The Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company’s Many Businesses

The Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company, or CCI, is well-known for its domination of the local iron mining industry and its involvement in related industries such as lumber, furnaces, and railroads. However, it also diversified into a variety of other areas.

Grand Island Forest Preserve was one company operated by CCI. Its annual reports include exact details as to how many of each species were added to the preserve. It described weather conditions and deaths in the populations, sometimes going into detailed stories about how a particular bird or deer died. CCI also owned a fish hatchery which went into similar detail about its fish populations, albeit without describing the deaths of individual fish. One report from the greenhouses describes their desire to raise more carnations and roses as these were the most popular types of flowers and describes which flowers and shrubs were more and less popular. In another report, it is briefly mentioned that CCI also owned a tannery, paper mills, and a hotel. From the Annual Reports, it would seem a very close watch was kept over every aspect of the companies affiliated with CCI.

Notable events were also recorded in the reports. For instance, the Forest Preserve notes that “One of the gamekeepers shot a very fine specimen of albino deer. It is practically a pure albino, large and of a very fine color, with a good set of antlers. The carcass has been sent to Chicago for mounting, and will be added to the collection of curios.

CCI played a large role in shaping the development of towns such as Munising and Gwinn. They tried to control every aspect of the towns, including what businesses were allowed there. For instance, in 1911 the author of the report wrote of Munising “The general welfare of the town appears to be slowly improving. It will take some time and constant effort to eradicate many of the evils of the past. The saloon element still has its influence and many of the business men are afraid to do their part in compelling law enforcement and a general bettering of conditions. The Village Council took matter into their own hands in 1911 and eliminated seven of the less desirable saloons and this work is still to be further pushed in 1912.”

They were also involved in less intrusive charity work. In 1908, they gave money to local fire departments, rented a YMCA building for Munising, and paid to create a playground in Munising. They were also involved in projects such as improving Munising’s streets.

CCI owned a great deal of land, and they were clearly skilled at getting profits from the land in any way that they could think of. Some land was rented as homes, lots, or farms. Other land produced everything from hay, berries, limestone, and timber to game animals and fish.

Perhaps CCI’s most intriguing company was Bellevue Farms. The farm raised sheep, pigs, goats, and sugar beets. However, the cows received the most attention in the Annual Reports, where each was listed by name. Most of the cows had fairly typical bovine names, such as Bessie and Buttercup, but some had names such as Tormentor, Smut, and Tutsie. The reports listed how much milk each cow produced, how much it was fed, its age, and its breed.

These are only a handful of the stories that can be found in the reports. The Archives has digitized many of the CCI records, including the Annual Reports. They can be found online here. More records from the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company can be perused at the Archives.

cows - Copy

Prepared by Annika Peterson


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