James M. Hyde

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James M. Hyde (1873–1943) was a metallurgist who installed the first froth flotation plant in the United States. He was also a member of the Los Angeles, California, City Council from 1931 to 1939.



Hyde was born June 25, 1873, in Mystic Bridge, Connecticut, the son of William Penn Hyde and Seraphine Smith Carr. He studied mining engineering and geology at Stanford University, where he was an instructor in assaying before graduating in 1901. In 1916 he moved from Littleton, Colorado, to Palo Alto, California, and he was married in 1923 to Bessie Lorraine Ransom. They had one daughter, Helen Elizabeth.[1] Hyde resigned from Stanford in 1927 and moved to Los Angeles.[2][3]

He died July 18, 1943, in his home at 1300-3/4 North Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood.[4]

Metallurgy and mining[edit]

In 1900 Hyde went to work for the California State Mining Bureau as curator of its museum and then was advanced to the position of bureau secretary. He resigned in July 1901, and in November 1902 made "charges of the most sensational character" against state Mineralogist Lewis E. Aubury over what was termed "Mismanagement, . . . public advertisement of private interests and a desire for personal aggrandizement." The board met and decided by unanimous vote, "That the matter . . . be ignored entirely."[5][6]

In 1989 Hyde was posthumously inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado, as a result of his installation of the first froth flotation process in the United States.[7] The museum states:

Without this process, there would be no mining industry as we know it today: virtually the entire world of copper, lead, zinc and silver is first collected in the froth of the flotation process. . . . Froth flotation has permitted the mining of low-grade and complex ores that otherwise would have been unprofitable, and thanks to James Hyde, many old "worthless" tailings dumps have been converted into profitable mines.[7]

Hyde learned about flotation when working in the London, England, laboratories of Minerals Separation, Limited, and when his contract expired, he went to work for mining specialist Herbert Hoover, later the President of the United States. He was assigned to study the Butte and Superior Copper Company for possible investment and to experiment with various forms of flotation.[7]

Hyde demonstrated great intuition and genius, by designing a unit with two sections, one of rougher cells and the other of cleaner cells. The rougher concentrate was cleaned in the cleaner cells and the cleaner tailings were returned to the rougher cells. This was the first time the “rougher-cleaner circuit” was employed and the procedure has never been disputed. He was awarded a patent on the process in 1911.[7]

Hyde's patent, however, did not remain uncontested. He was sued by his former employer, Minerals Separation, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in 1916 that he had infringed some patents but not the main one claimed.[8]

. . . there were many investigators at work in this field to which the process in suit relates when the patentees [Minerals Separation] came into it, and it was while engaged in study of prior kindred processes that their discovery was made. While the evidence in this case makes it clear that they discovered the final step which converted experiment into solution, "turned failure into success" . . . yet the investigations preceding were so informing that this final step was not a long one, and the patent must be confined to the results obtained by the use of oil within the proportions often described in the testimony and in the claims of the patent as "critical proportions." . . .[8]

Other litigation followed.[9]

After Hyde's resignation from Stanford, he continued his mining ventures, including an attempt in 1935 to reopen the Good Hope Mine in Riverside County.[10] A state inquiry was held in 1935 on the financing of this mine.[11]



By March 1920, Hyde was active in Republican politics, working as an engineer for Herbert Hoover, who was being mentioned as a candidate for president. Concerning Hoover's campaign intentions, Hyde was "believed by political observers to speak with more authority than any other San Franciscan."[12]

In 1925 Hyde became a candidate himself—for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate,[13] but Republican Senator Samuel M. Shortridge was renominated and reelected the next year.

Los Angeles[edit]

Hyde, who in 1929 was living at 1954 Argyle Avenue, Hollywood,[14] was appointed to the Los Angeles Board of Public Works by Mayor John C. Porter,[15] serving until 1930,[1] when he had a disagreement with Porter and "resigned to develop a mine."[16]


See also List of Los Angeles municipal election returns, 1931–39

In the 1930s, the 2nd District was generally Hollywood west of Vermont, north of Melrose and west to Beverly Hills.[17] Hyde ousted incumbent Councilman Thomas F. Cooke from his 2nd District seat in 1931 and was reelected every two years until the election of 1939, when he was defeated by Norris J. Nelson. In that year Hyde was said to be the victim of a "purge" of the City Council directed by Mayor Fletcher Bowron.[18]


1931 Hyde voted against instructing the city attorney to appeal a judge's decision ordering the city to stop the practice of segregating its swimming pools by race, a decision that was put into effect in summer 1931. The vote was 6 in favor of an appeal and 8 opposed, including Hyde, a decision that resulted in the pools being immediately desegregated.[19]

