Silver City Museum
312 W. Broadway
Silver City, NM 88061
Silver City, as the name suggests, owes its name, architecture, and very existence to the rich silver deposits found in the Silver City Mining District of New Mexico. The Silver City Museum houses a collection of artifacts from local mining operations and the daily life of the town’s residents. Native copper, assaying tools, portable scales, and even radioactive health treatments from the local ore all are on display for the curious visitor.
A Brief History of Silver City
Long before the incorporation of Silver City, the valley where the city now stands was known for copper mining. Silver City itself was established in 1870 with a wave of prospectors with the conclusion of the Civil War and the discovery of silver ore deposits at Chloride Flat. The Santa Rita and Tyrone mines are among many that exploited rich ore deposits in the region. Along with being a destination for tangible wealth, it also was a popular launching point for parties seeking more mythic treasure such as the Lost Adams Diggings.
While the silver boom ended in 1893, the city did not. Silver City reinvented itself as a health destination pedaling, tuberculosis treatments. Which brings us to an odd little piece of mining history from the 1920s…
An Odd Digression into Quackery
In the 1920s, Albert and Frances Leach discovered torbernite, an ore of radium, between Silver City and Lordsburg, New Mexico. This discovery sparked the creation of the Ra-Tor Mining and Manufacturing Co. marketing radioactive “health” products such as beauty clay, salve, toothpaste, and radium-laden immersion disc, luminous paint, and fertilizer. Ra-Tor ceased oppressions in the 1940s. With the end of WWII, the appeal of such products plummeted with the publics awareness of the true nature of radioactive materials. Of course, the Silver City Museum still maintains several informational procures from the days of Ra-Tor.
Silver City Today
Silver city remains a mining town. Nearby mining operations such as the Santa Rita and Tyrone mines continue to fuel the local economy. The Chino and Tyrone mines produced 125,400 long tons of copper in 2006, though long term projections indicate a drop in mining in the area. Yet, the rich mining history brings in a supplemental tourist trade to the scenic town.
Visiting Silver City Museum
The Silver City Museum is a local mining history treasure maintained by community and donors. It is a fascinating visit for the mining history fan and the curious uninitiated.
Located in the Ailman house, a Victorian Mansard-Italianate style brick and lumber home built in 1881, testament to the wealth in Silver City during the silver mining boom. Along with housing the Silver City Museum collection, it is also considered to be the largest artifact in the collection. The house has acted as a boarding house, City Hall, fire department, and, finally, the Silver City Museum in 1967 with over 20,000 objects in its collection.