James Douglas (businessman)
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November 4, 1837|
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
|Died||June 30, 1918
Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.
|Education||University of Halle-Wittenberg
University of Edinburgh
|Net worth||$18 million (at death)|
|Children||James Douglas, Jr.
|Parents||James Douglas (father) (1800-1886)|
|Relatives||Lewis Williams Douglas (grandson)|
James S. Douglas (4 November 1837 - 30 June 1918) was a Canadian born mining engineer and businessman who introduced a number of metallurgical innovations in copper mining and amassed a fortune through the copper mining industry of Arizona and Sonora.
Douglas's Scottish-born father, Dr. James Douglas, was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. He had earned the reputation of being the fastest surgeon in town, capable of performing an amputation in less than one minute. Dr. Douglas transmitted his thirst for adventure to his son, taking him on numerous expeditions to Egypt and the Middle East in the mid-19th century. He brought back several mummies from these journeys, selling them to museums in North America. One of these, sold in Niagara Falls, was recently discovered to be the corpse of Ramses I.
James S. Douglas initially chose a different career from his father, studying to become a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He studied at Queen’s College, Kingston from 1856-1858, and later at the University of Edinburgh. By the end of his studies, however, Douglas had second thoughts: “When therefore I was licensed to teach, my faith in Christ was stronger but my faith in denominational Christianity was so weak that I could not sign the Confession of Faith and therefore was never ordained.” He was granted a license to preach, but never became an ordained minister. This secularism remained with Douglas all his life. He was primarily responsible for making Queen’s into a non-denominational University when he served as Chancellor in 1912.
In the 1860s, Douglas helped his father at the Beauport Asylum while studying towards a career in medicine. He worked as a librarian at the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, and later became the youngest president in the history of the Society. There, he presented numerous lectures to the Society’s members, the first on Egyptian hieroglyphics and mummies, and later ones on mining and geological issues.
This interest in mining and geology eventually supplanted his interest in medicine and Douglas embarked on a third career. In 1869, Douglas’ scientific experiments with the assistance of Dr. Thomas Sterry Hunt at Université Laval led him to a discovery that was to change his life. Together, they elaborated a patent for the “Hunt and Douglas” process of extracting copper from its ore. Although Douglas had no formal education in chemistry, he was considered competent enough to fill the Chair of Chemistry at his hometown's Morrin College affiliated with McGill University, from 1871 to 1874. His evening lectures were among the most popular in the history of the College.
Douglas’s patents attracted attention in the United States, and in 1875 he quit his teaching post to work as superintendent for the Chemical Copper Company, Phoenixville, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, then a major center of the chemical industry. He also performed mining consultant work, which took him to the far West. In 1880, Douglas was recruited by the trading company Phelps Dodge, which sent him to Arizona Territory to investigate mining opportunities. This eventually led to the creation of the Copper Queen Mine, Bisbee, Arizona, which became one of the top copper-producing mines in the world. Offered the choice of a flat fee or a ten percent interest in the property for his services, he chose the latter, a decision that subsequently made him a fortune. His deep interest in transportation and mining were united in an essay he wrote in 1885 on "Historical and Geographical Features of the Rocky Mountain Railroads which detailed the geological features of the land near the Union Pacific, Central Pacific, Denver and Rio Grand, Southern Pacific, Atlantic and Pacific, Northern Pacific, and the Canadian Pacific railroads. In 1883, he made his last permanent move, to the New York City area to be closer to the financial hub.
