SCALAR CF&I Mines Project Full Steam Ahead

Our SCALAR project for Digital History is taking form.

SCALAR in essence is a digital exhibiting tool, but there are many different ways to use it. A great example is the one that is curated by Chris Schreck, the archival manager at the Steelworks Archives. The work that he has begun is already invaluable to our project.

Here is a sample of our topic proposal for our SCALAR project:

Goals of the project:

  1. Showcase unseen parts of the CF&I archival collection and parts pertaining specifically to the mines of CF&I.
  2. Create interest in coal/iron mining culture.
  3. Produce an easily accessible database about the mines of CF&I that can be used by the Steelworks Center to expand upon in the future
  4. Assist the Steelworks Center of the West’s grant proposal
  5. Integrate historical/digital mapping to SCALAR

By the end of the semester we will have completed 100% (as feasibly possible) of the following for each mine page on the SCALAR:

  1. The name of each mine
  2. A reasonable location for each mine
  3. The Dates of which each mine was either or operated by CF&I or one of its parent companies
  4. The tonnage amount produced for each mine
  5. A historical map from the archives for each mine
    1. There might not be a map for each mine within the archives so the total number is dependent on the contents of the archives.
  6. At least one picture or sketch associated each mine from the archive.
    1. total number is again, contingent on the contents of the archive.
  7. An identification of what was mined at each mine
  8. coal, iron, stone, or fluorspar
  9. Creating a Google Map that matches up the mine’s location to the SCALAR page.

In addition to these for each mine, we will showcase other parts of the archives for a select number of mines:

  1. A description and history of at least ten mines.
  2. An oral history associated with at least three mines
    1. Oral histories will have to be captivating and compelling, so there could be more depending on the contents of the archives.
  3. Employee cards corresponding to at least fifteen mines

Components of labor needed to complete the tasks outlined above:

  1. The rest of the mine location names and locations to be found
    1. Primary research.
  2. transfer the dates and tonnage from Chris’ CF&I scalar to ours
  3. identify, possibly scan, upload, crop, and label each mine map
  4. identify, possibly scan, upload, crop, and label each mine picture or sketch.
  5. research and write the history of the assigned mines
  6. find, upload, and find a suitable format to showcase the oral histories
  7. find, possibly digitize employee cards for the mines
  8. create a map and tie each SCALAR page to the map.
  9. format the SCALAR book to best showcase the mines in a thoughtful and organized way either:
    1. By county
    2. Group by years mines opened
    3. By type of mine (coal, iron, etc)

As you can see, even though a lot of work has already been done (collecting 60 mine coordinates was not such a small task), but the scope of this project is beyond three people working on it for one semester. Trevor is tackling going through the archives digital pictures collection and then finding pictures of mines that are not online, which is where Chris as an archivist will be invaluable. I am setting up the SCALAR, working on finalizing a Google Maps with each SCALAR link attached, and good ole primary research for the last couple of mines. Todd worked on turning our bullet points into an actual paper, and has been helping with primary research. These next couple of weeks will be to gather as much information as possible to start filling in the framework of our SCALAR.


Map of all CF&I Holdings

I spent the first two days of my spring break making this map. This is a test of what kind of product freeware can produce to make an interactive, user-friendly map. The locations are not 100% accurate in all cases. Most of the pictures I used were from the Steel Center of the West and their digital archive collection. Ideally, this type of software will be used as a research tool for historians and genealogists. It’s also kind of fun, because I haven’t seen a consolidated list and map of Colorado Fuel and Iron mines and holdings. Chris got the ball rolling my sending a kmz file (a type of file that saves the spatial representation of data) of his scalar project linked to the corresponding CF&I mines on Google Earth. I created a completely new file so that his data and my data could overlay and just kept going. Chris is kind of a dangerous partner to work with. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re competitive but there’s definitely an element of “oh wow what you did was really cool, here’s my equally awesome and well-thought project I’ve been losing sleep over” going on.

