Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Filed under: Coming Events,Rockhound Travel,Video,rockhounding maps — Gary August 21, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum



An enduring geological mystery. A world-famous mineral deposit. And, it’s all right here in New Jersey, just an hour’s drive from midtown New York!

The industrial complex that was once the Sterling Hill zinc mine is now open to the public as the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. Join us for underground mine tours, fantastic displays of “glow-in-the-dark” fluorescent minerals, extensive outdoor displays of mining machinery, and exhibit halls packed with things you’ve probably never seen before!



Calendar of Events

August 29, 2010

Mineral collecting at Sterling Hill (daytime only)

Where: Sterling Hill
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Description: Collecting allowed on Mine Run dump and in the Fill quarry, Passaic pit, and “Saddle” area Open to the public.
Fees: $5 admission; plus $1.50 for each pound of material taken
Age Requirements: 7-years and up for Mine Run dump; 13 and up elsewhere
Contact:   973-209-7212

September 11, 2010

Fossil Discovery Center

Where: Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg, NJ
Time: 10:00a.m.-12:30p.m.

SHMM will have a paleontologist available for young people (of all ages) to go fossil hunting. The Fossil Discovery Center is still in a pilot stage, but is based on SHMM’s successful Rock Discovery Center. The “digs” will begin at 10:00 and take place every half hour thereafter; each dig will last a little less than 30 minutes.

Participation is limited to 25 people per session on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each fossil collector will get 6 fossils with a general ID chart.

(Groups of 15 people or more can make an appointment at the Museum Shop to participate in the FDC for other weekends or weekdays, pending availability of SHMM personnel.) Note: 12:30 time slot not recommended for people taking the 1:00 PM mine tour. Other time slots available by appointment for groups of 10 or more.
Fees: $4.50/person
Age Requirements: All Ages – recommended for students in grades 2 -12
Contact:   973-209-7212

September 25, 2010-September 26, 2010

Franklin Gem and Mineral Show and Outdoor Swap and Sell

Where: Franklin School – Franklin, NJ
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

This show is held the last full weekend in September and features both indoor and outdoor mineral, fossil, and gem dealers.

September 25 (Saturday)

54th Annual Franklin Sterling Gem and Mineral Show and Outdoor Swap/Sel
Franklin Middle School, Buckwheat Rd. at Washington St., Franklin, N.J.
9AM – 6PM (indoors); 7:30AM – 6PM (outdoor swap and sell).

Annual Show Banquet and Auction
Franklin Firehouse, Buckwheat Rd. at Parker St., Franklin, NJ.
Banquet begins 6:30PM; tickets $18.

Sterling Hill Garage Sale
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Christiansen Pavilion, 10AM – 3PM.

September 26 (Sunday)

54th Annual Franklin Sterling Gem and Mineral Show and Outdoor Swap/Sell
Franklin Middle School, Buckwheat Rd. at Washington St., Franklin, NJ
10 AM – 5PM (indoors); 9AM – 5PM (outdoor swap and sell).

Sterling Hill Garage Sale
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Christiansen Pavilion, 10AM – 3PM.

Mineral collecting at StHMM (daytime only)
Collecting allowed on Mine Run dump and in the Fill quarry, Passaic pit, and “Saddle” area. Open to the public.

Hours 9AM – 3PM. Fees: $5 admission plus $1.50 for each pound of material taken.
Fees: Open to the Public
Age Requirements: Seven years and up for Mine Run dump; 13 and up elsewhere.



Who would think that one of the most famous mines in the world lies right here in the Highlands of New Jersey, just an hour’s drive from midtown New York City?

The Sterling Hill zinc mine is world-class by any standard, and not just because of what was mined here: history was made here, too, lots of it. So too was much money. Moreover, much mining law was forged here, and over the span of two and one-half centuries, this mine and its twin in nearby Franklin dominated the lives of thousands of New Jersey residents. The economic, social, and scientific significance of our local zinc mines was felt not only in Sussex County, but in all of New Jersey and even far beyond.

