Skip to main content

Ernest Howe papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-1326

Scope and Contents

The Ernest Howe Papers document his career as a geologist and, in particular, his association with the North Star Mines Company and other gold mining operations in northern California. The collection spans the period 1881-1932, but the bulk of the collection covers Howe's mining interests during the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s.

The papers are arranged in four series. Series I, California Mining (Boxes 1-9), contains Howe's correspondence with the North Star Mines Company, the Round Mountain Neocene Drift Placer Mine, and the West Point Mines, as well as some of their corporate records. There is also a section of geological and mining reports on Grass Valley. Series II, Panama Canal Zone Geology (Boxes 10-11), consists of the reports and articles Howe wrote about his survey of the Canal Zone, as well as notes, maps, and printed material. Series III, Geological Projects, consists of articles, reports, notes, research material, and maps from Howe's career as a geologist. Series IV, Personal Papers (Boxes 12-16), contains records of Howe's nonprofessional life.

Series I, California Mining is organized into four subseries. The first three contain records of specific mining companies and the last contains other sources of information on mining and geology in the Grass Valley region. By far the largest and most comprehensive records are those of the North Star Mines Company. This collection documents the company in the early twentieth century. The Beinecke Library has another collection which contains North Star records from the latter half of the nineteenth century (North Star Mining Company and Associated Records collection, WA MSS S-1322). The North Star records in the Howe Papers have been arranged to parallel those in the North Star collection.

Howe's correspondence with the North Star Mines Company (Boxes 1-2) consists of letters from corporate officers, the mine superintendent, and mining engineers, as well as copies of Howe's replies. (It is similar to the correspondence in North Star Mining Company and Associated Records, WA S-1322, New York to San Francisco especially for 1898-99, Box 30, folders 739-43.) The majority of the letters for 1909-12 are from William Hague, managing director of the North Star Mines, and its president George B. Agnew, to Howe, hiring him to prepare a geological report on the North Star and Champion mines. There are also letters by Howe to others about the survey he completed for his report. From 1918 on, Howe writes as a consulting geologist and a director of the company. The letters from Agnew or Secretary W. D. Pagan concern such company business as finances, stock sales, and personnel issues, including strikes and the management's appraisal of mine superintendent A. D. Foote, the mine superintendent. Howe also corresponded directly with Foote and Robert H. Bedford, a mining engineer working under Foote. They often sent him progress reports which included maps of the gold vein and the mine tunnels (these have been filed in Oversize and annotated to show which letter they accompanied). accompanied).

One of the first mining projects discussed in the correspondence is the Tightner Mines in Sierra County, California. Letters for 1917 and 1918 describe the mine and how it should be developed. By 1919 the letters indicate that the North Star Mines Company is investing in the Tightner operations. Letters from 1919 contain news of William Bourne, associated with the nearby Empire Mine, and his attempts to acquire North Star stock. There are reports of a strike in June and of suspicion is cast on Bourne as being behind the labor dispute. Letters from the 1920s refer to a number of mining properties in which either the correspondents or North Star are interested: Champion, Orlean, Sultana, Round Mountain, Tightner, Allegany, West Point, and Rainbow. Most of these properties were in Nevada County, California or neighboring counties. By 1923, Bedford was Howe's main source of news on mine operations and the two seemed to share similar views on the development of the North Star mines. In 1925 Bedford and Howe discussed a project to sink a new shaft in hopes of finding high grade ore, a project they considered carrying out with Empire. There was also discussion of selling the North Star mine to Empire if the ore value did not increase and an offer by Empire was received in 1925. These options, along with stopping all development work on the North Star mine, was discussed from 1925 to 1927. The shaft project was undertaken and the local newspaper published a long article on it in January 1927 (Box 2, folder 18). Most of the correspondence for 1927-30 concerns non-North Star mining news exchanged by Bedford and Howe. There was talk of merging the North Star and Empire mines in 1929 and news of the Newmont Company, which eventually purchased both properties.

Scattered throughout the correspondence files are references to the William Hague family. William Hague, the nephew of Arnold Hague, was a longtime stockholder and managing director of the mine. He appointed Ernest Howe his administrator. Therefore, Howe writes to William Hague's wife Bessie in 1920, and his letters to others in 1927 and 1928 contain news about Bessie and her son James.

