A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors


 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Part II-Chapter 7 : The Mining Bonanza Kings  > Index and Introduction  :  Previous  12 - 3   Next

But the real silver bonanza kings were a different group of men. James Graham Fair, John William Mackay, James Clair Flood and William Shoney O'Brien were little known on the Comstock Lode, when they gained control of the Hale & Norcross mine from William Sharon and Ralston in 1869. This strike enabled them to gather the funds for the much bigger one, which followed a few years later, when they bought control of the Consolidated Virginia and California mines and dug a shaft from one of the neighboring mines at 1'200 feet underneath Mount Davidson. They struck the richest mineral deposit ever found in the World and instantly became multi-millionaires.

With the exploitation of the deeper layers of the Comstock Lode, mining became an increasingly organized and capital intensive industry. The Comstock silver mines had been the backbone of San Francisco's Mining Exchange since it's creation in 1862. During the 1870's, mining stocks absorbed a disproportionately large amount of the disposable capital on the Pacific Coast and while several groups of large-scale promoters made large fortunes from mining and the manipulation of mining companies stocks, the larger part of the public usually lost its savings. The boom and bust cycle of gold and silver mining activities created a constant shift of capital and populations, which rendered planning difficult also for the more sedate merchants and induced bankers to lend at unusually high interest rates. Those who knew how to manage their funds under these conditions actually made a fortune.

Except the silver kings there was another extremely successful group of mining capitalists in San Francisco comprising George Hearst, Lloyd Tevis and James Ben Ali Haggin. George Hearst was one of the original investors in the Ophir mine, the first of the Comstock Lode's silver bonanza properties. Lloyd Tevis and James B. Haggin married two sisters, daughters of Colonel Lewis Sanders of Natchez, Mississippi. Both lawyers, they had a successful law firm in San Francisco and later branched out, investing into mining properties, real estate and undeveloped land. Lloyd Tevis also became the chief owner of Wells, Fargo & Company and led that firm into banking, when he became president. Hearst, Haggin and Tevis became jointly interested in a number of successful Western mines, such as the Homestake in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana, where they were partners of Marcus Daly.

In Montana, the mining industry developed around copper, the fiery metal for which the telephone and telegraph business created huge demand in the 1880's and 1890's. Copper had made the fortune of the old Boston families who invested into the Calumet & Hecla mines of Michigan. It also increased the fortune of Phelps, Dodge & Company, who operated mainly in Arizona. Montana copper mining was dominated by Marcus Daly and his competitors William Andrews Clark and the Heinze brothers. The three groups vigorously fought each other, both in the mining business and in politics. Other states where mining drove the economy and created large fortunes where Utah, where the Guggenheims and the Penroses made much of their fortunes and Colorado, home of Jerome B. Chaffee, David H. Moffat, the Thatchers and the Kountzes. Like their Californian counterparts, these men made their money in various businesses, always in mining but also in banking, merchandising and railroads. Many got elected or tried to get elected to the U.S. Congress or to other high public offices, which they invariably used to further their financial interests and the social status of their families.

The Mining Bonanza Kings  > Index and Introduction  :  Previous  12 - 3   Next  

The Mining Bonanza Kings

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