Charles Sweeny, Federal Mining and Smelting Company
Charles Sweeney is the focus of the book "THE BALLYHOO BONANZA" Charles Sweeny and the Idaho
Mines by John Fahey. The years from 1885 to 1910 saw Idaho's Coeur d'Alene mines in the United States evolve from
a scattered group of prospect holes to corporations that produced a third or more of the nation's
lead. A major catalyst in this transformation was Charles Sweeny, a second-generation Irish immigrant
who had ventured westward to seek his fortune after the Civil War and moved to the Coeur d'Alenes during the first wave
gold rush in 1883-1884. Sweeney bought up the district's first townsite and plunged immediately
into the prospecting, speculation, and manipulation that were to characterize his whole career.
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Sweeny was in many ways typical of the self-made entrepeneurs of his day, impulsive, opportunistic, alternatively acquisitive and generous,
shrewd and naive. Although such speculative promoters were omnipresent in the development of western U.S. mining,
little has been written about them. In his book, John Fahey traces Sweeney's circuitious path of buying
and selling, organization and reorganization, financial dealing and legal dueling, which enabled
him, by 1903, to consolidate most of the major mines of the Coeur d'Alenes into the "Federal Mining and Smelting
Fahey's account is based upon letters, newpaper files, interviews, federal mining minute-books, and
previously inaccessible mining records, which provide a storehouse of source material for other studies
of the area. Cutting across a major section of the western history, business history, and the social
history of the self-made man at the turn of the century, The Ballyhoo Bonanza chronicles the
development of Coeur d'Alene mining district through the biography of one of it's most ardent promoters.
Although out of print currently, it is fairly easy to locate a copy of this 1971 book published by the
University of Washington Press.
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