Consider just these 14 facts:

  1. Sterling Hill is one of the oldest mines in the United States and was first worked sometime before 1739, more than 265 years ago.
  2. Sterling Hill produced more than 11 million tons of zinc ore. The ore was fabulously rich, averaging more than 20% zinc, and occurred in thick seams that were worked to a depth of more than 2,550 ft below the surface through tunnels totaling more than 35 miles in length.
  3. Sterling Hill is one of the world’s premiere mineral localities. Together with the nearby Franklin orebody, 2.5 miles to the north, more than 350 different mineral species have been found here — a world record for such a small area. More than two dozen of these have been found nowhere else on Earth. To view the mineral list click here.
  4. fluorescent minerals found at the mines at Sterling Hill, Ogdensburg, NJThe mine is equally famous for its fluorescent minerals. Together with nearby Franklin, almost 90 different mineral species have been documented as fluorescent (view the list here). Specimens from Franklin and Sterling Hill are widely regarded by collectors as the world’s finest.
  5. Sterling Hill constitutes a geological enigma — other than nearby Franklin, nothing else quite like it exists on Earth. The scientific literature on these deposits spans two centuries and totals more than 1,000 papers, yet scientists have yet to agree on how they formed.
  6. For more than two centuries the Franklin-Sterling Hill district attracted the attention of the most prominent scientists and naturalists of the day. One of the earliest mineralogical papers in U.S. scientific literature (1810) was devoted to zincite, one of the local ore minerals.
  7. Much U.S. mining law was forged in this area as a result of numerous courtroom battles during the 19th century, when mining was done by numerous small companies that often held conflicting titles to the mineral rights. Resolution of these conflicts established legal precedents that governed much of the mining industry nationwide from 1897 onwards.
  8. The town of Ogdensburg owes its very existence to the Sterling Hill mine. For many decades the mine provided employment to local residents and in many ways dominated their lives. Until the 1980s, most of the tax revenue of the Borough of Ogdensburg was linked either directly or indirectly to the Sterling Hill mine, the only large industrial complex in the Borough.
  9. Without the presence of the Sterling Hill mine, rail service to Ogdensburg would have been much delayed. The establishment of rail service in 1871 brought immediate and long-continuing prosperity to the Borough of Ogdensburg by transporting goods for its local merchants, delivering its mail, shuttling its residents on shopping trips and excursions, carrying its public school graduates to neighboring high schools, and providing a means of shipping the local zinc ore to the smelter in ever-increasing quantities.
  10. miner at shmmThe continual need for laborers in the mine brought wave after wave of immigrants to the area, including Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Scandinavians, Cornishmen, Mexicans, Irishmen, and others. Pick up an Ogdensburg phone book and look at the surnames, and you’ll see the legacy of those days.
  11. The wealth taken from the hills of Sussex County often had benefits elsewhere. At Princeton University, for example, one of the prime benefactors in the early 20th century was Edgar Palmer, second president of the New Jersey Zinc Company. His name lives on in Princeton in Palmer Square, Palmer Hall, and Palmer Stadium.
  12. Between Sterling Hill and Franklin, so much zinc ore had to be processed that a huge smelting and refining complex was built especially for this purpose in Pennsylvania. Why there? Because of the anthracite coal mines and the Lehigh Canal. The mines furnished the fuel necessary to smelt the ore, and the canal allowed bargeloads of coal to be transported to the smelter at low cost. Thus was born the town of Palmerton. [Think about that — a modern and still-thriving town in Pennsylvania was founded because of zinc mines in New Jersey!]
  13. The historical significance of Sterling Hill is a matter of public record. Sterling Hill was placed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in July 1991 (ID #2621) and on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1991 (National Register Reference # 91001365).
  14. Sterling Hill mine was the last operating underground mine in New Jersey. It closed in 1986 after more than 138 years of almost continuous production.

Want to know more? Several fine publications on the history and mineralogy of the Franklin-Sterling Hill area are available; for details and ordering information click here. Two of the most important publications, together with much additional information and photographs, are available on a web site built and maintained by Herb Yeates, a museum associate.

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