Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Sterling Hill Mine Tour & Museum of Fluorescence

Useful Information

Wurtzite (Var: Voltzite), Sterling Mine, NJ, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Löllingite, Sterling Mine, NJ, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Location: 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg, NJ.
(41.083532, -74.604161)
Open: APR to JUN Sat, Sun 13.
JUL to AUG daily 13.
SEP to NOV Sat, Sun 13.
Fee: Adults EUR 13, Children (4-12) EUR 10, Children (03) free, Seniors (65+) EUR 12.
Classification: MineZinc Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=56 km, VR=815 m, T=13 °C.
Guided tours: L=400 m, D=2 h.
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: C. Palache (1935): The Minerals of Franklin and Sterling Hill, Sussex County, New Jersey, United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 180, 135 pages, with map.
P.J. Dunn (1995): Franklin and Sterling Hill New Jersey: the world's most magnificent mineral deposits, 5 parts + 2 supplements, 978 pages.
Address: Sterling Hill Mining Museum, 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg, NJ 07439, Tel: +1-973-209-7212, Fax: +1-973-209-8505. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1730 earliest documentary evidence of mining activities.
1769 property granted to William Alexander (Lord Stirling) by King George III.
1765 sold to Robert Ogden.
1818-1824 all three parcels were acquired by Samuel Fowler
1897 several mines combined into the New Jersey Zinc Company.
1986 mine closed.
1989 Sterling Hill Mining Museum established.
04-AUG-1990 opened to the public.
1991 listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Franklin Mining District is located in rural Sussex County, New Jersey. The whole formation is called the Reading Prong massif. Limestone was deposited in a Precambrian oceanic rift trough. During the Grenville orogeny, approximately 1.15 billion years ago, it underwent extensive metamorphosis. During the late Mesozoic and the Tertiary it was exposed at the surface by uplift. Beneath the mother lodes, there were massive sedimentary deposits caused by the glaciers of the Pleistocene. They transported ore-bearing boulders for miles to the south, creating secndary deposits large enough to be worked profitably.

The Franklin Mining District has two zinc-ore bodies, Franklin ore body and Sterling Hill ore body. It also has several iron-ore bodies like Furnace Magnetite Bed, the magnetite ore bodies on Ball's Hill, and several magnetite beds in Franklin. The Precambrian Franklin marble was mined in several quarries. The area is known for more than 400 different kinds of minerals. It is also the type locality of 71 minerals.


Gahnite, Quartz, Sterling Mine, NJ, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Allactite, Sterling Mine, NJ, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Allactite, Sterling Mine, NJ, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Allactite, Sterling Mine, NJ, U.S.A. Public Domain.

Sterling Hill Mine is an underground zinc mine which is famous for numerous fluorescent minerals. The site was renamed Sterling Hill Mine Tour & Museum of Fluorescence some time ago. The tour includes the Zobel Hall Museum, the mine, and the Warren Museum of Fluorescence.

Sterling Hill Mine is an underground mine tour which is explains the equipment, history, working conditions, and geology of the mine. The visited tunnel was dug in the 1830s. One part of the tour, the Rainbow tunnel was blasted in 1990 to demonstrate the entire tunnel glowing with fluorescence. The mine was operated until

Zobel Hall Museum is located in the former miners' Change House. The building originally contained about 300 steel lockers, each miner had its own locker with a chain attached. The chain was used for the clothes, which were pulled to the ceiling. They actually tell the theory that this was doen because the air at the ceiling was dryer, so clothes would dry overnight. Some original lockers and baskets can still be seen in the museum. The museum has a collection of 12.000 items. One of the highlights is the Oreck Mineral Gallery, which contains hundreds of mineral specimens, and is called the finest display of minerals in the State of New Jersey. There is a specially designed dark room with ultraviolet light to display the fluorescent minerals from Sterling Hill and Franklin zinc mines. The museum also has a 3D Periodic Table of the Elements. The huge shelf resembles the printed version with 112 cubbyholes for the elements. Each contains three samples: the actual element, its typical ore, and something which was manufactured from it. The museum also contains mining equipment, ore specimens, meteorites, fossils, inventions by Thomas Edison, and artwork.

The Warren Museum of Fluorescence has more than 700 specimens of fluorescent minerals from around the world. It was named for Thomas S. Warren in 1999 due to his generous contributions. Located in the Old Mill Building from 1916 it occupies four rooms. Quite spectacular is the 5 m wide floor to ceiling Color Wall. It contains 100 large fluorescent mineral specimens, some up to 1 m long and weighing 50 kg. The light changes between longwave ultraviolet light, then shortwave ultraviolet light, then both and finally a brief period of darkness showing the afterglow or phosphorescence. Some less fragile specimens may be touched. There are also a dozen themed cases where a group of minerals illustrates a particular facet of fluorescence. The topics are a specific mineral, a locality, or an activator element.

The unique ore-body was acquired by William Alexander (*1726-✝1783) in 1769. He started to mine the iron ore, and as he owned furnaces he sent ore to his own furnaces and to England. But the ore at Sterling Hill Mine was unique, and he mistook the red zincite for cuprite, in other words he thought the zinc ores to be copper ores. Unfortunately the iron-bearing franklinite was resistant to smelting by period technology, so smelting failed. As a result the exploitation of the ore failed, because there was no way to process the ore. He called himself Lord Stirling, because he was the senior male descendant of the 1st Earl of Stirling, but he was denied the title in 1762 by the House of Lords. Nevertheless, he continued to hold himself out as "Lord Stirling". And so the hill and the mine were named after his fake title. At the end he drank himself to death.

The next owner was Robert Ogden, but it seems he did not mine it. He was the owner of the profitable Ogden Mine to the south-west, and was heavily involved in iron mining and iron foundering in the area. His son Elias Ogden inherited the site around 1795, but died himself in 1805. The site was divided into three parts by a commission and assigned to his three heirs. The first is the Sterling Hill or New Jersey Zinc Co. Mine, the second is the Passaic Mine, and the third is the Noble Mine.

All three parcels were acquired by Samuel Fowler between 1818 and 1824. He finally recognized that the mineralogy of the Sterling Hill deposit was significantly different from other deposits in the region. He sent samples to Archibald Bruce, one of the leading American mineralogists. He discovered numerous formerly unknown mineral species and numerous which were only found here. There was still the problem that it was not possible to process the main mineral franklinite. But Fowler developed uses, and therefor markets, for the "zinc white". For example, he replaced lead oxide in white paint, which had already been identified as a major health threat. Nevertheless, he failed to profitably operate the mines, and finally sold off his interests.

In 1897, the three mines amalgamated to form a new corporation and consolidated all the mineral properties at Sterling Hill. The new mining operations began producing ore in 1912. In 1916, a mill was opened on site for grinding the ore before it was sent via railroad to the refinery in Palmerton, PA. They developed new processing techniques and new products and the mine was for the first time profitable. As a result it was the main source of income in the area for decades. They provided valuable social services to the miners living in the Ogdensburg area. They finally abandoned the mine in 1986 due to the property tax assessments on the Sterling Hill site which made it unprofitable.