A new book about the history of the Town of Cobalt takes an in-depth look at its role in shaping the Canadian mining industry and its underappreciated contributions to the country’s economy.
Cobalt: Canada’s Forgotten Silver Boom Town, written by Prof. Douglas Baldwin, is a 380-page illustrated account that’s been four decades in the making. Baldwin first visited Cobalt in 1975, while researching its history for the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation.
His interest piqued, Baldwin wrote a half-dozen more articles and scholarly journals about Cobalt over the years until 2005, when, on the cusp of retirement from teaching, he responded to an ad seeking someone to research Cobalt’s history. Baldwin’s research continued until he had enough for the book.
“It’s amazing how far afield everything is,” Baldwin said of Cobalt-related ephemera. “So many people knew about Cobalt back then.”
His research led him to the Boston Public Library, which keeps a diary and journal that once belonged to a mine manager at Kerr Lake. At McGill University in Montreal, he discovered notes, in French and English, that detail negotiations between the town and the Sisters of Providence on the construction of a hospital. In San Fransisco, and even as far away as New Zealand, he found newspaper articles that chronicle Cobalt’s rise to fame.
“It seems like every time I finished, I’d find another avenue to explore with more information,” Baldwin marvelled.
After the first rich vein of silver was discovered in 1903, Cobalt exploded in popularity and population, as prospectors flocked to the town to seek their fortune. The story of the small town with big silver veins became an international sensation.
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