Marcus Daly

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Marcus Daly
Marcus Daly
BornDecember 5 1841(1841-12-05)
Flag of Republic of Ireland Derrylea, Ireland
DiedNovember 12 1900 (aged 58)
Flag of United States New York City, U.S.

Marcus Daly (December 5, 1841 – November 12, 1900), was an Irish-born American businessman known as one of the three "Copper Kings" of Butte, Montana. Twenty five years after arriving in the United States in 1856 at the age of 15 years old, Daly purchased the Anaconda mine from fellow Irish adventurer Michael Hickey. Daly bought the mine with the backing of George Hearst and his associates, James Ben Alli Haggin and Lloyd Tevis.

Initially the Anaconda was known as a silver mine until a huge vein of copper was discovered. It was a fortune waiting to be made, because copper was coming into widespread everyday use for telegraph wire and electricity. Daly established a copper smelter and became so successful that Anaconda became a household word in the United States. Daly purchased coal mines to fuel his finances, bought forests to supply his timber, and built power plants to supply the mines. He also established a number of banks, and a newspaper, the influential Anaconda Standard.

Daly was known for his benevolence and taking good care of his employees. He supported many causes, including Irish nationalism and the building of the parish church in his native parish of Crosserlough, Ireland. When he died he was one of the major figures in American industry and throngs of people attended his memorial Mass in Butte.

Early life

Marcus Daly was born on December 5, 1841 in Derrylea, Ireland the youngest of eleven children of a small farming family. At 15 years old Marcus departed Ireland. He arrived like most pre-potato famine Irish immigrants in New York City with few material belongings no money or skills. He began his new life doing odd jobs until he had saved up enough money to buy passage to San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama and then to California where a sister lived.


Did you know?
Marcus Daly was an Irish-born American businessman known as one of the three "Copper Kings" of Butte, Montana

After moving west Daly worked as a ranch hand, logger and a railroad worker. Daly found his his first experience of mining in California in the early 1860s, more than ten years after the Gold Rush at Sutter's Mill. There he teamed with Thomas Murphy a young Irishman like himself. Daly found employment in one of the silver mines of the Comstock Lode near Virginia City, Nevada. Daly met George Hearst (the father of William Randolph Hearst) in Virginia City. George Hearst would become one of his financial backers in years to come.

By 1871, Daly had traveled north to Ophir, Utah and was experienced enough in mining operations to become the foreman for a Salt Lake City banking and mining syndication, Walker Brothers. The following year he met Margaret Evans while he was inspecting a mine at Ophir with Margaret and her father. Margaret lost her balance on an incline and tumbled into Daly’s arms. They were married later that year in one of the Walker Brothers homes in Salt Lake City. Margaret was 18 years old and Marcus was 30. The Dalys’ first two children Margaret Augusta (Madge) and Mary (Molly) were born in Ophir, Utah.[1]

In 1876 the Walker Brothers sent Daly to Butte, Montana to inspect the prospects of the silver producing Alice Mine before they purchased the mine. Satisfied with what he found there, Daly bought the Alice Mine for the company and retained a one-fifth interest for himself.

In 1881 he sold his share in the Alice mine and purchased the Anaconda mining claim from Irish born prospector and adventurer Michael Hickey. Hickey was an American Civil War veteran and one of the original prospectors in the region panning rivers and digging of gold and silver. Hickey sank a shallow shaft on Butte Hill and staked a claim, naming his mine The Anaconda, after the description of how General Ulysses S. Grant's armies surrounded Confederate General Robert E. Lee's forces "like a giant Anaconda" ending the civil war. Hickey could not afford the machinery to mine below 150 feet. Daly bought the mine with the backing of George Hearst and his associates, James Ben Alli Haggin, and Lloyd Tevis. The Anaconda began as a silver mine, but copper was discovered there and found to be one of the largest deposits known at the time.

In the early 1880s copper was coming into widespread use for telegraph wire and electricity. Thomas Edison had just built the world’s first electric power plant in New York City in 1880 and the use of the telegraph was growing continuously ever since Western Union offered Edison $10,000 for his quadruplex telegraph in 1874. With the backing of Hearst, Haggin and Tevis, Daly built a copper smelter on a site only twenty eight miles west of Butte. To accommodate the workers and support his smelter Daly built the town of Anaconda, Montana. By 1890, the copper mines were producing over seventeen million dollars of copper annually.

