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Helana Shot Tower 1832-1860

Here from 1832-1860 lead shot was manufactured by Daniel Whitney, who was a businessman that noticed the massive cliff and realized that it would be the perfect location for a lead shot factory. The lead shot tower was revolutionary in the field of creating munitions, most of the factories during this time had many impurities from casting which caused major problems for the people firing with these munitions. The Helena lead shot factory was one of the first in the country to create balls this way and it created a boomtown around the city of Helena producing millions of shots before shutting down in the late 1860s. After being sold multiple times once even for ten thousand dollars in the end the land was sold to Lloyd-Jones for something close to $60.
“Work on this project, begun in 1831, was suspended during the Black Hawk War. Parkinson’s narrative2 states that General Atkinson’s regular troops and General Dodge’s volunteers gathered at Helena on July 26, 1832, and there crossed the river on rafts in their pursuit of the savages. In Reuben G. Thwaites’s “Story of the Black Hawk War”8 it is stated that all the log houses in Helena were torn down and the material used to construct rafts for moving the army across the river.”(W. A. Titus, March 1928,322)
The location could not have been any better not only because of the massive cliff but because of where it was about the Wisconsin River. The river allowed for easy transportation of the munitions out of the area to different distributors across the country. Along with being able to move the munitions around the country the water also was harnessed to move turbines to create energy for the factory to help with getting things done faster. The location also got better because of the lead mines that were scattered all across the state, and while most mines had to be dug deep and use expensive equipment the lead in the area surrounding Helena was all surface and with a pickaxe and little bit of effort they were able to gather the lead without a big expensive operation. The Lead shot was produced by taking advantage of the surface tension of lead. It was previously thought that liquid, when dropped, fell in the shape of a raindrop but in reality, because of surface tension, it falls in a perfect sphere, perfect for creating the lead shot. After being melted by the smeltery at the top of the cliff it then goes through a grate which allows for the different sizes that were needed during the time, it then falls 180ft off the cliff and into a pit that was hand dug by Daniel Whitney and one of his closest friends mainly using hand tools, no explosives were necessary in order dig it the rest of the way down. From there the lead shot is collected and put into boxes and sent to the finishing plant where they were tossed into a roller with heat underneath to smooth the lead shot up.

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