Feel free to click on the expand map to have it open up into a new window. Any pictures that weren’t from the archives digital collection, I linked the website I found the picture on. There are one or two places that do not have photos because I could not find any historic ones of them. Also, some of the boxes are a bit stacked up on each other, Google Maps lacks the feature that Google Earth has to seperate them when you click on a group of closely associated locations

If you find any mines or locations that you feel to be horribly inaccurate let me know. Most of these were from coordinates I found on the web, or highly educated guesses.


Joe Arridy excursion

I swear, the more time I spend on this class, the further down the digital humanity rabbit hole I go. This has proven to be fairly difficult because I am also working on my historiography project which has really ended up being a 12-15 page discussion on how historians either think that the railroad is man’s gift to man, or it is the devil and ruined everyone’s life (hyperbole) until Richard White wrote his book Railroaded and changed everything. That aside, the last two weeks have been fairly busy.

Last Thursday Chris and I took advantage of the beautiful day in Pueblo and went on a little field trip to get the inside scoop for our wiki project on Joe Arridy. I wrote about the specifics of Joe Arridy and our wiki project for him here.


Seriously, a nice day

The idea for our little field trip came from one of the diagrams we found in the archive boxes at the library.

neighborhood map

As you can see, most of Joe Arridy’s life in Pueblo was contained to a very small area in Bessemer. The murder of the little girl only happened a couple blocks away from where Joe’s family was living at the time of the murder. Now why the general consensus that Joe had nothing to do with the murder and rapes, it is interesting to see how close everything was together.

Our goal was to see the house where the murders occurred…and while we did invite Dr. Rees to come with us, he politely declined. I can’t imagine why.


The house of Dorothy Drain

This is honestly not what Chris and I expected. It was so damn cheery. It even had a white picket fence on the side of it. Heck, if you squint your eyes, this house could very well represent the American Dream. I fully expected the house to be a visual representation of the murder that happened inside. Chris and I joked that if we were to knock on their door and ask if them if they knew a murder occurred, we could safely say that historians were worse than door to door salesmen.

We also drove by Joe Arridy’s childhood home.


And to the home his family was living in at the same time of Dorothy Drain’s murder.



We needed this break because from here on out til the end of the semester it’s going to be a lot of data entry for our GIS project. I’ll be writing a separate blog post about our experience with the department chair of Geography and Environmental Studies, John Harner. He had some wonderful insight and really I’ve never been more excited to collect data (like I said, this class is taking me down the rabbit hole).


GIS and the limits and advantages of using data spatially in the historical field

Through the library at CSU Pueblo, Dr. Rees was able to have Historical GIS: Technologies, Methodologies, and Scholarship bought for us by the fabulously clever librarian Karen Pardue. Written by Paul Ell and Ian Gregory, Historical GIS offers up a comprehensive overview of GIS and its applications in the field of history. It’s a fairly technical book but its insights into how GIS can be used in history and also its strengths in limitations has already proven to be enormously helpful in how I find myself thinking about our GIS project. I will attempt to share what I’ve learned so far so when I talk about GIS, there is some more context to it then just “oh it’s the software that’s going to make all of this data shiny and pretty and map-like.”

The first question is, and should be, what is GIS? Well, broadly speaking, GIS is a type of software that allows the input of spatial data and attribute data into a database that can be used to project visual presentations of the data. Most importantly, that data can represented spatially over time which is where the inherent usefulness of GIS to a historian becomes apparent. attribute data describes what a feature is, and spatial data is the attribute data is inputted and linked to information about where the feature is located. This spatial data is stored as co-ordinates. More narrowly, GIS is the tools that the program offers, in addition to the software that provides the tools.

For our CF&I project, we will be essentially using three components of data: spatial, attribute, and time (known as temporal data). These three data groupings will allow us to visual the impact of change over time and space to create an understanding of movements of Hispanic workers. In an ideal situation, all three components of data would be readily available. However, since historians almost zealously maintain that their field is qualitative as opposed to quantitative, there are gaps because historical data is sometimes limited.

