great book, written as a Columbia doctoral dissertation. Mussey’s contention is that market forces consistently forced prices down on Great Lakes iron ore over the course of the nineteenth century, which inevitably led to high capital outlays and in turn led to consolidation on the ranges and domination of the mining industry by the steelmakers. It logically ought, he argued, to lead to complete domination by a single firm, though he retreats from that conclusion.

The neat thing, though, is that you needn’t agree with the main argument to find the book valuable. This is the best short history of the development and consolidation of the Lake Superior ranges, bar none. It accurately describes the differences in conditions on each range, and gives proper attention to changing market and technical circumstances. It’s also chock-full of cost figures–for specific mines, for specific processes, for transportation, and for labor. Truly a delightful piece of research, well written and excellently organized.

This short review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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