Our friend Beth was traveling nearby so we drove north to join her in the Verde Valley. Randy and I spent February 2015 exploring the Verde Valley while in our fifth wheel and knew there was an abundance of things to do!
The three of us decided to go on the Verde Canyon Railroad – a repeat for Randy and me. Our experience was quite different this time. During the COVID break, the railroad’s entire operation was reimagined. The car’s interiors were refurbished and each now has an attendant/bartender. A generous fruit and cheese platter (with champagne) is included with your ticket, as well as the opportunity to order a hot boxed lunch.
Our car attendant/bartender, Mona, was on her last trip as she retired the next day.
Our outside attendant, EC, was very knowledgable and engaging. He narrated our ride along the river, pointing out rock formations and sites relevant to the former mining operations.
He told us the history of the railroad and the town of Clarkdale. One of the Montana Copper Kings, William Andrews Clark, was described as the richest man you’ve never heard of. He bought western copper mines and a Montana based US Senate seat. His business acumen and ruthlessness were equal to Carnegie, Rockefeller and Morgan but Clark is less well known today. He did not trouble himself with philanthropic endeavors so has no lasting legacy to soften the rough edges. Clark County, Nevada is also named for William Andrews Clark as he and his brother were instrumental in putting Las Vegas on the railroad map.
In Arizona, Clark bought the Jerome copper mine in1888 and built the town of Clarkdale for his employees. This company town is said to be the first planned community in Arizona.
In 1894 he built a 26 mile railroad spur to transport his copper to the larger line in Prescott. This railroad, abandoned when the mine shut down, was resurrected as a tourist venue, The Verde Canyon Railroad.
The three of us enjoyed a trip to the Arizona Copper Museum – a new venue in town.
The museum was established by a Minnesota family who had amassed two very large collections of copper items. They chose to develop the museum in Arizona because it is the copper state, the largest copper producer in the nation. A copper star is central on the Arizona flag.
Clarkdale was chosen because of the region’s history with mining and ongoing tourist opportunities connected to that copper past. The long abandoned Clarkdale High School was refurbished to house the museum.
The family’s copper, assembled over decades, form the bulk of the museum’s collection although acquisitions by purchase and gifts continue. There are six to eight very large rooms holding copper pieces on every wall and in interior cases. There are also hallway exhibits.
We learned a lot about copper! Copper was the first metal discovered by man, the first to be worked by man, and the first to be alloyed.
Copper and gold are the only metals that have color. The world’s oldest copper mine still in operation (over 6000 years) is in Cyprus and that is why the copper element symbol is Cu.
Copper and gold exist in nuggets where other metals form in ore. For 4000 years copper and gold were the only metals used by man.
There are seven metals of antiquity: copper, gold, silver, tin, lead, iron and mercury.
Bronze is a mixture of 85% copper and 15% tin.
The museum includes a very large military art collection. The various rows hold casings from the same weapon type and explain how soldiers were able to pass some time creating these works of art. Most examples were from WWI.
There are very large collections of copper pots, and dishes.
This display allows you to see the various forms of copper embellishment: verdigris (natural), patina, applied and polished.
Copper ceilings adorn most rooms.
Did you know there is copper in dark chocolate?
Or that copper is present in blue glass? Adding tin makes glass yellow and adding gold makes glass red.
The museum is extensive and it is easy to go on copper overload. It was also easy to go in, enjoy the displays and learn a few interesting things about copper.
Our life is so different now than it was when we lived in the mode of constant traveling, exploring, and learning new things everyday. It was a delight to be explorers and learners again!