Platteville's Mining Legacy

The remodeled train takes visitors on a tour of the museum grounds, including the “hoist house”. Source: The Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums.

The Ingersoll-Sergeant pneumatic rock drill in Platteville, Wisconsin. Owner of image: Liam Reinicke.

A lead miner who immigrated to Platteville from Bulgaria uses a pneumatic rock drill in a zinc mine in the early 1900s. Source: The Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums.

Ingersoll-Sergeant Rock Drill
Just standing a few blocks east from the Mining Museum is the Ingersoll- Sergeant pneumatic rock drill. This drill symbolizes mining’s impact in Platteville. The Ingersoll-Sergeant Rock Drill Co. manufactured the drill, and miners used it in the Platteville zinc mines. As improvements in drilling technology were made, more advanced models replaced this drill. In the mid-1950s, the drill was placed on display in front of the Wisconsin Institute of Technology, which later became known as the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Today, the building is the Rountree Hall Apartments.

Galena is the mineral form of lead sulfide (PbS) and was the main mineral mined during the lead boom in Platteville from 1827 to 1849. Source: Original picture by Liam Reinicke taken at the Mining Museum in Platteville.

Platteville’s Lead Boom
In 1827, frontiersmen exploring the Northwest Territory discovered galena (lead ore) in Platteville. This sparked a lead rush to the area. Many of these early miners hailed from Cornwall, England and the Southern United States. John Rountree, a Southern businessman, moved to Platteville to enter the lead industry. He is credited with officially founding Platteville in 1829 and is the namesake for the historic Rountree Hall where the Ingersoll-Sergeant drill is on display. While Rountree was a successful businessman and philanthropist, his legacy is complicated by the fact that he owned slaves in Platteville.

Sphalerite, known as Zinc Sulfide (ZnS), was the main mineral mined in Platteville from the 1860s to the end of mining operations in 1979. Source: Original picture by Liam Reinicke taken at the Mining Museum in Platteville.

Platteville’s Zinc Boom
By 1850, lead began to run out in Platteville. However, advances in mineral processing and water pumping technologies sparked Platteville’s zinc boom. The zinc ores of smithsonite and sphalerite were abundant in Platteville. Sphalerite became the most important mineral mined and was the main cause of the zinc boom in the early 1900s. More than 31 joint-stock mining companies were incorporated in Platteville alone in 1905 and 1906. The final zinc mine in Platteville ended operations in 1979.

Realistic mannequins depict the daily work activities of lead and zinc miners at the Bevans underground lead mine. Source: The Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums.

Mining’s Continued Importance
The continued importance of mining to Platteville can be experienced at the Mining Museum. Opened in 1971, the Mining Museum educates the public on Platteville’s mining history. The museum has an exhibit space, where visitors can observe mining artifacts and learn about the people who worked in the mines. Notably, visitors can enter the Bevans lead mine: an excavated former lead mine from the 1840s. Visitors become immersed in mining history as the cool, dark environment and limestone walls give a sense of what miners experienced at work.

Visitors take a tour of the museum grounds, including the "hoist house".

This video shows drone footage of the Mining Museum in Platteville, including the Bevans mine, railroad, and hoist house. (1 min 55 sec.)

This video gives an in-depth tour of the Bevans mine at the Mining Museum in Platteville, and the tour guide details the importance of zinc mining after the original lead boom. (6 min 44 sec).

1827-1849 Lead mining boom in Platteville attracts large mining operations.
1840s The majority of African Americans in the region become free. Some continue to mine and form communities such as Pleasant Ridge.
1850s Zinc mining, originally for smithsonite, takes over as the predominant focus of Platteville mining companies.
1860s The zinc ore known as sphalerite becomes the main mineral mined in Platteville.
1871 Simon Ingersoll invents the steam-powered percussion drill, greatly improving productivity in Platteville’s mines. He forms the Ingersoll Drill Co. in New York, NY.
1886 Ingersoll’s former business partner, Henry Clark Sergeant, forms the Sergeant Drill Co. in Bridgeport, CT. Sergeant begins to improve on Ingersoll’s original work by replacing steam-power with compressed air power (pneumatic).
1888 Ingersoll-Sergeant Drill Co. is formed by consolidating the two inventors’ respective companies. It is during this period before 1905 that the pneumatic drill currently at Rountree Hall is manufactured.
1890 to 1920 Eastern European immigrants arrive in Platteville to work in the mines.
1905 Ingersoll-Sergeant consolidates with Rand Companies to form Ingersoll- Rand, which is still in existence today.
1905 to 1906 The Platteville zinc boom is in full swing, and more than 31 mining companies incorporate in Platteville alone and sell stocks.
1907 The Wisconsin Mining Trade School in Platteville is established at Rountree Hall to train mining technicians to work in the local mines.
1915 The school becomes the Wisconsin Mining School. It focused on training mining engineers and technicians for work in mining operations around the world.
1939 The school reorganized itself under the name the Wisconsin Institute of Technology to show its engineering and mining strengths.
1950s The Ingersoll-Sergeant drill is placed in front of Rountree Hall, then part of the Wisconsin Institute of Technology.
1959 The Wisconsin Institute of Technology merges with the Platteville State Teachers College to eventually be known as the University of Wisconsin – Platteville.
1979 The final mining operation in Platteville closes.

Why I choose this object?

Hello, and thank you for visiting my project. My name is Liam Reinicke, and I am a political science, economics, and history student at UW-Madison, as well as a native of Platteville, Wisconsin. The Ingersoll-Sergeant rock drill encapsulates Platteville’s mining history and stands in front of one of the community’s oldest and most iconic buildings in Rountree Hall. Growing up I was always appreciative and grateful for the work of the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums in educating the public on Platteville’s mining history. I was also intrigued by the history of the rock drill itself and its connection to Platteville. This compelled me to attribute their location to the rock drill as a way to give back and contribute to Platteville’s important public history.

Liam Reinicke


History 401 [Spring 2022]

Leslie A. Bellais