Pittsburg Scenes - Smelting
 
 

British born Robert Lanyon arrived in the Pittsburg area in the winter of 1878 from his home in La Salle, IL to research the area for the possibility of building a zinc smelter. After finding the area near Pittsburg suitable for the industry due to the abundance of coal, he and his brother S. H. Lanyon built a smelter and named it the Robert Lanyon & Co.'s Zinc Works. It was located just east of the Pittsburg city limits at the time in the area south of Second and Joplin. It began with 2 furnaces, one of which was an 8-kiln Belgian type that had been dismantled and brought to Pittsburg on a train from their smelter in Illinois. In 1880 S. H. Lanyon decided to leave the partnership with his brother and build his own smelter just east of Robert’s called the S. H. Lanyon and Bro. Smelter. That same year William Lanyon, Robert and S. H.’s brother, came to Pittsburg with his son Josiah and opened the W. & J. Lanyon Smelter a little further east in the area around East Fourth where Mission Clay and Schlanger Park is today. Edwin V. Lanyon, Josiah’s son came to Pittsburg a couple of years later and helped his father manage the smelter until 1897. Edwin later became President of the National Bank of Pittsburg and President of the Pittsburg Zinc Co.

In 1882 the Granby Mining and Smelting Co., that owned zinc mines in the Joplin area, built a smelter north of downtown in an area bound by North Broadway on the east, Olive Street on the west, 11th Street on the south and 18th Street on the north. Today the area is bisected by Walnut Street and Pine Street going north to south with the former McNally’s the old National Guard Armory and the old Census Bureau buildings within the footprint of the smelter property. In the fall of 1889 the Weir City Zinc Co. and the Pittsburg & St. Louis Zinc and Land Co. wanted to build smelters in Pittsburg but they wanted assistance and a bonus for locating in the area. They entered into a contract with the Board of Trade of Pittsburg for a $15,000 building bonus each. Construction on both plants began in 1890 with both smelters at full operation in a few months. The Cherokee Zinc Co., also known as the North Smelter, was built north of town in the area where Home Depot is now and the St. Louis & Pittsburg Zinc Co., known as the East Smelter, built northeast of town in the vicinity of 23rd and Michigan.

 
 
   
Zinc Smelters
- no postmark (c1901-1907)
Coal Shaft & Smelter
- no postmark (c1907-1914)
Pittsburg Ore & Zinc Smelter
- postmarked 1906
   
 
 
 
 
Robert Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1885
Robert Lanyon Zinc Works
- drawing 1890 Pittsburg City Directory
Robert Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #3
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #3
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1902
         
       
Robert Lanyon Zinc Works
- 1906 Plat Map Overlaid on 2013 Google Earth Map
       
 
 
 
 
 
S. H. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1885
S. H. Lanyon Zinc Works
- drawing 1890 Pittsburg City Directory
S. H. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #5
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #5
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1902
         
     
S. H. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1905
S.H. Lanyon Zinc Works
- 1906 Plat Map Overlaid on 2013 Google Earth Map
     
 
 
 
 
 
W. & J. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1885
W. & J. Lanyon Zinc Works
- drawing 1890 Pittsburg City Directory
W. & J. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
W. & J. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
W. & J. Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1902
         
     
Lanyon Zinc Works
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1905
W. & J. Lanyon Zinc Works
- 1906 Plat Map Overlaid on 2013 Google Earth Map
   
         
 
 
 

In the summer of 1890, some men came to Pittsburg looking for an area to build a silver smelter due to the cheap coal. The men talked to the Pittsburg Commercial Club who agreed to enter into a formal contract with the company provided that they refine 20 tons of ore daily for three years. The Commercial Club built a building on a 5 acre tract of land north of Pittsburg approximately in the area today between North Broadway and the bypass along 25th street, donated the land and gave an extra $2000 for the construction of the furnaces. The smelter company agreed to install $16,000 worth of equipment and after some delays, opened in September of 1891. The Pittsburg Short Method Gold & Silver Smelting & Refining Works was in operation for only four years. Even though it had been making a profit and paying dividends to its shareholders, it had trouble keeping operating capital mainly due to one of their purchasing agents embezzling most of its money and then skipping town.

