Here is how Bingham City was artfully described by a journalist in an article in a national newspaper in 1924. Some of those who came to Bingham from foreign countries earned enough in Utah to return to their native lands quite wealthy, while others remained and they and their children became Americans.
Photograph from Shiplers, Salt Lake City
Along Bingham's Narrow Street, Which Follows the Curve of the Canyon, Are the Stores and Houses,
While Beyond Rises the Pyramid of the Copper Mountain With Its Score of Levels, the Great Refuse
Dump at the Left, All Inclosed in the Great Bowl of Green, Brown and Gray Mountain Slopes.
Ten Thousand Who Live on One Street
in the City of Copper
In the Salt Lake Valley of Utah it seldom thunders, but those who live there hear three or four times every day a dull rumble as of distant thunder. And following that booming, if one turns toward the west he will see a slight smoky haze hanging over a canyon above the dry brown western range. Then if one follows the vision of the eye he will find beneath that cloud of smoke, Bingham, the city of copper, or the town of a thousand windows, most fascinating and most typical of all the typical mining towns of the Rockies.
The road winds across the brown foothills, approaches the canyon mouth, climbs, climbs, and at last enters the main street of the queerest of queer places. For ten thousand persons live in Bingham along that single street which forks only once yet is ten miles long, and those ten thousand people have been recruited from 30 different nationalities. Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Croatians, Slovakians, Spaniards, Scandinavians, Serbs; brown, swarthy, yellow and white the faces pass up and down, up and down. That is the only way to go in Bingham, up or down, for the street goes that way, and the houses and stores cluster along the bottom of the canyon on opposite sides of the 20-foot street as though they had been pushed off the walls and had settled there when the snow melted in the spring.
Toot-Toot Go Dinkey Engines
Climb up the canyon wall just below the town for 500 feet or more, turn about and Bingham blinks at you with its thousand windows. Around the canyon wall at the left run little dinkey engines like mechanical ants lugging little freight cars, scooting back and forth. They toot-toot, and chug-chug, and blow off steam; they cannot stand still. Down the canyon wall at the right comes a train load of cars loaded with copper ore and hauled by a mighty locomotive. And beyond, beyond is the source of all this noise, all this smoke, this copper glow which hangs in the air and lends a peculiar luminous quality to the very air; beyond in the very center of the picture is the great mountain of copper, the largest open copper mine in the world. At that distance it has the appearance of a giant pyramid nearly 2000 feet high, measured and inclined so that it rises at a 90-degree angle. But the steps are terraces, 26 or 27 of them and on each one runs a railroad, and a dinky engine. Far and away sloping to the horizon the trees of the mountain sides fade into carpets of green touched with yellow.
Whistles blow, and over on the mountain a shift is going off. But the whistles prove to be warning signals. Day after day along the terraces great drills work drilling down nearly a hundred feet to the level of a lover terrace and these holes are then charged with explosive, and at the appointed time--boom--boom--boom--boom. One blast after another, perhaps a dozen or more shake the canyon with their roar. But a peculiar phenomenon occurs here, first comes the little white puff of smoke, or perhaps only the sliding of the rocks and then the ear hears the crack of the big blast. Along the street which runs at the foot of the copper mountain shelters have been constructed where people wait during the blasting, but once when I stood in the open air only a few hundred feet from the blast I felt the twitch of air against my trousers.
The dinkey engines are scooting back and forth again, hauling ore or refuse. For this entire mountain is being taken down car load after car load, great electric shovels scoop up the ore, men are busy building new tracks as the terrace moves backward into the mountain, sometimes there appears a hole where some early mine worked a shaft. Five hundred car loads of ore are taken out daily, but it is ore which averages only slightly more than 1 per cent of copper with just a trace of silver and gold. All this ore goes down the mountain to the concentrator where it is concentrated for the smelter, and the annual production averages nearly 200,000,000 pounds of copper.
