The One-Man Drill

It cannot be said that the one-man drill was a "bad" invention.  It most certainly did the job it was designed for.  And did it well.  Nevertheless, the introduction of this technological innovation had very severe social implications for the copper mining industry. 

Miners hated the idea of it.  When the strike began in 1913, the one-man drill was one of the primary causes of outrage.  There were several reasons for their hatred of it.  First and foremost of their concerns, was the elimination of the "buddy system."  Under the two-man drill system, it took two men (obviously) to run a single machine.  This meant that if something went wrong (i.e. a cave-in, lights going out, etc.) then there would be someone there to help get them out.  It also meant they simply had someone to chat with during the long hours underground.  They were a team.  With the one-man drill came nothing but isolation.  It only took one man to do the same task, so that one man would be by himself when something went wrong. That one man would have no one to talk to during the long 10-12 hour work days.  It became a dangerous and lonely job. 

The miners were also concerned that if it only took half the work force to do the same amount of drilling then they were in danger of losing their jobs.  Potentially 50% of the miners drilling could have been laid off without lessening the amount of copper produced. 

There were many other reasons unrelated to the drill that the miners went on strike.  The mining companies refused to budge, referring to the union as a group of "bullies" and "Communists."  On the next few pages is a demonstration of the effects of the drill from the mining companies' perspective.  It ignores the concerns and complaints of the workers and instead focuses on the raw numbers and how much the drill improved efficiency.  It compares a set of accounting cost sheets from Quincy Mine during the month of July in 1910 and 1915.  This is intended to give a "before and after" look at the industry with respect to the drill.

Introduction - Labor Force - Direct Mining Costs

Miners' Strike Home