The Miner's Brass

Under the mountain in Alleghany, deep in the Sixteen to One Mine is a  timber (post for ground support) which is plastered with brass nametags.

This timber has a story to tell…..


Mine Timber at the
800 Station in the
Sixteen to One Mine

Underground mines are required to have a “tag board” at the entrance to the mine. This is a board that is used to indicate who is in the mine. Every time a miner goes underground they must “tag in” or “brass in” by placing a brass tag with their name stamped on it on the “in” side of the tag board.  When the miners leave the mine they “tag out” or “brass out” by moving their “brass” to the “out” side of the board. In this way anybody approaching the entrance to the mine can tell at a glance how many men are underground. This is also important at the end of the day to make sure that everybody is out of the mine.



In the 1980’s a tradition developed at the Sixteen to One Mine that may be unique. When a miner leaves the employment of the mine, the remaining miners “spike his brass” by attaching it to a specific timber at the 800 station on the 49 Winze.

Many of the brass tags are literally nailed to the timber with a track spike. Often, the size of the spike and the degree to which the brass is pounded are a reflection of how well the miner was liked or disliked by the other miners. If the miners are glad to see somebody go, the brass is likely to be spiked with a large spike and pounded beyond recognition. On the other hand a well-liked miner’s tag is spiked with a nail, little damage being done to the brass. If this miner returns he can retrieve his brass from the timber.

One of the greatest insults between miners is to spike the brass of a currently employed miner. A miner at the Sixteen to One was fired once when, as a joke he spiked his supervisor’s brass.
Rae Bell


2018 Underground Gold Miners Museum
356 Main Street
Alleghany, CA 95910
Phone: 530-287-3330