So here’s where thinking about data as projections spatially that have a quantitative approach gets tricky. We have fixed, limited data for Hispanic workers of where they were, and when they were at that place. So these three points of data need to be categorized much like you would in a scientific experiment; one group of data needs to be a fixed component, one group needs to be a controlled component, and one group of data needs to be the measured component.

Fixed Controlled Measured
Temporal Spatial Attribute
Spatial Attribute Temporal
Attribute Temporal Spatial

This is just an example of how you can organize the data. For GIS, Chris and I go back and forth on what we think could be the best way to organize the data. Our arguments are very philosophical in nature because the truth is, we could very well be putting the cart before the horse.

So here is what Chris thinks the data should be:

Fixed Controlled Measured
Data Type Attribute Time Location
GIS Project Input Hispanic Miners 1920s Southwest

His argument is that we are measuring where the Mexican workers are going in the 1920s.

My table looks like:

Fixed Controlled Measured
Data Type Time Location Attribute
GIS Input 1920s Southwest Hispanic Miners

I believe that we are examining the movements of Hispanic workers within a fixed time period in a spatial area, and we are measuring where the Hispanic workers are moving within that area.

What these tables really show is what Dr. Rees considers to be the best part of digital history. You begin to ask questions that would never come up in a traditional historical educational settings. You begin to think about source compilation, and the best way to share the data you have compiled. This is one of the reasons this blog post has taken so long to complete. In a way, I feel like this whole ordeal has rewired my brain.

So at the end of creating a GIS project, the goal is to have an organization of data that gives the ability to visual said data. The results gained from analysing this spatial representation is called spatial analysis. Ideally with a project with project like our GIS project, one could integrate two databases together to find causational relationships. The thing to keep in mind though, is that the map is not the end goal for a GIS historical approach, it is a research tool.



Microfilm and other adventures at the Rawlings Library

Week two of research was as the title states, an adventure.

The week before we had picked out our microfilms at the CF&I Archives and honestly, I was feeling pretty smart about it. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that all microfilm is not created equal.



This is what the microfilm comes in. A little acid free box with the information printed on the front and the side. And here’s the thing that was frustrating for us. We didn’t realize that the microfilm we grabbed was only for the Steel Mill in Pueblo itself. Of course we didn’t know it would be frustrating, but as we started sifting through all of the employment cards we discovered that at least during the 1920’s, once you got a job at the Steel Mill, you never left. The only moves were changes in departments. This is in itself is a very interesting discovery, but not very good information for data that tracks employees across the Southwest or in Colorado. Next week we will try the records for the miners and hope that they are able to give us some better data.

I’ve never worked with microfilm before and thankfully the learning curve for the machine is low (as in low technology), but the viewer reminded me of a cross between a sewing machine and a microscope.  I took a picture of the basic function of the machine.



The microfilm reel is placed on a metal rod to the left and thread the film between two rollers that then pushes the film over the lighted glass portion and over to another reel on the other side. The plastic/rubber cog things above the glass are for focusing and zooming. The little knob on the bottom left is to move the film up and down so you can look at different portions of the film while zoomed in. There is also a little control “joystick” (for lack of better term) to control the forward, backwards, and rotation aspects of the film.

Here’s what the employment cards look like on the microfilm:


And here’s a close up of one of the cards. I’m sorry about the quality, a photo taken by a phone of bad microfilm doesn’t lend itself to the highest quality of images.




As you can see, it’s a whole bucket of fun.

After a frustrating hour of going through cards and not finding any that showed movement to anywhere than other departments of the Mill itself, Chris and I decided that for our sanity, we needed to decide on a topic for our Wiki page. The Rawlings Public Library has a lot of great things in its archives, and we quickly decided we wanted to look at an unprocessed box of things that were donated about a man named Joe Arridy.

