Thomas F. Cole, a mining executive of international repute, fought his way up by grim determination from digging post holes in the Calumet district of Michigan to the presidency of all the U.S. Steel Corporation iron mines in the Lake Superior country.
He worked as a rock pile picker about the mills of the Cliff and Phoenix copper mines of Michigan at the tender age of 8. Later, he worked for Calumet & Hecla as a clerk, as a brakeman on the Hecla & Torch Railroad and worked at the Chapin Iron Mine - all before he was 21. At one time, Cole served as manager for Frederick Schlesinger, who for many years, was the largest producer of iron ore in the United States.
In 1901, when U.S. Steel Corporation was organized, Cole served as Vice President of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and within a year, was elected President. He convinced Henry Oliver and some of Oliver’s iron and steel industry friends to save the almost bankrupt Superior and Western Copper Company of Arizona. They reorganized it into the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company, and from then on Cole was a dominant factor in copper development in Arizona. He played a large part in the exploration for copper ore in the Warren district and at the New Cornelia Copper Company at Ajo. These Calumet & Arizona and New Cornelia properties ultimately comprised a large part of the great ore resources of the Phelps Dodge Corporation.
During the long and violent Heinze-Amalgamated Apex War in Butte, Montana, the Amalgamated Trust brought in Cole to serve as negotiator. He already had an enormous reputation as master negotiator, having successfully assembled the best of the iron mines in the Lake Superior region for U.S. Steel Corporation.