By 1896, the Cherokee-Laynon Smelter Co. through purchase or lease consolidated all of the smelters in Pittsburg except the W. & J. Lanyon Smelter. After the natural gas fields were discovered in the Iola, KS area in 1895, Robert Lanyon closed his smelter at 2nd and Joplin and opened a smelter in Iola. By 1900 because of the abundance of cheap gas and improvements in gas smelting furnaces all the smelters in Pittsburg were closed. Within a couple of years so many businesses were using gas in Iola, that the pressure became so bad that the smelters were having trouble just firing up completely so they could run at full capacity. That coupled with zinc prices on the rise, coal-fired smelters like the East Smelter and the North Smelter were reopened in Pittsburg by the Lanyon Zinc Co. and Cockerill-Zinc Company.

The Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter Co. in 1904 sold the North Smelter to local businessmen J. D. Smith and C. A. Miller. Smith and Miller then sold the works to the Pittsburg Mining and Smelting Co., which reopened the facility with 10 furnaces. The North works were operated by the Cockerill-Zinc Co. the outcome of a merger in 1908 of several smelter works in Southeast Kansas and at one time operated both the North and East Smelters.

In 1910, the smelting business in Pittsburg collapsed as the Cockerill-Zinc Co. went bankrupt, the Lanyon Zinc Co. went into receivership and was sold. During the run up World War I the need for zinc increased so the old smelters in Pittsburg once again were reopened, the East Smelter by the Pittsburg Zinc Co. and the North Smelter by the Joplin Ore and Spelter Co. in 1915.Business was profitable as the price of zinc kept increasing during the war. However by 1917, the price plummeted and the Pittsburg smelters closed once again. The property of the smelter works in the Pittsburg area began being dismantled and the buildings destroyed. The North Smelter was the last one to be torn down in 1921.

Smelting operations were a dirty business and contaminated the land around it with high levels of lead, sulfur, cadmium and arsenic making the area barren and very little vegetation growing. Some of these areas have been cleaned up through million dollar inititaves where the contamination has been contained or removed and in some cases covered over with concrete and asphalt. One of these areas in Pittsburg is where the Weir City Zinc Smelter was in the vicinity of 28th and North Broadway. The land was cleaned up and a shopping center with a Home Depot was built on the site in 2005.

 
 
 
 
 
Granby Mining & Smelting Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1885
Granby Mining & Smelting Co.
- drawing 1890 Pittsburg City Directory
Granby Mining & Smelting Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
Granby Mining & Smelting Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
Granby Smelter
- photo postcard June 1918
In photo Jimmie Auburn, Harry Baumgardner, Chester Miller
         
     
Granby Mining & Smelting Co.
- 1906 Plat Map Overlaid on 2013 Google Earth Map
     
 
 
 
 
 
Pittsburg & St. Louis Zinc Co.
- drawing 1890 Pittsburg City Directory
Pittsburg & St. Louis Zinc Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #11
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #11
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1902
Pittsburg Zinc Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1905
         
   
East Smelters
- no postmark (c1915-1930)
Pittsburg Zinc Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1913
East Smelters
- 1906 Plat Map Overlaid on 2013 Google Earth Map
   
 
 
 
 
 
Pittsburg & St. Louis Zinc Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #2
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
Cherokee-Lanyon Smelter #2
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1902
Cockerill Zinc Co.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1905
Cockerill Zinc Smelter
- No Postmark (c1907 - 1914)
         
Cockerill Zinc Smelter
- No Postmark (c1907 - 1914)
Cockerill Zinc Smelter
- No Postmark (c1907 - 1914)
Cockerill Zinc Smelter
- No Postmark (c1907 - 1914)
Southside Improvement Co.
Zinc Smelter

- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1913
North Smelters
- 1906 Plat Map Overlaid on 2013 Google Earth Map
 
 
 
 
 
     
Pittsburg Short Method
Gold & Silver Smelting

- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1892
Pittsburg Short Method
Gold & Silver Smelting

- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1897
   
 
 
Sources:
Kansas. State Board of Agriculture to the Legislature of the State for the Years 1891 and 1892: pub 1893
Kansas. State Board of Agriculture to the Legislature of the State for the Years 1897 and 1898: pub 1899
Mining and Scientific Press, Vol. 98, Dewey Publishing Co., 1909
The Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, KS Vol. 1 No 1, Nov 1931.
A Short History of the Zinc Smelting Industry in Kansas Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Aspen Junge and Rick Bean, 28 Dec 2006
Pittsburg, KS - Official Website - History of Weir City Zinc Site
Local smelting dates back to 1870s - News - Morning Sun - Pittsburg

 

 
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