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 Ireland to the United States as a young boy, arriving in New York City. He sold news papers and worked his way to California in time to join the gold rush on what was to become Virginia City, Nevada and the fabulously rich silver diggings now known as the Comstock Lode, in 1860.
Marcus Daly gained experience in the mines of the Comstock under the direction of John William Mackay and James G. Fair.
While working in the mines of Virginia City, Daly met and befriended George Hearst and Lloyd Tevis, co-owners of the Ophir Mining Company. (George Hearst was the father of William Randolph Hearst).
In 1872, Daly would recommend purchase by the Hearst group the Ontario mine, in Lake Flat. In ten years, the Ontario produced $17 million and paid $6,250,000 in dividends. That purchase made many millions for Hearst and Haggin.
Their business friendship was to extend for many years and help establish the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana. Daly originally came to Butte in August 1876 to look at a mine, the Alice, as an agent for the Walker Bros. of Salt Lake City.
The Walkers purchased the mine, installed Daly as Superintendent and awarded him a fractional share of the mine.
Daly noticed, while working underground in the Alice, that there were significant deposits of copper ore. He gained access into several other mines in the area and concluded that the hill was full of copper ore. He envisioned an ore body several thousand feet deep, some veins of almost pure copper and hundreds of millions of dollars.
He urged his employers, the Walker Bros. to purchase the Anaconda and when they refrained, Daly bought it. Daly founded his fortune on the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, after selling his small share of the Alice Mine, for $30,000.
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.
Following his death, New York’s Madison Square Garden hosted a dispersal sale for the Bitterroot thoroughbred studs on January 31, 1901. 185 horses were sold for $405,525.
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 the Amalgamated Copper Company in 1899, and by the 1920s it 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, known as the Berkeley 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 by Augustus Saint-Gaudens 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.
Riverside, the summer home of the Daly Family, is located in Hamilton, Montana and open to visitors. Margaret Daly, Marcus’ wife, had the home remodeled after his death into a Georgian-Revival Style Colonial.
The Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, located in Hamilton, Montana, was incorporated on December 18, 1929.