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World War I Increases Demand for Chrome Ore

Recently discovered chrome deposits gained importance as European tank production increased the demand for steel during World War I.  The demand continued to grow when the United States entered the war in 1917, creating job opportunities for miners in Northern California.

The U.S. government urged conservation of resources needed for the war effort simultaneously as it encouraged the mining of chrome.  For example, 8,000 tons of steel used to produce women’s corsets were diverted to making Army Medical Corps masks and belts.  Radiator manufacturers switched to guns, piano companies produced airplane wings and automobile factories built airplane engines.

The Seiad Creek Mine in Northern California, with estimated reserves of 265,700 tons of chromite in 1913, produced 789 tons during World War I.  Other chromite mines that opened on Seiad Creek included the Emma Bell, the Anniversary, and Black Eagle. A mine owned by Alonzo Bingham yielded 335 tons.  Other Northern California mines reported finds ranging from 10 to 550 tons.

Difficult access to the deposits, combined with the war’s end in 1918, reduced the demand for Northern California chrome almost overnight.

Source: Jenner, Gail L., and Monica J. Hall. Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2002/2005. 100. Print.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.