Many of the reports and records of North Star now in Boxes 2-5 were removed from the correspondence. Howe received these corporate records because he was both a company director and geologic advisor. Although these records do not constitute a complete archives of the North Star Mines Company, they provide a detailed picture of the company's financial affairs and operation of the mines in the 1920s.

Annual reports for 1911-12, 1915, and 1917-27 contain printed statements of the North Star Mines Company's financial position and reviews of operations for each year. Narratives describe the outlay and profits from the North Star and Champion mines, the company's two main operations, and outlays for "Improvement and Property Purchase," that is work on other mines the company took over or developed. The amount of rock mined and ore retrieved is reported along with the monetary yield per ton. New development work, such as new drifts, raises, and winzes, is described and new equipment and the expansion of mills or plants is noted. Each annual report includes three balance sheets. "North Star Mines Financial Statement" consists of two columns: (1) "Receipts," with overall costs and production in dollars for North Star and Champion mines, interest and dividends received; and (2) "Operating Expenses" with operating and development expenses for the two mines, improvement expenses, and property purchased. "North Star Mines Company Balance Sheet" records three items: "Assets," the value of mining property, plant, equipment, and cash investments; "Liabilities," the value of capital stock and dividends paid; and "Surplus account," which seems to be expenses relating to the Champion mine. "North Star Companies Summarized Statement" notes receipts and disbursements for the mining companies in the Grass Valley region, which the North Star Mines Company had absorbed over the previous decades. (For an overview of the history of mining mergers involving the North Star, see the finding aid North Star Mining Company and Associated Records, p. 9.)

Statements (Box 2-3, folders 27-35) are detailed financial-operating reports from which the annual reports are derived. The papers contain a complete run of statements for 1918-26. Figures from the annual reports are broken down in the statements to reveal salaries, improvement costs for individual processing plants and mills, the costs and employees at various shafts and plants, and the items which comprise administrative costs. The statements also compare the current year's figures to those of the previous year.

Monthly operations reports (Box 3, folders 36-46), covering 1918-28, are brief statements of "expenses" and "production" expenses for the North Star and Champion mines along with the record of tons-of-rock milled. The series is complete for April 1918 to November 1928, except for March and April 1922.

Superintendent's-general manager's monthly reports underground (Boxes 3-4, folders 47-59) cover 1918-29, missing only those reports dated 1918 August, 1919 February, 1920 August, 1922 July, September, October, December, and 1923 March (reports cover the previous month). The last report is for December 1928, dated January 1929. (These monthly reports underground are similar to the 1888-1901 Monthly Mining Reports of the North Star Mining Company. See WA MSS S-1322, Box 47-52, folders 1070-1237.) Submitted by A. D. Foote, and later Robert H. Bedford, the reports are narrative statements of the work completed in the North Star and Champion mines, level by level, and within each level, stope by by stope or raise by raise. The description notes how far a tunnel was driven, the tons of rock produced, the quality of the ore, and the shape and direction of the vein. The reports usually end with plans for the future operation of the mills and processing plants. There are two reports filed each month, but it is unclear if one is for Champion and one for North Star. The reports are often accompanied by sketches showing how the tunnels are developing and the suspected direction of the vein. These tunnel drawings are filed in the Oversize and have been annotated to indicate which reports they accompanied.

Weekly car sample assays (Box 4, folders 60-61) cover the period from April 1924 to February 1925. There are both weekly reports and monthly compilations (thus the information is complete even though a weekly report from August 1924 is missing). Each report contains information on approximately 20 car samples, noting for each its location, weight in tons (whether of the sample, or all rock in the sample car, or rock taken that day, is unclear), the assay value in dollars, and a "total" in dollars (which might be a calculation of tons by assay value). Often more than one sample is taken for a level, the results averaged. There is also a "mills returns (estimated)."

Monthly financial statements (Box 5, folders 62-72) span 1918-1928 with only a few missing statements. Filed with the monthly reports are summarized statements for six month or nine month periods. The statements consist of "Receipts," where the value of production, interest and dividend accounts are noted, and "Disbursements," where the operating expenses for the various shafts, development and improvement costs are recorded. There is a separate page for the Champion mine.

The Photoprints (Box 5, folder 73) were found amongst Howe's North Star correspondence. The photoprints depict a road and some mine buildings across a valley.

