Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Erasmus D. Leavitt Papers

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0966
Creators:
Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.
Leavitt, Erasmus D., 1836-1916
Dates:
1861-1955
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
20.4 Cubic feet
4 boxes, 82 folders
Repository:
Papers document prominent nineteenth-century steam engineer Erasmus D. Leavitt.

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
The Leavitt Papers include a Civil War diary, personal account books, photographs, drawings, and engineering materials relating to steam engines.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into three series.
Series 1: Engineering Materials, 1861-1955
Series 2: Photographs, 1890s, undated
Series 3: Engineering Drawings, 1874-1906

Historical
Historical
The Calumet and Hecla Company, which was formed in about 1866, was one of the largest mining operations in the Lake Superior region of Upper Michigan. Over 3 billion pounds of copper were removed from its extensive mines by the time operations ceased in 1939. To facilitate the work in both the mines and smelting plants, the company installed some the largest steam engines ever built. The aggregate amounted to over 55,000 horsepower.
Noted 19th century steam engineer Erasmus Darwin Leavitt was hired to design the series of huge multi-cylinder engines. Each had sufficient power to support several operations at one time. While an engine drove one of the hoists, it might also power pumping, conveying, and air compressing machinery. At the peak of operations there were at least 50 steam engines of all sizes providing power to Calumet and Hecla. Falling copper prices during the 1920s and the economic depression of the 1930s ultimately forced the mines to close. The engines were of no further use and their countless tons of cast iron and steel ended up in the scrap drives of World War II.

Biographical
Biographical
Erasmus Darwin Leavitt was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1836 and died in 1916 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was educated in the Lowell public schools, entered the machine shop of the Lowell Manufacturing Company in 1852, and served three years as an apprentice. He spent one year with Corliss and Nightingale and was later assistant foreman of the City Point works in South Boston, where he was in charge of building the engines for the flagship "Hartford." From 1859 to 1861 he was chief draftsman for Thurston, Gardiner & Co., of Providence, Rhode Island, leaving to enter the United States Navy in the summer of 1861.
Leavitt served during the Civil War and he was detailed to the Naval Academy at Annapolis as instructor in steam engineering. Resigning in 1867, he resumed the practice of mechanical engineering, making a specialty of pumping and mining machinery. He was consulting engineer of the Calumet and Hecla Mining compan from 1874 to 1904 during which time he designed the equipment. He was also consulting engineer for Henry R. Worthington, the Dickson Manufacturing Company, City of Boston and City of Cambridge, and designed the pumping engine for the City of Louisville, Kentucky. He was advisory engineer and designed machinery for the Bethlehem Steel Company and for South African mining companies. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and formerly its president; the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Institute of Mining Engineers, Boston Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Naval Engineers, an honorary member of the British Society for the Advancement of Science, life member of Franklin Institute, and member of Institution of Civil Engineers and of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers of Great Britain. He was also a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 1884 Mr. Leavitt received the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology of New Jersey. Leavitt retired from active practice in 1904. He married Annie Elisabeth Pettit in 1867, and had three daughters, Mary, Margaret and Annie.
Source
Cambridge Chronicle
, March 18, 1916

Administration
Author
Alison Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisiton
Collection materials donated by Calumet and Hecla, Inc. in 1960 and by Thomas E. P. Rice, 1977.
The collection came to the Smithsonian in 1960 from Calumet & Hecla, Inc. In the course of a reorganization in 1952 mining had been dropped from the company name as the emphasis was on chemicals, foundry work, and forest products. Its remaining mining activites in other areas of Michigan were phased out during the 1960s and in 1968 Calumet & Hecla merged with Universal Oil Products, Inc. Late in 1970 Universal Oil Products scrapped what was left of the Calumet & Hecla physical plant and its remaining assests were auctioned off.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Alison Oswald, archivist, 2022. Additional research notes contributed by Danielle Bennett.
Custodial History
The drawings were collected in two parts for the National Museum of American History, Division of Civil and Mechanical Engineering (now called the Division of Work and Industry). All were transferred to the Archives Center in 2007. The remaining part of the collection was donated in 1996 to the Division of Civil and Mechanical Engineering by Thomas E. P. Rice. That portion was also transferred to the Archives Center in 2007.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Erasmus D. Leavitt Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Materials
Materials at Other Organizations
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections
Calumet and Hecla Mining Company Collection

More Information

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Account books Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Engines Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hoisting and conveying Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Letterpress books Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mineral industries Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mining Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Notebooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pumping Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Upper Peninsula (Mich.) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Steam-engines Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Waterworks Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Work and Industry Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu