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, United States.
Daly emigrated from County Cavan to the United States at the age of fifteen, arriving in New York City.
Daly founded his fortune on the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana, which he bought with money from various backers, including George Hearst (father of William Randolph Hearst) in 1880. 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. He built a smelter to handle the ore, and by 1895 had become a millionaire and owner of the Anaconda Copper Mining (ACM) Company. Daly was active in Montana politics throughout the 1890s and also founded the town of Anaconda, near his smelter. In 1894 Daly spearheaded an energetic but unsuccessful campaign to have Anaconda designated as Montana’s state capital. Another note in politics was his competition with fellow copper king, William A. Clark. He tried to keep him out of office by lavishly supporting Clark’s opponents.
Thoroughbred horse racing:
Marcus Daly invested some of his money in horse breeding at his Bitterroot Stock Farm located near Hamilton, Montana, and was the owner/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, 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 20th Century by Blood-Horse magazine. Daly died before the horse was born.
Daly’s legacy was a mixed one for Anaconda. From 1885 to 1980, the smelter was one of the town’s largest employers and provided well-paid jobs for generations. When the smelter closed in 1980, during a labor strike, 25% of the town’s workforce was put out of work and the town has not 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 legacy was equally mixed for Butte, Montana. The Anaconda Company 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. Montana Resources now (2007) 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.
A drawing of Daly by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947) was acquired in 2009 by the American National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.
Marcus Daly’s summer home and stock farm, Riverside, is located in Hamilton, Montana and is open to visitors.
The Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, located in Hamilton, Montana, was incorporated on December 18, 1929.