Copper and its alloys are the first metals that we find any mention made of in history, and there are numerous objects made of copper or its alloys in existence today that the leading arche-ologists claim date back to 3,000 years before Christ. But of the modern important producing fields only Spain, Germany, and Japan have a history that began earlier than 1835.
The first copper discovered in the United States was found in Massachusetts in the year 1632. In 1709 a company was organized in Granby, Connecticut, for the purpose of working the Simsbury copper mine, but only a small amount of copper was taken from this mine. Work was started on the copper deposits of New Jersey during the year 1719. The mines in Vermont, opened in the eighteenth century, were the principal source of American production until the real opening of the mines in the Lake Superior region in 1884.
The Jesuit missionaries discovered the Lake Superior mines in the latter part of the sixteenth century. An English company was formed and the mines on the Ontanagon river were worked in 1771, but the men were killed and the mine was abandoned. Copper mining was begun in Tennessee in 1850, neglected during the Civil War, and resumed in 1890.
The really important copper mining of the United States dates from 1884 with the first production of a few tons of black copper ore, probably Chalcocite, taken from a mine at Copper Harbor, Michigan. The beginning of the Lake Superior copper industry was very crude, but the growth was steady from the start, and within twenty years these mines became the most important producers in the country, and second only to the mines of Chili. The existence of the rich copper fields of the Lake Superior district was known to the American Indians, and it is certain that these mines have been worked by some prehistoric race, as they have left many traces of their operations.
Montana is now the largest copper producing district in the world. The first copper was produced there in 1882. Copper was found in Arizona in 1872.
Speaking broadly, the great copper industry of the twentieth century may be said to date from the middle of the nineteenth century. The great copper producing fields of today were unknown in 1840. Mexico, which comes after Montana as the world's greatest producer, mined only small amounts previous to 1875. The present copper industry of Canada is so recent that all of its principal developments have occurred since 1880. Australia and South Africa produced their first copper in 1850, and production along modern lines began in Chili at the same time.
The United States produces more copper at the present time than any other country. The total amount produced in the United States during the year 1911 was 1,090,000,000 pounds. This was about 65 per cent of the total amount produced in the entire world during that year.