Miners pose with lunch pails in hand on a mine rock pile outside of the Tamarack mineshaft. This mine was one of the most productive mines in the Copper Country. Miners pose with lunch pails in hand on a mine rock pile outside of the Tamarack mineshaft. This mine was one of the most productive mines in the Copper Country. Adolph F. Isler (1848-1912); dust cleaned up by Howcheng. - Keweenaw National Historical Park archives, Jack Foster Collection. Public Domain.
Home » History » The Tin Men of Cornwall

The Tin Men of Cornwall

Tin was one of the first metals known to man, and the extraction of tin in Cornwall, England dates back to the Bronze Age, when tin was combined with copper to produce Bronze. The Tin industry supported the area from the 16th century to well into the 1800’s when tin nearly played out. It is a familiar story. In 1874, nearly 150 mines closed in Cornwall, sending as many as three thousand miners abroad looking for work. They sought their fortune in the gold mines of California and the copper mines of Australia and Arizona. And they made their mark on our history.

One author, speaking of the Cornish Miners in the Sierra Madre gold mining district, wrote: “The Cornish emigrants and their descendants were and still are the bone, muscle and brains behind the development of the Mother Lode; nearly every productive hard rock mine in the length and breadth of the Sierra Lode had for its Mine Captain a Cornishman. Every Civic and private Lady’s organization in the encompassed area was and is due to the leadership and spirit of “getting things done” by ladies of Cornish bloodlines…”

The Cornish knew mining and were hardened to its conditions from an early age.

In Cornwall, women & children (as young as 12) were used in the mines. And the conditions of deep-rock mining were hot, oppressive and very dangerous. Men were issued 6 candles a day, but often chose to snub out their candles and work in the dark to conserve air in the chamber.

When the “Cousin Jenny’s” and “Cousin Jack’s” immigrated to this country, they found a ready home in the gold mines of California and copper mines of Arizona. They brought with them, not only their toughness, but their generations of knowledge about deep-tunnel mining. It was the Cornish miners who were called upon to solve many of the early problems encountered with underground mining. And solve them, they did. The Cornish Pumping Engine, one of the mechanical wonders of the steam age, was patterned after ones used in Cornwall, and was first used at the Chapin mine in Michigan which was one of the wettest mines to ever be worked.  Costing over $82,000 in 1890, it was able to remove up to 5 million gallons of water a day.

It is hard to underestimate the influence of the Cornish miners on mining in this country. Just as tin was married with copper to produce a valuable commodity back in the Bronze Age. It was the marriage of Cornish miners with Arizona copper mines which produced a legacy. As one writer states,” It is impossible to imagine mining….without the Cornish .”

Note:  The Cornish “Pastie” (pronounced ‘paH-stees’) is a traditional meal of meat and potatoes wrapped in a flaky crust. Carried down into the mines every day by working miners, it provided a rich meal-in-one. The tradition survives today in the Globe-Miami area where pasties are made fresh every Thursday at Joe’s Broadstreet Grill, and the Methodist Women sell Cornish pasties to raise money for the church.

There is an old saying, “a mine is a hole in the ground with a Cornishman at the bottom.”

About Linda Gross

Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.


  1. My wife and I ended up in Globe because we couldn’t find a hotel room in Phoenix and we loved it. My wife is Cornish although it has to be admitted that none of her ancestors have ever been down a mine as they were fishermen. There was an open house day and we went into different homes and we were made so welcome. On returning home I read that Globe was a dump plagued by drug use but that isn’t the way we saw it as we thought it was wonderful and so friendly.
    When we visited my wife’s family in Padstow, Cornwall much as I loved it for me the highlight of the trip was the two giant pasties my wife’s mum made for the journey home!

    • Thanks for weighing in on your experience in Globe! I am a transplant myself, having moved here in 2001 and I love the people and the community in Globe. If you ever have a chance to make it back, Copper Bistro serves giant pasties every Thursday!

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