Joe Arridy was born in Pueblo in to Syrian parents and had extremely limited mental capacities. He was infamous for being accused, convicted, and executed in 1939 for the murder and rape of a 15 year old girl who lived in Pueblo. He was very recently posthumously pardoned by Colorado because of his execution and conviction even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he was not mentally capable of being held responsible for the crimes he was accused of.


These are the boxes, with copies of old newspapers floating at the top.




With crazy newspapers like this, how could we not investigate further! This is definitely going to be our Wiki project, but there’s so much stuff, we’re not sure how we’re going to structure it.

Here are some teasers of the materials that this box had.


The trial transcript of Joe Arridy


Joe Arridy’s statement on the stand


The details of Joe Arridy’s first sanity hearing.

I don’t want to reveal too much of what we have at our fingertips because it would defeat the purpose of the wiki, but Chris and I are pretty excited about sifting through all of the box contents. We think this is the research of Robert Peske for his book Deadly Innocence?  and it’s very interesting to see the kinds of questions that get written in the margins of things.


Pueblo CF&I Steelworks GIS project beginnings


Thursday was the first day of my group (Chris and me) going to the CF&I archives on the south side of Pueblo to start the process of data collection for our GIS project. GIS is a geography tool that we will use to create a visualization of the movements of Hispanic workers from CF&I around the state and hopefully the southwest as well.

We spent most of our research time looking the employment cards and discussing the best way to organize the data. Below is a look into what we have so far.

CF&I data table 1


I inputted the data a bit wrong so that’s why there is nothing in the destination column, but it won’t matter because we will be focusing on employment cards from the 1920s. Anything in brackets is something that we guessed on because it was very intelligible or illegible. We also decided that if the reason for leaving was written, we’d put it on the list even though it won’t be immediately pertinent for the GIS project. Information like that will help any future historians looking at our data if they wanted to focus on a different aspect of these employment cards. We also put the file number so we could find it exactly if we needed to. This to me is one of the most important aspects of what we are doing related to the academic side of history. Your work is nothing, your argument is nothing, if you cannot pinpoint exactly where your source came from. Our future data will have the microfilm roll number on them instead of a file number because what we will be looking at is not digitized yet.

Immediately, the difficulties of processing historical data becomes overwhelmingly apparent. There are thousands upon thousands of employment cards, most of them being handwritten. The penmanship is more often than not atrocious and the employment cards differ from one another and are often incomplete. There are also multiple employment cards for the same employee, but the name has been changed. Making sure that the employee card belongs to the same employee comes down to their birth date, or seeing if the ages or names of their immediate family are the same. There is guess work involved which always makes me uncomfortable. We are trying to be absolutely as accurate as possible but it is very difficult.

The search is fascinating however. There is so much interesting data on these cards. Sometimes they will have medical information on them. One man had a condition that looked like it said “mental regurgitation” but after Sara, the archivist at the CF&I archivists did a quick Google search, we surmised that it probably said “mitral regurgitation”, a heart condition in which the mitral valve in the muscle does not close all the way and some blood flows back into the heart. Some other of the workers, and you can see one of them on our spreadsheet, were fired in Sept 1913 probably due to the strike that eventually led up to the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914. To see records of people who were actively affected by things like the strike is very humbling. Up to this point in my education, I’ve learned all about large events, large people, and large concepts, but now I am seeing the history  of everyday people who no doubt were certain that they’d never be remembered. The ability to bring these peoples’ stories to life again, even if that means that they are a little blip on a stop motion video, makes me feel like I’m doing something important.

Now that I have more of understanding of what the employment cards look like and I know what type of information I should be looking for, we will be at the public library this Thursday. All of the employment cards from the 1920s are still on microfilm and the public library has multiple working microfilm viewers. We picked about five microfilms to go through. We chose microfilm containing cards that had surnames beginning with “G” “M” “R” and “C.” These were chosen after a quick Google search for census information on the most common hispanic surnames and the top 30ish had more of instances of those letters.

I’m very excited to continue this work and thus far I find it very rewarding even though the task of sifting through that much data is a little headache inducing. Next time I’ll take more pictures to give more of a visual aid.