Howe's correspondence regarding the Round Mountain Neocene Drift Placer Mine (Box 6, folders 74-82) documents the development of this mine by an investment group made up of Agnew, Walter B. Howe (Ernest Howe's brother), Arthur D. Foote, Mrs. Arnold Hague, Howe's mother, and Howe himself. In 1919 the letters describe the mine and how Foote, who was in charge of operations, wants to proceed. Many of Howe's letters (copies of the originals) are to his family, suggesting they invest. Other letters, particularly those to and from Agnew, discuss the syndicate that is set up and how shares will be distributed. Most of the letters for 1920 discuss expenses, and members of the syndicate are asked to contribute more money. By 1921 Foote wants to incorporate the Neocene River Company in Reno, Nevada, and raise more capital by selling shares. In May, W. D. Pagan puts together a history of the Neocene mine based on abstracts of Foote's letters. In 1922 Foote's letters suggest they have hit pay dirt and in 1923 correspondents discuss setting up an operating company. Unfortunately, the rock appears to have been valueless, and although Foote's last letters still talk about mining, Bedford and Howe become convinced the mine holds no hope. Accompanying the correspondence are two oversize maps of the Neocene claims and a summary of the investor's contributions and shares (Box 19, folder 264).

There are a few corporate records of the Neocene: agreements, leases, and financial statements which chronicle who invested and how the investors were organized (Box 6, folders 82-83).

Howe's West Point Mines correspondence (Box 6, folders 85-91) documents his investment in mining property in Calaveras County, California. Letters between Howe and Eugene H. Outerbridge discuss the financial side of the partnership, the Bantam Syndicate, while Howe's correspondence with J. B. Stapler documents Stapler's employment as mine supervisor. The letters for 1920 show Howe playing his familiar double role of corporate officer and consulting geologist. Howe visits the area in April 1920 and reports on two mines, the Keltz group and the Lone Star mine. Later that year Howe and Outerbridge discuss forming a company to operate the mines, and make overtures through Agnew to bring the North Star Mines Company into the partnership. Letters for 1921 and 1922 chronicle the agreement between the Bantam Syndicate and North Star Mines to form West Point Consolidated Mines, Inc. By 1924, however, Howe's correspondence shows North Star had closed down the West Point mines. Several oversize maps of the West Point claims accompany the correspondence for 1919-20 (Box 19, folder 265); other maps (folder 266) were not were not attached to letters.

Other documents regarding the West Point mines include the 1919 agreement forming the original syndicate (Box 7, folder 92), two reports on the geology of the mines (folders 93-95), one ore sample report from 1920 and a financial statement for 1919-20 (folders 96-97).

Geological Reports on North Star and Grass Valley (Boxes 7-9) is the last subseries of Series I. It consists of reports and articles on the mines of North Star Mines Company prepared by Howe and others. Reports by Howe have been identified with an "(EH)" attached to the folder title. Other authors include William Hague, Robert H. Bedford, and A. D. Foote, who were all associated with North Star. There are a few reports on other properties, such as the Banner Consolidated Mines of Nevada County, California, which Howe probably collected because of his interest in the geology of the region. Most of the reports are accompanied by research materials, notes, and maps of the mine being investigated. This subseries includes Howe's first geological reports for the North Star Mines Company (Box 7, folders 98, 101) and Robert H. Bedford's report on the Company's last major shaft, sunk in 1924 (Box 9, folder 134).

Series II, Panama Canal Zone Geology (Boxes 10-11), documents Howe's work as geologist to the Isthmian Canal Commission. Howe was appointed to survey the canal zone in 1906, and in 1907 he produced a report for the Commission on his findings. He also published a scholarly account in The American Journal of Science. The collection includes the articles (Box 10, folders 142 and 143) as well as correspondence, printed works on the Canal, notes, and maps. The correspondence (Box 10, folders 145-53) covers not only Howe's work for the Isthmian Canal Commission, but also his early years on the U.S.G.S. Most of the letters are from Whitman Cross discussing Howe's projects and manuscripts. Correspondence of 1906 documents Howe's appointment to the Panama project. In late 1906 many of Howe's letters concern the analysis of samples from the Panama survey, and in 1907 the letters discuss the writing of his report. The majority of the correspondence after 1907 is between Howe and other geologists who request information concerning Panama's geology.

