Jarod Roll is a professor of history at the University of Mississippi, where he teaches modern American history. His research explores the working-class experience and popular economic thought, particularly in rural America. He is the author of Poor Man's Fortune: White Working-Class Conservatism in American Metal Mining, 1850-1950 (2020), and Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South (2010), which won the Herbert G. Gutman Prize, the Missouri History Book Award, and the C.L.R. James Award. Roll is also a coauthor of The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America (2011), which received the Southern Historical Association's H.L. Mitchell Prize.
The history of America's precious metal mining booms is well known: Sutter's Mill, the Comstock Lode, the Black Hills. The history of America's base metal mining booms is not well known: La Motte, Fever River, Granby. We can easily understand why thousands of miners set out in search of gold and silver. It is harder for us to understand why thousands of prospectors and small-scale miners set out in search of lead, iron, and zinc. And yet they did, often opting to mine cheaper base metals rather than join contemporaneous precious metal rushes. This lecture examines the choices, ambitions, and careers of the miners who produced the base metals that were essential to American industrial development in the nineteenth century.