Superior has strong ties to the mining of copper, silver and gold. In 1875, the Irene and Hub claims (later known as the Silver Queen mine), became the nucleus of Superior’s Magma Mine.
In 1875, the rediscovery of the Silver King mine led to the development of the town of Pinal. Pinal and the Silver King mine became the destination for hundreds of miners.
Reported visitors included some of the most notorious characters, including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Both the Silver King mine and Pinal were abandoned in 1888 when the ore was depleted.
In 1902, George Lobb, Sr., a native of England, sold his Golden Eagle Group (a silver mine) to Lake Superior and Arizona Mining Company (LS&A). Lobb remained in the area and laid out the town site, naming it Superior after the LS&A. The Superior post office was established in December, 1902. Robert T. Jones was one of Superior’s first postmasters and went on to become governor of Arizona. About this same time, Harry H. Hiener started publishing a weekly newspaper, The Superior Sun, which remains the area’s primary newspaper.
William Boyce Thompson, a Montana native, purchased the rights to the Silver Queen mine and renamed it the Magma Copper Company in 1910. Thompson then purchased the LS&A property and added it to his Magma holdings. A mining engineer, financier, patriot, and extraordinary philanthropist, Boyce Thompson was a self-made millionaire who used his money to accomplish great things. He established the Boyce Thompson Arboretum to study plants and to help educate the public. Today, the Arboretum is a renowned sprawling sanctuary with a plant collection representing climates around the world.
Thompson contracted to have his ore hauled by wagon to Florence and then shipped by rail to Hayden for refining. This procedure was expensive so a narrow gauge railroad was build, at a cost of $165,000, from Superior to Webster. The Magma Arizona Railroad went into operation in June, 1915. The narrow gauge railroad was replaced by a standard gauge railroad and became the longest 100% steam common carrier operating in the United States. A new, $3.6 million smelter began operating in Superior in March, 1924. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers later declared another innovation, the air conditioning used in the mine, a National Historical Engineering Landmark.
Superior is rich with historical landmarks and considered a cinematic treasure for Hollywood filmmakers. Superior’s film appearances include How The West Was Won, The Prophecy, U-Turn and The Fugitive. Several advertisers have also used Superior as a backdrop in commercials.
Many families residing in Superior trace their roots back to three generations. Those who leave Superior are hard pressed to find any place that offers the friendly, comfortable atmosphere of their hometown, and often return to raise their families. With mining making a return, and numerous opportunities for economic development, the future is bright for Superior.