W.F. Babcock

Square Set Timbering

Comstock mining began in 1859 with open pits at Gold Hill to the south and Virginia City to the north. Within months, the Ophir Mine pit at Virginia City's outcropping became perilously deep, forcing miners to excavate underground.

The Comstock challenged traditional methods of supporting mines with timbers assembled in an inverted "U." The decomposed quartz embracing the ore tended to fold itself around wooden supports, collapsing on excavations. In addition, the ore vein expanded up to sixty feet wide. A single timber supporting such a span would snap.

Philipp Deidesheimer

Philipp Deidesheimer, the Comstock inventor of the square-set timber system, made deep hardrock mining a possibility throughout the world, thereby becoming a respected mining engineer. Deidesheimer was born to Jewish parents in Darmstadt, Hesse in 1832 before German unification. He attended the prestigious Freiburg School of Mines. At nineteen, the young mining engineer traveled to the California gold fields to work for several years. Eventually, he addressed one of the Comstock's most critical needs.

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