Editor's note: The following letter from Marcus Daly was published Nov. 1, 1895 in The Anaconda Standard.
It would be simply out of the question for me to write for the Standard a history of my connection with the Anaconda company. That would compel me to write a book, and everybody who knows me knows that is not my line. But I can give a little something about the development of the Anaconda properties and I am very glad to furnish it to the Standard if my plain way of telling it will do.
I came to Butte in 1876. I have heard a great many times that I packed my blankets into Butte and that I went into a miners’ lodging house and looked about quietly for mining properties without letting anybody know what my business was. I know many a good man who has come into Butte packing his blankets. It would be perfectly satisfactory to me if I had came into town that way. But it happens that I came from Utah, where I had been mining, by rail to Franklin. That was as far as the railroad was built. I came from there by stage. I represented the Walker Brothers and I bought for them the Alice mine, having an interest in the property myself.
Butte was a bright active little town in those days. It has been criticized a good deal, but I notice that the men who were in Butte twenty years ago and who have been reasonably attentive to business have nearly all prospered. I can say that I was not favorably impressed with Butte as a silver camp, but I believed at the time that it was a most promising copper camp, and I based my conclusions on what I saw where Mr. Meader was operating and on the developments at the Green Mountain which was worked by a man named Posnanski. Partly, but not altogether because of the feeling I had about Butte as a silver camp, I sold my interest in the Alice. I did well when I sold. The money looked large to me and when I went back to Salt Lake I thought I would make them respect my bank account anyhow.
While I was looking around for properties in Butte, my attention was called to the Anaconda mine. I was interested in the account of this mine which was printed in the Standard some weeks ago by Mr. Michael Hickey. He gave what I have always understood to be the facts about the discovery of the Anaconda and certain interests in the St. Lawrence is correct in every respect as far as my memory goes. It is a good guess that we invested more than a few hundred dollars in the purchase of the St. Lawrence before we owned it all, but it was worth all we paid for it. I recommended the property to my friends in San Francisco and after some delays we bought the Anaconda for $30,000, afterwards we bought the St. Lawrence. The Anaconda mine was originally located in 1876.
The Anaconda shaft was down 60 feet when we started in. We had a hand windlass. Michael Carroll and John O’Farrell were with me when the work started. I became very warmly attached to these two men. They remained in the service of the company to the day of their death. They received merited promotion. Their graves are in Butte and I shall remember them always as men who were faithful in their work and absolutely loyal in their friendship.
It is true that a silver mill was ordered for the Anaconda mine. We supposed it was a silver property, but we discovered copper near the 300-foot level, Of course the silver mill was never put up — the property worked very rapidly into copper.
I really cannot make in a few words a connected story of the development of the properties of the Anaconda company from that day to this. Anybody who would be interested in the account can see the hoists spread over the hill back of Butte, and then he can take a look at the city of Anaconda itself. That is better evidence than written history. I feel at liberty to say this: the reorganization of the Anaconda company shows from the actual figures taken from the books that the Anaconda company in its operations has paid out in Montana $72,000,000. This is a vast sum of money and when I consider the changes that have taken place at Butte and at other places in Montana since 1878. I am free to say that personally I take a great deal of pleasure in thinking that the property has been a liberal contributor in the growth and prosperity of the state. It is substantially true as has been printed lately, that the cost of operating expenses and supplies was $6,500,000 in 1894.
There have been plenty of discouragements. The fire that destroyed the smelter at Carroll in the fall of 1888, just after it was finished at great expense, was the most discouraging wreck I ever looked upon. A year after that followed the mysterious fire in the Anaconda mine. One thing that occurred after the fire was news to Mr. Hearst and some other owners in the Anaconda, but not to me. They discovered that we could abandon the Anaconda and St. Lawrence and keep the smelters running right along indefinitely from the ore that the other mines owned by the company could furnish.
We also had the shut-down to content with in 1891. That was absolutely forced by the grasping policy of absentee railroad managers who since then have managed to make their whole system bankrupt. Those were the days when a man had to be a soldier. It was a very trying time while it lasted. I can say now that in those times it was not pleasant to meet neighbors and acquaintances on the streets of Butte who were advertising to the world the statement that Daly was working a long game to raise the prices of copper. Later on we built the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific railroad, and I regard that as one of the most satisfactory ventures I have had anything to do with in Montana.
We started the city of Anaconda in 1882, as we could not find enough water at any place nearer Butte. We examined the Big Hole district and several other places. It was at one time a question whether the works would be built in the state or not. In the end we concluded to build it all at Anaconda. I was always glad of it. I had no ambition to found any city but I like to see Anaconda prosper, as it has year after year, and I am also glad that it is one of the important centers in the prosperity of the state.
I have paid no attention whatever to the talk that has been heard, since the experts came here, about the sale of Anaconda stock or the future intentions of the company. It took a long time to make the organization. After a most thorough examination by experts, we have sold one-quarter of the capital stock at a price that makes the properties worth $30,000,000. Since then a part of this quarter has been sold in New York and London at a price which makes the property worth about $37,000,000. No larger interest than this quarter was ever offered for sale. I feel perfectly willing to admit that sales at this figure for properties which have been under my management since we started with the hand-windlass, give me a great deal of satisfaction — more, a good deal than the money itself could represent.
I am glad that the false reports circulated in Butte while the experts were there did not interfere with the deal. If these reports had been delivered, the results would have been very unfortunate, owing to conditions of the sale which I do not care to take the trouble to mention, even if I felt at liberty to do so. I never have been able to understand why these reports were kept up. I mean that I cannot see any motive for selling us all out of gossip and packing our trunks for us to leave. I am not so childish as to imagine that there are people my acquaintances who want to hurry me out of Montana. If there are such people, I shall be obliged to disappoint them, because I did not come to Butte to make some money and then go away telling everybody that Montana is not fit to live in. I wouldn’t wonder if I am found working right along in the old way long after some of those who have “advertised me out” have left Montana.
I promised to furnish something about the Anaconda company under my management for the Standard. I am keeping my promise. But I think I can say that I don’t very often make the same mistake twice. So, as this is my last as well as my first attempt to write for the newspapers, I want to say this: My home is in Montana, my interests are here. My friends — I have any man’s share of them — are here, and I have no other plan in the world except to stay with them.