How the Iron Range altered American history

As a nerd engaged in a lifelong battle with body weight, an event called “Lunch and Learn” is a siren call to be heeded. Maybe for you too? Iron Range historian Pam Brunfelt will be the featured speaker at this Minnesota Humanities Center event Thursday, Sept. 9 at Valentini’s in Chisholm. I’ll be there. Join me! (RSVP) Here’s the description:

What would U.S. history look like without Minnesota’s Iron Range? The discovery of vast iron ore deposits in Minnesota ensured that the United States would emerge as a world power in the Twentieth Century. It is no exaggeration to state that the history of the U.S. would be different without the iron ore produced by the people who lived and worked on the Iron Range of Minnesota. The Mesabi, Vermilion, and Cuyuna Iron Ranges produced billions of tons of high grade iron ore used to manufacture the steel that built America and resulted in victory in World War I and World War II. Iron Rangers have been at the center of the U.S. economy throughout most of the past century, and this Lunch and Learn program will illustrate why industrialization in the United States was largely the story of Minnesota’s Iron Range.


Ms. Pamela Brunfelt received her M.A. in History from Minnesota State University-Mankato and is currently a member of the faculty at Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minnesota, where she teaches courses in American History and Political Science. As a life-long Iron Ranger and historian, Ms. Brunfelt has the unique capability to blend her deep regional knowledge with her scholarship in American history.

Pam was a central source and important influence for my book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. The iron ore from MN was (is) important to the US economy. But don’t forget that WI and MI have contributed a lot of iron also. (MI still does.) They also have a lot of towns with catchy names like; Iron Mountain, Iron River, etc.


  2. A valid point, C.O. I just posted about possible new mining in Wisconsin in the last week.

    I think the argument here is the historical significance of the timing, quantity and quality of the Minnesota ore. In truth, the ore from Alabama, Pennsylvania and Ohio was pretty important to the industrial revolution as well. But the discovery of the hematite on the Mesabi Range gave the U.S. a decisive advantage in the 20th century, both economically and militarily, allowing the subsequent largess of the baby boom era. The Range’s significance today is somewhat held in check with ore reserves from all over the place, including Michigan.

    Nevertheless, I think a historian 1,000 years from now could look at the ore discoveries here and say that it was a decisive lucky break for the United States during its moment in the sun, so to speak. Unless of course the historians of the future are robots. Which is possible.

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