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A 1 Ton Nugget From The Smuggler Silver Mine

The story of the Smuggler Mine is quite interesting in the fact that it was this mine that produced the largest silver nugget ever found. In 1894 miners cut out a large hunk of solid silver that weighed 2,340 pounds. It was too big to bring out of the mine in one piece so the nugget was broken into three pieces, the largest weighing 1,840 pounds.

The Smuggler mine got it's start in 1879 when two prospectors named Edward Fuller and Con Allbright found what would turn out to be the Smuggler Mine. The two prospectors never worked the mine as they sold the claim for much needed money to buy additional supplies. The two men had lost everything in a bush fire and were in need of cash and supplies real bad. In fact it is said that their mules ended up missing during the fire.

Another story is about a man named Charles Bennett who was supposedly the first person to file a record on the claim but that to is also questionable. Either way, Charles Bennett did somehow manged to aquired the claim whcih he named "Smuggler" and added it to his group of claims that he had throught the valley range. In 1880 Charles sold all his claims Clark Wheeler, Charles Hallam and David Hyman. David Hyman formed the Aspen Town and Land Company to survey 280-acres of ranch land. Then he subdivided it, named the streets after themselves and sold the lots for $10. These lots turned out tobe the lots and streets of what is now the city of Aspen. You can see how a tourist mecca like Aspen was started by miners and mining.

Once mining got underway the Smuggler mine proved to be a profitable mine. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1890 was passed and that allowed for an increased amount of silver the federal government was required to purchase. This of curse helped the mine and it's workers and contributed to the prosperity of the city. By this time the population reached over 10,000 and the Smuggler mine had 200 workers. Then in 1893 Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the silver price fell and many of area silver mines had to close. Smuggler Mine slowed down it's operations and laid off about 70 of its 200 miners.

By 1895 the silver price was on it's way back up and the mines started to recover from the previous slow years. In 1897 however the mine had a fire and this fire caused some of the pumps to quit and some of the lower tunnels and shafts became flooded out with water. By 1900 the mine was up and running full capacity and even though the silver price never regained to where it was before, the mine added more workers. The mine was pounding out almost 250 tons of ore every day.

Then in 1904 the mine experienced flooding again and this slowed down production and it seemed thing were going from bad to worse. The silver being mined was a lower grade and silver prices had fallen again. Several other mines in the area closed up and the towns population which was over 10,000 in 1890 was now down to about 2000. Then in 1912 some of the miners decide to strike and this lead to some disruptive times. However the strike did not last long miners were back to work. In the years after the strike the cost of pumping out the mine cut into the Smuggler's profits and discouraged further investment. In 1917 Smuggler reached the bottom of the vein that had been the mine's main source of ore to that point.

The Smuggler Mine lay dormant then until after the second world warwhich it was opened again just for a brief period of time. In the early 1980's the Hyman family sold the mine to Stefan Albouy, a mining enthusiast who was hoping to make the old mine profitable again. However with low silver prices he was unable to make a profit so he decided to run mine tours. After a bunch of legal battles with local government officials he killed himself. His two partners then formed the New Smuggler Mining Corporation and continued mining and running mine tours.

In 2012 the two partners then put the mine up for sale, listing it with Sotheby's for $9.5 million. It is said that the the Smuggler Mine still has about 890,000 pounds of recoverable silver ore still deep inside it's veins.