In Backyard and Street
Bingham itself. Children playing basketball in a back yard, scuffling with each other for the ball, quick, laughing, turning. Chinese girls with large eyes, delicate skin, long braids of hair flying in the wind. On the corner little Italian girls playing hop-scotch with deep eyed men watching them, smiling. Three children hanging over a banister teasing those who pass by. On a porch a little girl tending her baby brother, near by another merry one following her pretty mama who carries a pail of hot water. They laugh at each other, laugh together. The heavy pail of water is set down, the woman and her child chuckle and gurgle with delight.
On the street dark faced men with bright neckties and green or checkered flannel shirts climb the hills to work, talking, gesticulating as they go. Other men with dinner pails coming down, laughing, smiling. Just over the high board fence one may come at noon upon the noise of a group of Chinese eating dinner around a big coal fire. They have seated themselves about the fire to toast sandwiches and broil hamburger steak. They work on the section, their hats are tipped, eyes snap from their dark skins, and always they grin and laugh and are jolly. This is all a great game to them, very amusing.
From beneath comes the gurgle of running water; that is a small stream which dives through the sluice under the sidewalks along main street. On the canyon walls perch the houses, painted and unpainted with blinking windows and long flights of steps leading up to them. Across balconies are strung clothes lines from which the clothes dangle and play in the wind. A motor truck grinds slowly up the street on low gear, in a yard a boy plays with his dog, higher up on the mountain perhaps his father stands to wave a white flag at a kinky engine as it comes in sight around a curve.
The Flagman's Hotel
The flagmen of Bingham--after all they are more representative of it than any other one person or thing. Up there on the slope they stand on their little platforms to wave a flag as an engine comes down the line. Back of them is a little hut built of old ties, covered with pieces of tin for a roof and the tin loaded down with gravel. Inside is a little fat round stove, a bunk with an old comforter, a table, a lantern; the walls are covered with pages from a mail order catalogue, all the colored pages as though some design were intended. In one corner of the 10 by 10 hut is a pile of wood cut into one foot lengths and split into one inch squares, carefully as in Europe or China. In winter there is a fire in the stove, and through the window the flagman keeps watch. Near the hut a few flowers grow, sunflowers, cosmos, a touch of beauty.
"Hotel," the flagman calls his bunkhouse. "Fine hotel, water, fine bed, fine heat, good place stay. Bed--go sleep, fine place, fine hotel."
And the little stove inside sits up like a Chinese god and swallows flame or belches it forth in approval while the little man whittles out some odd trick toy, two fishes on strings floating under a wire held at the end of a match, wiggling like a real fish.
Toot-toot. The flagman is all attention. He waves the flag, a grand flourish as though the engineer were Napoleon at Waterloo. A wide gesture, a graceful free swing, and then a deep bow at the end. Polite, courteous, like a child on a lark. Far below is the dark street, the little houses, far away are the steam shovels, far across the canyon plod the dinkey engines with their cars.
Darkness Floats Down
Night comes on, the sun drops behind the mountain, slowly the darkness floats down into the gorge, heavy, dull, fastening down the little stores and houses. Night and darkness, the mysterious unknown as of being underground pervades the town. It is awesome. But the people laugh; laugh as they go off to work carrying their lunch pails. Little quick women buy groceries in the stores, buy dainties to prepare for their men. Through a window may be seen a spread supper table, the family about it; from a door which opens directly on the street comes the sound of a violin. The air is damp, sounds cut clearly through it, whistles, children laughing, noises coming through the thick air. Overhead the beams of a searchlight shift through the foggy mist and haze which settles down.
The city of copper hides in the night. The motion picture theater opens to the crowds, men and women go visiting their neighbors. Twenty-five miles away burn the bright lights of the metropolis of Utah, but these people are not eager to go there--no, they will go on Saturday.
But the dinkey engines scramble about until dawn carrying away the ore from the mountain of copper.
--The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, Friday, December 5, 1924, p.8
To tour Bingham City in the early 1950s, click here. To visit a site devoted to Bingham Canyon with maps, pictures, and census record, click here. To see an album of pictures of Bingham's immigrant families, click here. To see photographs of mines at Bingham, click here. To view Mark Evans' collection of Bingham photographs, click here. To see the Shipler collection of photographs (search "Bingham"), click here. To return the the Hickman Family Index page, click here.