Anton Eilers

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Anton Eilers
Anton eilers4.jpg

Frederic Anton Eilers (14 January 1839 - 22 April 1917) arrived in the United States in 1859 as a German immigrant. Using his smelting expertise, he built a series of smelters and businesses, the culmination of which was co-founding the American Smelting and Refining Company.

Early years[edit]

Frederic Anton Eilers was born in Laufenselden, Nassau, Germany, Jan 14, 1839.[1] He grew up the son of Ernest Julius Adolph Friederich and Elizabeth Dielmann Eilers. Despite the death of Anton's father when he was 12, Anton was able to attend the German High Schools of Weilburg and Wiesbaden. He then pursued studies at the University of Göttingen, after which he attended the prestigious mining academy at Clausthal. In 1859, for reasons lost to history, Anton, his mother Elizabeth and his sister Emma emigrated to the United States, settling in Syme Township, Ohio, with Elizabeth's sister Wilhelmina Dielmann.[2]

Early work[edit]

In 1863, the same year he married Elizabeth Emrich, Anton was offered a position with Adelberg & Raymond, a partnership between Justus Adelberg and Rossiter W. Raymond that specialized in mining consulting. From 1863 to 1866 Eilers travelled, "from the islands of the Caribbean to the mountains and deserts of the West."[1] Not only did this provide Anton with an early, unusually broad look at the burgeoning mining industry of the United States, but he also formed a close personal friendship with Rossiter that would last throughout their lives, with Rossiter writing his Eulogy.

With the death of Adelberg and the close of Adelberg & Raymond in 1866, Anton moved his wife and growing family of 3 kids to the town of Hillsville in Carroll County, Virginia. There, he obtained a position managing the Hale copper mine and furnace. In three years, following the addition of their fourth child, the supply of ore exhausted.

However, the close of the Hale Copper Mine proved a blessing, as Rossiter W. Raymond, now Commissioner of Mines and Mining Statistics in and West of the Rocky Mountains, asked Anton to be his deputy. For the next 7 years, the two of them travelled the West, writing and reporting on the latest issues—laws, conditions, environment, techniques, and more—concerning mining. Their efforts are recorded and published in successive Congressional House documents. For a young man who had learned the latest smelting and refining techniques in Germany, to observe and report on this early, growing industry was likely instrumental in preparing Anton with the experience and connections necessary to transform the smelting industry.

First tourists to enter a National Park[edit]

Normally, while executing their duties and doing their research in the West, Anton and Raymond travelled separately, but in 1871 they decided to explore a region of the United States now known as Yellowstone National Park. Accompanying Anton and Raymond in August 1871 was J.S. Daugherty of Wabash City, Indiana, August F. Thrasher (photographer), Calvin C. Clawson (reporter for the New Northwest) and Gilman Sawtelle, who acted as their guide[3]

The National Park Service recognizes this party as the first group of 'tourists' to enter a national park for the purposes of simply touring a National Park (the 1971 Hayden Survey party was also in the park at the time, with both parties meeting up at one point).[4] Both Rossiter Raymond and Calvin Clawson wrote accounts of their journeys in serial form. Rossiter would later bind his into a chapter of a book published in 1880 called Camp and Cabin. While the Thrasher photographs did not survive the exit of the Yellowstone area, the negative plates did survive. According to Thrasher's mother, he intended to make the images into a book. However, Thrasher died soon after the trip, leaving the location of the images an ongoing mystery.[5]

Rising prominence in the smelting industry[edit]

Colorado Smelting Company.jpg

In 1876, Anton left his role as Deputy to Rossiter and entered the private sector. After consulting for a couple years, Anton partnered with Gustav Billing, building successful smelters, first in Salt Lake City, Ut, and then in Leadville, Co. While the partnership was very successful professionally and financially, by 1881 Anton found himself ill enough that Billing bought him out and he spent a year or more in Europe traveling and recovering.[6] While never partnering again in business, Billing and Eilers would become related through family, as Billing's daughter would marry Rudolph Wurlitzer's son, Howard, and Eilers' son Karl would marry Rudolph's daughter Leonie.

