From the Archives: Leland Iron Co. Dock Light

By Elizabeth Adams

This metal lantern stands approximately 19.5” tall and 10” wide with a metal handle and grip. It houses a 5” wide kerosene lamp. The lit wick was once sheltered by 3 panes of curved fresnel style glass lens that varies in thickness, up to 1” in some places. This style of lens was popular for use in lighthouses because of its ability to magnify and concentrate light. Two of the lenses on this lantern have severe cracks and one is missing all together. Stamped into the top of the lantern is a maker’s mark: 

“Manufactured by Felthorson & Russell Buffalo N.Y PAT.D DEC3D1861”

Donated by Erhardt Peters of Leland in 1987; it was discovered in the hay loft of the Leland Livery Stable. The Donor also believes the lantern, no longer needed by the defunct Iron Co. was used on the dock on North Manitou Island for a time. 

This lantern is more than just a lantern in our archives. It’s a light that illuminated the darkness for men unloading the raw iron ore and reloading the pig iron at all hours of the night so that shipments stayed on schedule. A beacon for nervous captians maneuvering their ships to the dock in the unpredictable Lake Michigan waves off Leland’s coast. And an icon preserved to help tell the tale of the Leland Iron Co. and how it once monopolized the town of Leland during the 1870’s through the mid 1880’s. 

“The Leland Lake Superior Iron Company was indeed a short lived operation as the story relates. The Company changed owners and functioned under several names before finally giving up: the Leland Lake Superior Iron Company 1870-1972; E.B. Ward & Company 1972-1875; Leland Iron Company 1875-1884; Iron Star Furnace Company 1885-?”

Excerpt from “A Short History of the Leland Iron Works” (For sale in the museum gift shop)

Little remains as evidence of the iron ore production. A lantern, chunks of pig iron abandoned, bricks from the furnace reused in local buildings, a few images, and iron ore slag that washes ashore along Leland’s beaches. These few things that remain are important to remember and preserve and pass onto future generations.