Daly's success was such that Anaconda became a household word in the United States. Daly purchased coal mines to fuel his finances, bought forests to supply his lumber and built power plants to supply the mines. He also established a number of banks, and a newspaper, the influential Anaconda Standard.[1]

Marcus Daly and fellow industrialists William Andrews Clark and F. Augustus Heinze were collectively known as the "Copper Kings." They fought epic battles in Butte and the surrounding region during the Gilded Age over the control of the local copper mining industry, a fight which had ramifications for not only Montana, but the United States as a whole. Eventually, Daly's Anaconda Copper emerged as a monopoly, expanding into the fourth largest company in the world by the late 1920s.[2]

In 1894 Daly spearheaded an energetic but unsuccessful campaign to have Anaconda designated as Montana's state capital. Just as vigorous were Daly's attempts to keep his competitor, fellow copper king, William Clark out of political office. Reportedly Daly tried to keep Clark out of office by lavishly supporting Clark's opponents.[2]

He bought land in Bitter Root Valley, Montana and built a palatial house in the heart of the valley located outside the town of Hamilton, Montana. By 1889 he had a 22,000 acre ranch and developed a huge agricultural enterprise, including [[horse]s.

Daly died in New York City on November 12, 1900 of complications of diabetes and a bad heart. He was 58 years old.

Thoroughbred horse racing

Marcus Daly invested some of his money in horse breeding at his Bitter Root Stock Farm near Hamilton, Montana, and was the owner and breeder of Scottish Chieftain, the only horse bred in Montana to ever win the Belmont Stakes (1897).

In 1891, Daly became the owner of Tammany, who was said to be one of the world's fastest racehorses in 1893. He owned and stood Inverness, sire of Scottish Chieftain, as well as Hamburg, Ogden, and The Pepper. He also arranged the breeding of the great Sysonby, ranked number 30 in the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the Twentieth Century by Blood-Horse magazine. Daly died before the horse was born.


Daly's legacy was a mixed one for Anaconda, Montana. Daly's obituary from the Butte Miner read:

Marcus Daly was was a man to remember. He fought his way from dire poverty to fabulous riches. A true empire builder, he was a man of extreme. A friend to his friends, to his enemies remorseless and unforgiving. Daly, a father figure watched over his family, his friends and his employees with a heartfelt benevolence. It must be noted that when he ran the Anaconda Mining Company, he treated his employees better than most corporations of the time. More than any other man he built the Montana mining industry, he was a true son of Ireland, which he never forgot and helped.[1]

From 1885 to 1980, the copper smelter he established was one of the town's largest employers and provided well-paid jobs for generations. When the smelter closed in 1980, however, 25 percent of the town's workforce was put out of work and the town never recovered. The smelter itself was torn down as part of environmental cleanup efforts in the 1990s, although the smokestack is still visible above the town.

Daly's impact was equally mixed for Butte, Montana. The Anaconda Company (ACM) was bought out by Standard Oil in 1899, and by the 1920s controlled mining in the city. It continued to be one of the state's largest employers and a mainstay of the state and local economies until the 1970s. In the 1950s, the ACM began open-pit mining in Butte, creating a steadily growing pit east of the main business district. In the mid-1970s, copper prices collapsed and the ACM was bought out by the Atlantic Richfield Company (Arco). Arco ceased mining in Butte in 1982, ending what Daly had begun almost exactly 100 years before. Reference is made to the Berkeley Pit for the lasting impact. Montana Resources operates an open pit copper and molybdenum mine in Butte, and also recovers copper from the water in the Berkeley Pit.

A statue of Daly stands at the main entrance to Montana Tech of the University of Montana (formerly the Montana School of Mines) at the west end of Park Street in Butte.

Marcus Daly's summer home and stock farm, Riverside, is located in Hamilton, Montana and is open to visitors.

Daly treated his men better than most other employers. He gave preferential treatment to new arrivals looking for work, allowed "the rustling card" (closed shop) to operate, urged new employees to join the union and allowed union officers and society members access to his mines. He made donations to many causes, including Irish nationalism and also for the building of the parish church in his native Crosserlough, Ireland.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Geraldine Lynch, Marcus Daly, Irish Identity. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Michael Malone, The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier, 1864-1906 (Montana Historical Society Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0917298349).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Glasscock, Carl B. The War of the Copper Kings. Western History Publications, 2002. ISBN 978-1931832212
  • Hoover, W.H. Marcus Daly, 1841-1900, And His Contributions to Anaconda; an Address in Montana. New York: Newcomen Society in North America, 1950. ASIN B0007DT65U
  • Malone, Michael. The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier, 1864-1906. Montana Historical Society Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0917298349
  • Place, Marian T. The Copper Kings of Montana. New York, NY: Random House, 1961. ASIN B0006AX0NI


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