•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Founder



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Google Earth reveals dozens of factory sheds along the river at the foot of what was once called, "Brass Valley." The foundry takes up a portion of one shed. It is probably the last major piece of the old technology still running anywhere on the rusty campus.

On the day I took this picture the temperature outside was pushing toward 100 degrees, and it was considerably hotter inside the foundry. The normally waxy air was pudding. I can only imagine what it was like at the console beside the furnace where Mike works all day. Except when the billets are pulled from the form, he generally works alone. The console lets him monitor the all-important temperature of the brew, control the melt and tip the crucible to set the correct flow. The copper must be poured slowly, and the molds are large, so much of his time is spent waiting beside the furnace. Periodically he rakes out the channel through which the molten copper is flowing, and the rake showers him in sparks. However, most of the action comes at the end of the process, when the billets are hoisted by crane from the molds and the furnace is reset and charged for the next pour.

As Mike went on break between pours, I tried to catch a casual shot of him with the foundry behind, but when he saw the camera he stopped and posed proudly.