1932 In an open letter, he attacked the Rev. Martin Luther Thomas, chief investigator for City Prosecutor Johnson, claiming Thomas was engaged in a "racket " of soliciting money, to be sent to the City Hall. Hyde claimed that "highly profitable gambling, bootlegging, etc.," were thriving openly under Mayor John C. Porter.[20]

1933 He introduced a resolution asking for a State Senate inquiry into vice conditions in Los Angeles, claiming that intimate relations existed among "criminals, peace officers, law-enforcement agencies and unscrupulous politicians" and demanding investigation by an outside agency.[21]

1934 Hyde also introduced a resolution that would have put the council on record in opposition to public assistance to the unemployed in favor of a plan that would have governmental agencies help in granting credit to "those who can create employment for themselves and others." He said prosperity depended on individual initiative, not "artificially created public works."[22]

1935 Turning his back on the Republican Party, he worked for the election of Upton Sinclair's End Poverty in California team on the grounds that Sinclair's proposals were more conservative than those of Governor Frank Merriam.[16]

1935 Hyde was accused of asking "patent paving" contractors and others to invest in his Good Hope Mine venture, but he said he always kept his private business separate from his City Council activities.[23]

1936 Hyde and Councilman Parley Parker Christensen were able to block the allocation of $2,000 to deliver to Berlin, Germany, the flag that had flown over the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. The two council members "assailed Hitler and Nazism and said their constituents did not want the city to spend public money" to send the Games flag to Germany.[24]

1938 Hyde charged that the telephone in his office had been tapped, probably by the Police Department, and he asked for a grand jury investigation.[25] According to a subsequent letter from Mayor Frank L. Shaw, a City Hall investigation found that "Councilman Hyde's telephone has not been tapped [and] could not conceivably have been tapped," and Shaw charged Hyde with "behavior unbecoming an official of this city."[26]

1938 The councilman was named chairman of a five-man City Council committee that was authorized to investigate the police department.[27]


Access to the newspaper links may require the use of a library card.

  1. ^ a b Los Angeles Public Library reference file
  2. ^ "Stanford Professor Resigns," Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1927, page 4
  3. ^ "Personal," Mining and Engineering World, December 30, 1916, quoted at American-Canadian Genealogical Society
  4. ^ Location of the Hyde residence on Mapping L.A.
  5. ^ "Scores State Mineralogist," San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 1902, page 5
  6. ^ "Will Not Hold Investigation," San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 1902, page 8
  7. ^ a b c d National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
  8. ^ a b 242 Us 261 Minerals Separation v. James M Hyde, reported at OpenJurist.com
  9. ^ "Millions Hang on Suit Over Mining Patent," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1918, page 3
  10. ^ "Paving Lobbyists Cash Patrons of Hyde's ?Gold Mine," Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1935, page 1
  11. ^ "Hyde Mine Quiz Opens," Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1935, page A-1
  12. ^ "Delegation for Hoover to Have Expenses Paid," San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 1920, page 3
  13. ^ "Candidate for Senate Speaks at Club Lunch," Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1925, page A-3
  14. ^ Hyde residence, "Mapping L.A."
  15. ^ "Porter Names Five to Boards," Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1929, page A-1
  16. ^ a b "Election Apathy Favors Candidacy of Radicals," Los Angeles Times, April 28, 1935, page 18
  17. ^ "District Lines Approved," Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1932, page A-1
  18. ^ "Five Win Council Seats, Hyde Out," Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1939, page 1
  19. ^ "Vote Drops City's Pool Racial Case," Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1931, page A-1
  20. ^ "Hyde Denies Radio Talks of Thomas," Los Angeles Times, February 20, 1932, page A-1
  21. ^ "State Senate Inquiry of Local Vice Asked,"Los Angeles Times, January 25, 1933, page A-1
  22. ^ "Stand for Self-Help Advocated," Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1934, page A-12
  23. ^ "Mine Cash 'Solicited,'" Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1935, page A-1
  24. ^ "Funds Are Refused to Deliver Flag," New York Times, July 14, 1936
  25. ^ "Councilman Charges His Phone Tapped," Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1938, page 1
  26. ^ "Mayor Gives Hyde Rebuke," Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1938, page A-1
  27. ^ "J. Edgar Hoover to Assist City in Police Department Survey," Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1938, page 1

Preceded by
Thomas F. Cooke
Los Angeles City Council
2nd District

Succeeded by
Norris J. Nelson