Series III, Geological Projects (Boxes 12-16), documents the other major aspects of Howe's career. Arranged chronologically, this series contains Howe's professional articles and reports, often accompanied by maps and other background data. His work with the United States Geological Survey is reflected in correspondence (Box 12, folder 167), articles (Box 13-14, folders 180, 196), maps and notes on Colorado (Box 12-13, folders 166, 176-179), and annotated survey maps of California, South Dakota, and Wyoming (Box 20, folder 286). The collection contains correspondence, notes, and Howe's report concerning the proposed Holter Dam in Montana (Box 14, folders 197-202). Howe inspected the geology of the region before construction. In 1916 Howe was asked to join Dr. Hamilton Rice's expedition to the upper Amazon, and the collection contains notes from the trip, as well as photoprints and postcards of the river, the expedition team, the native Indians (Witotoan), and their homes.

Series IV, Personal Papers (Boxes 17-18), contains fragmentary records of Howe's nonprofessional life. The diaries from 1907-1931, with many years missing, are more nearly appointment books than journals of personal thoughts.

Oversize (Box 19, broadsides) contains material from Series I-III. The arrangement, based on the size of the material, parallels the order of the collection.


  • 1881 - 1932


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Ernest Howe Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from J & J Lubrano on the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana, 1987; Charles Apfelbaum on the Arthur Corbitt Hoskins Memorial Fund, 2008; and Carmen D. Valentino on the Walter McClintock Memorial Fund, 2006.


Organized into five series: I. California Mining, 1909-1932. II. Panama Canal Zone Geology, 1900-1924. III. Geological Projects, 1898-1930. IV. Personal Papers, 1883-1932. V. June 2006 Acquisition, 1893-1907.


12.67 Linear Feet ((20 boxes) + 25 broadsides)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Ernest Howe Papers document his association with California mining and in particular the North Star Mines Company. The papers contain Howe's correspondence with North Star and other companies, some of their corporate records, and material on the geology and mining of northern California. The papers also document Howe's geological survey of the Panama Canal Zone, his work with the United States Geological Survey, his participation on the Hamilton Rice Amazon expedition, and other work as a geologist.

ERNEST HOWE (1875-1932)

Ernest Howe, geologist, was educated at Yale (class of 1898) and at Harvard, where he earned his M.A. (1899) and Ph.D. (1901). In 1900, Howe joined the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) as an assistant geologist. Most of his early work was done in Colorado under Whitman Cross. Although he served with the U.S.G.S. until 1910, in 1906 Howe was appointed geologist of the Isthmian Canal Commission. After 1910 he went into private practice as a consulting geologist. In 1916-17 he joined the Royal Geographic Society of London's expedition, headed by Hamilton Rice, to the upper Amazon and in 1920 he was hired by the Mexican government to reorganize their geological survey. Throughout his career, Howe published scholarly papers, and from 1926 until his death he served as editor of The American Journal of Science.

Howe's stepfather was Arnold Hague, noted geologist of the U.S.G.S. Hague owned stock in the North Star Mines Company and was related to the managing director, which explain Howe's long association with this California mining operation. The company hired Howe in 1910 and 1911 to survey the North Star and Champion mines. When Hague died in 1917, Howe acted as administrator of his estate and two years later was elected a director of the North Star Mines Company. He continued to act as consulting geologist for the company and through his contacts became involved with other California mines. In 1919, Howe, along with other officers of the North Star Mines Company, invested in the Round Mountain Neocene Drift Placer Mine. This mine was located just north of Grass Valley, the home of North Star, in Nevada County, California. The North Star Mines Company might have invested in Round Mountain, but no ore was found during the development work. Howe joined other investors in the Bantam Syndicate, a financial association created to develop mining properties around West Point, Calaveras County, California. In 1922, the Syndicate, joined by North Star Mines Company, evolved into West Point Consolidated Mines, Inc.

Howe married Anne Wilson in 1905 and the couple had two children, Margaret Bruce Howe and Walter Howe. The family lived in New Haven in the winter and in Litchfield during the summer, with frequent trips to Newport where Howe's mother resided. Howe served two terms in the Connecticut General Assembly during the 1920s.

A detailed biography of Howe was published in The American Journal of Science, vol. 25, no. 146, February 1933, p.97. See also Yale Biographies and Annuals.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

The June 2006 Acquisition received a basic level of processing in 2014, including rehousing and minimal organization. This acquisition has not been merged and organized with the collection as a whole.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Ernest Howe Papers
Under Revision
by Susie R. Bock and Alison Clemens
February 1992
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.