By 1883, Anton felt good enough to return to Colorado. With strong financial support from new partners in New York, Anton launched the Colorado Smelting Company, a state of the art smelting facility that used Madonna Mine ore, wholly owned by Colorado Smelting, combined with cheap transportation to become one of the most successful smelters in Colorado. During the 1880s the company dug more than $4 million in lead and silver from the mine. In the process, the smelter also produced a number of internationally renowned metallurgists under Anton's tutelage, including Anton's own son Karl.[7]

Eilers was considered one of the foremost experts in the United States in his branch of metallurgy, and, while he never patented any of his own inventions, he did more than any other person to improve American methods in the treatment of lead and silver. He accomplished this by making possible the long, continuous running of large shaft furnaces in the smelting of argentiferous lead ores. The most important elements of this improvement were the use of water jackets and the scientific and precise adjustment of charges with reference to their chemical composition and the fusion point of slags. “Chills” or “salamanders,” formerly so frequent in furnaces of this type, and not only necessitating stoppages but compelling the use of small furnaces, were thus obviated.[8]

Anton, along with his financial backers, which included Walter Gurnee, Augustus C. Gurnee, and Abram S. Hewitt, created other smelters and other companies, until finally moving all their smelting assets into one large trust in 1899: The American Smelting and Refining Company, now known as ASARCO. At its launch, American Smelting owned 2/3 of the smelting trusts in the nation, making them a critical player in the ore and mining industry.

Until his retirement in 1910, Anton played an active role on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of American Smelting and on its sister company, American Smelting Securities Company. During this period, he was also on the Board of Directors of Wells Fargo, a director on the Seneca Mining Co, a director of the United Missouri River Power Co, and more. He joined AIME during its first year of existence and was a charter member of the Colorado Scientific Society. He was also member of the American Forestry Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, the Technical Society of New York, and of the following clubs: The Engineers’, German and Rocky Mountain (New York); Germania (Brooklyn); Denver (Denver, Colo.); and Alta Club (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Following an illness, Anton died at Sea Cliff, Long Island, April 22, 1917. His wife died two years later in 1919.

Personal life[edit]

Anton and his wife Elizabeth raised 6 children (Else, Karl, Anna, Philopaena, Emma, and Meta). Over the years, they lived in Ohio, Virginia, Salt Lake City, Denver, Pueblo, but for nearly all their later years, the family shuttled between their home in Brooklyn and their summer home at Sea Cliff, Long Island. While Karl Eilers married Leonie Wurlitzer and produced 3 grand children, the only daughter to marry was Anna. None of the other daughters married and none of the daughters produced grand children. Anton's son Karl became vice president of ASARCO and eventually fought a highly publicized battle with members of the Guggenheim family over control of the company during the early 1920s. Following that battle, he became Chairman of the Board of Lennox Hill Hospital, leading it from the mid-1920s until his death in 1941. Anton's daughter Emma Eilers became a noted painter.


  1. ^ a b "F. Anton Eilers". Eulogy of Anton Eilers by Rossiter Raymond. 
  2. ^ 1860 Census, Syme Township, Ohio
  3. ^ Both Rossiter and Clawson published their series in the New Northwest. Rossiter also published his account in Harpers Magazine, in a book called Camp and Cabin.
  4. ^ "A Ride to the Infernal Regions: Yellowstone's First Tourists". Yellowstone National Park's First Tourists. 
  5. ^ Mary C H Williams, Author of Taking of the Tools; Early Biography of Rossiter W. Raymond
  6. ^ Anton refers to this illness and travel in an 1885 dictation
  7. ^ Calculated by Anton Eilers from his own records and provided to the 1912 Colorado Geological Survey, Volumes 4 & 5, Page 239
  8. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Eilers, Frederic Anton". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.