By Worcester P. Bong
An icon of the past, the 129-foot Mayer stack was built for a smelter plant expansion in Mayer, Arizona. Many articles, including two Days Past articles (Prescott Courier, June 18, 1990; Daily Courier, October 20, 1996), have been written about this stack. This article provides more detail about the stack’s history and current information on its status.
The smelter expansion and mining operations in Mayer were not without controversy. In August 1916 Big Ledge Development Company, owners of the Henrietta and Buttercup mines, purchased additional mining claims and the old Treadwell smelter in Mayer. Capital was raised through the issuance of stock in the Big Ledge Copper Company, the operational entity of the Big Ledge Development Company.
Early in 1917, a lawsuit was filed with the Yavapai Superior Court against the Big Ledge Copper Company, with Judge Frank H. Lyman presiding. An article in the February 4, 1917 Prescott Journal-Miner stated that several minority stockholders (the plaintiffs) charged Big Ledge Copper Company (the defendant) with the assertion that the issuance of stock certificates was false and possibly duplicated on company records. The June 28, 1917 verdict favored the minority stockholders, stipulating that Big Ledge Copper Company award 105,600 shares of stock to the plaintiffs. If stocks could not be offered, a monetary amount of $5 per share was to be awarded. This equated to $528,000 ($11.3 million in today’s dollars). The decision ended what the June 29, 1917 Prescott Journal-Miner called “one of the most interesting mining suits in a long time.”
Despite the lawsuit, Big Ledge Copper Company continued to forge ahead with plans to increase the smelter’s capacity. They acquired Great Western Smelters Corporation in August 1917. That same year, Great Western Smelters Corporation contracted with Weber Chimney Company to build a 129-foot reinforced concrete chimney stack to increase the Mayer smelter’s capacity to process 500 tons of ore daily.
Headquartered in Chicago, Weber Chimney Company had developed and patented a monolithic coniform chimney design. The thickness of the chimney wall and outside diameter increased uniformly from the top to its base. Weber’s coniform chimneys were lighter than brick chimneys and could be built more quickly than brick or steel chimneys. Weber was known for designing and erecting the highest chimney stack in the world. This 570-foot stack for a copper smelter in Saganoseki, Japan was featured in the August 4, 1917 edition of Mining and Scientific Press.
Weber Chimney Company also built two other stacks in Arizona: a 180-foot stack for Consolidated Arizona Smelting Company in Humboldt and a 216-foot stack for Miami Copper Company in Miami. However, due to a continuing lack of ore supply, the Mayer smelter, which had closed for 8 months from mid-1917 to early 1918, never reopened. The 129-foot stack was the only part built as part of the existing smelter’s expansion plans.
By 1922, except for the stack, all remnants of the smelter were demolished. Later that year, Big Ledge Copper Company filed for receivership and was taken over by Huron Copper Mining Company in 1923.
Today, quarrying of decorative rock is occurring about a half mile southwest of the stack. In October 2021, the 20-acre property where the stack stands was sold. The new owner currently has no plans for this property and is monitoring the structural integrity of the stack. Rumors about the stack abound, but these are the facts currently available.
To preserve the stack’s history, Sharlot Hall Museum Research Center is seeking donated photographs of the stack. Please contact Brenda Taylor or Tom Schmidt at 928-277-2003.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to email@example.com. Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or assistance with photo requests.