In the late 1880s, early 1890s, with the success of the Copper Queen, and backing of Phelps Dodge partners he acquired for them additional property, and built up other spectacular copper mines, including the Detroit Copper Company at Morenci, Arizona, the Moctezuma Copper Company at Nacozari, Sonora, and the United Globe-Old Dominion mines at Globe, Arizona. In 1905, the partnership purchased the vast coal lands of Dawson, New Mexico and organized the Stag Canyon Fuel Co. He was made president of each of the operating companies by the Phelps Dodge partners. Importantly, he recruited talented young engineers, including his sons James and Walter, Dr. L. D. Ricketts, and Charles E. Mills, to manage the expanding business. James Douglas also founded the copper smelting Mexican border town of Douglas, Arizona. To connect these operations he led in the construction of mine railroad branches and the construction of the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad, a 750 mile railroad link between the Rock Island and Southern Pacific Lines, from Tucumcari, New Mexico to Tucson, Arizona via Douglas (part of the Golden State Route, Chicago to Los Angeles). With the passing of the senior members of the Phelps Dodge partnership, the firm was dissolved and replaced in 1908 with the Phelps Dodge Corporation, a holding company of all the subsidiary properties. Douglas became first president, later CEO, of Phelps Dodge, and helped transform it into the Fortune 500 company. Around 1912, he began reducing his business commitments and delved into philanthropy more until his death in 1918 at his home in Spuyten Durvil, New York.
James Douglas was always known as Dr. Douglas or Prof. Douglas. His son, James S. Douglas, or "Rawhide Jimmy" (1867-1949), managed the Phelps Dodge works at Nacazori before heading off on his own and built a major fortune with the United Verde Extension mine in Jerome, Arizona. His Jerome mansion is open to the public as the Jerome State Historic Park. Walter Douglas followed in his father's foot-steps as manager of the Copper Queen, then president and finally CEO of Phelps Dodge. James S. Douglas's son (Dr. Douglas's grandson) Lewis Douglas was elected U. S. Congressman representing Arizona, served within President Roosevelt's administration, and later as ambassador to Great Britain.
Throughout this time, Dr. Douglas maintained an interest in Canadian history and heritage. He wrote several books on the subject in his lifetime, namely Canadian Independence, Old France in the New World, and New England and New France—Contrasts and Parallels in Colonial History. In addition to bailing Queen’s University out of a financial crisis with approximately a million dollars from his own pocket, Douglas also established the first chair in Canadian and Colonial History there in 1910. He also financed many libraries, such as the library of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, where interest from his donations is still used to purchase books. He had built and supported libraries in each of the Phelps Dodge major mining camps and smelter towns.
Douglas also donated to several medical causes, most notably the Douglas Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. This institution pursued the cause which had been taken up by his father, a pioneer in the treatment of mental health in Quebec. Douglas’ donations helped keep the hospital alive in the institution’s early years. Originally called the “Protestant Hospital for the Insane”, the institution took on the name of Douglas Hospital in 1965 as a tribute to James Douglas, Jr. and his father. His donation in 1913 of nearly a million dollars of radium to Johns Hopkins University helped medical research.
He was member of a number of technical or scientific societies and served as president of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, 1899-1900. Since 1922, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers annually awards the James Douglas Gold Medal in his memory. His writings on the copper industry are voluminous, He was an advocate of the free exchange of scientific information.
The Douglas Library at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, is named in his honor, as is Douglas Hall at McGill University. Dr. Douglas also endowed a lectureship at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and in 1940 Phelps Dodge Corporation funded the construction of the James Douglas Memorial Building for Mines and Metallurgy at U of A.
- Robert Paul Browder and Thomas G. Smith, Independent: A Biography of Lewis W. Douglas (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986), p. 7
- The Golden Spike: A Centennial Remembrance (1969). This book reprints the essay as well an essay written by Lewis W. Douglas, in appreciation of Dr. Douglas.
- H. H. Langton, James Douglas,a Memoir (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1940)
- Dedication for the Douglas Memorial Building for Mining and Metallurgy (Tucson: University of Arizona Bulletin, 1940)
Works by James Douglas
- Memoir of T. Sterry Hunt, F.R.S. (1898)
- Untechnical Addresses on Technical Subjects (1905)
- Old France in the New World (1905)
- The Influence of the Railroads of the United States and Canada on the Mineral Industry (1909)
- Journals and Reminiscences of James Douglas, M.D. (1910)
- Queen's University bio
- Mining Hall of Fame bio
- James Douglas Gold Medal
- Jerome State Historic Park
- James Douglas and the Douglas Hospital
|Chancellor of Queen's University
Edward Wentworth Beatty