Story of Rocky Taconite

In 1959, a very young and enthusiastic dentist moved to Silver Bay. His name was Dr. Otto Ringle. The need for dental services in the new community of Silver Bay was high but due to the lack of space, he initially occupied a small office and shared a waiting room with fellow dentist, Dr. Harry Buetow. Otto became very active in the community and soon petitioned the John W. Galbreath Co., developer of the town of Silver Bay, for three things: a larger dental office for himself, a laundromat for the town, and a big statue that would draw those from near and far to this new community on the north shore of Lake Superior. All three would come to fruition.

Otto was from Walker, Minnesota which was not far from the town of Bemidji where large statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox reside. Otto was aware of the positive economic impact these statues had on this area and wanted the same for Silver Bay. When Otto was President of the Silver Bay Jaycees (later organized as the Silver Bay Chamber of Commerce), he suggested that they construct a statue that might bring tourists that travel the north shore into town. Otto made a sketch of his idea and presented it to Reserve Mining Company personnel who agreed to pay for its construction. “Mr. Taconite” quickly became the symbol of the Silver Bay community.

The contract to build “Mr. Taconite” was awarded to Star Iron Works in Minneapolis, MN for $500.00 in the early 1960’s. Neil Forsberg, who worked on the project, was given very little in the way of specifications for it except that it had to be made from iron. Through trial and error, Neil and three other employees spent many hours a day for almost a year building him.

Meanwhile, back in Silver Bay, efforts to find a place to erect Mr. Taconite were underway. The John W. Galbreath Company donated and landscaped the land in front of the Silver Bay Post Office for him. Reserve Mining Company also donated a 7-foot block of taconite to be used as a pedestal for the iron man. The initial unveiling of the iron man was done by J. William Bryant, then President of Reserve Mining Company, at the second annual banquet of the Silver Bay Chamber of Commerce. A contest to name him was begun on April 16, 1964. Silver Bay resident Louis M. Stefanich, won the contest with the name “Rocky Taconite”. Rocky Taconite was dedicated on October 10, 1964 by Dr. E.W. Davis, the Father of Taconite.

Otto Ringle and his family attended the 1964 New York World’s Fair and while there noticed how popular bobbleheads had become. After returning, they suggested to Otto’s mother-in-law, Marie Benson, that she try her hand at making a Rocky Taconite bobblehead. (Marie had already gained notoriety for her crafts and had been featured on the Arthur Godfrey show.) She agreed and proceeded to design and carve a model from wax which Otto made an impression of using his dental tools. Marie cut the impression in half, filled it (The filling recipe is unknown.) and baked it in her kitchen oven in Silver Bay. Rocky bobblehead production was truly a family affair at the time as even Otto’s children helped paint and put final touches on the bobbleheads. These bobbleheads initially sold for $1.00 each as a fundraiser for the town. Today these same (now vintage) bobbleheads may sell for more than $200.00 – that is, if you can find one.

In August 1990, Rocky was moved to his current location near the entrance to Silver Bay where he is more visible to all. He welcomes all to the town; residents, past residents, tourists, and those just passing through.

In 2005, a new bobblehead design was introduced which is still available today. The Bay Area Historical Society has continued to offer Rocky Taconite souvenirs over the years at their shop and now here on our website.