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A Bisbee Banquet


On October 15, 1999, a special train pulled into the depot at Bisbee. It was carrying members of the American Institute of Mining Engineers and their wives on a month-long tour of Western states.

The high-class tourists traveled in deluxe private cars named the Escort, Wildwood, Convoy and Maine. The train also included a baggage car and dining car.

The tour began in St. Louis. The group inspected mines and sights in Montana, Washington, Oregon and California, and were on the last leg of their journey in Arizona.

Alighting at the depot, the top-hatted men and women dressed in the latest New York fashions walked toward the belching, thundering, smoking smelter and into mine cages to be lowered 400 feet into the Copper Queen Mine for the first event of their visit.

After walking half a mile through a tunnel, lighted partially by electrical lights and supplemented by candles, they entered a stope and were rewarded with a lunch set at wooden tables and served from miners’ plates, cups and coffee pots.

After lunch, activities were optional. The visitors could take a tour of the underground workings of the Copper Queen Mine, guided personally by Dr. James Douglas, or could visit Naco, Sonora, and buy Mexican curios and souvenirs.

Upon conclusion of those activities, the group retired to their plush train cars to relax and refresh before dinner.

At 8:30 p.m., the group of approximately 70 visitors stepped from their train, crossed the mouth of Brewery Gulch, walked through the plaza and into a side entrance of the general office of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company (the building that now houses the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum).

Climbing the narrow stairway to the second floor, those genteel ladies and gentlemen must have wondered what kind of banquet would be served in that dirty, smelly, smoke-filled town so far from civilization.

A vivid description of what met their eyes as they topped the stairs and entered the hall was written in the Tombstone Prospector on October 16, 1999:

“Long tables on which covers were laid for one hundred were arranged in the form of the letter A, the initial letter of the name of the territory. The crosspiece was flanked by banks of flowers, chrysanthemums and carnations, while from the pendant electric globes hung the vines of smilax. Interspersed were blocks of ice, in fitting designs, in the hearts of which were frozen clusters of flowers or miniature picks and spades, etc. On the snowy linen glittered [an] ensemble of glass and china scintillating with reflections of starry light above, while an ingenious arrangement of candelabra made from miners’ candles and candlesticks were placed at regular distances on the tables.

“Even the cakes, of which a large number ornamented the board, bore the design of hammer and drill and pick and spade. Before each plate was placed a menu card, hand sketched and printed.  The walls were covered with fan palms and bunting.”

Just before dinner, the Bisbee Brass Band performed in the plaza below and during dinner a local stringed orchestra, concealed behind bunting at the end of the hall “discoursed sweet music.”

The dinner, “worthy of Delmonicos,” wrote the mining journal Transactions, was prepared by Harry Rudder, proprietor of the café Bohemia in San Diego, California. The waiters, foreman and employees of the mines received special thanks from the guests. Transactions wrote: “Material supplies can be easily secured by telegraph and railroad. Efficient table service is not so easily improvised.”

After speeches by Dr. Douglas, several other mining officials, Rev. Plitcard and Dr. Sweet of Bisbee, the dinner concluded. At a late hour, the guests retired to their trains. Early the next morning they were on their way to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

This Times Past article was originally published on May 25, 2001.                                                                        

Photo courtesy Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, Douglas Collection; research by Tom Vaughan. ©Arizona Capitol Times.


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