|John D. Ryan|
He led Montana's copper dynasty and formed Montana Power, only to die nearly broke
By JOHN STUCKE of the Missoulian
John D. Ryan never mined a day in his life. But that didn't stop him from building one of the nation's greatest mining empires.
During his 25-year reign of the Butte mines, the brilliant and calculating Ryan became one of the world's leading capitalists.
Born in Michigan's copper country in 1864, the son of a mining superintendent, the young Irish Catholic had no desire to dig for metal.
It was the well-heeled banking and finance sector of the ore business where Ryan's professional passions grew.
He made friends with Marcus Daly before the copper king died in 1900, an event that would tie Ryan's fortunes forever to Butte.
When his father died, Ryan invested his share of the inheritance in the Daly Bank & Trust Co.
As president of the institution a year later, he befriended Butte's elite, including D.J. Hennessy, a department store owner, and W.D. Thornton, a hotel owner.
But his most important professional contact was an Amalgamated Copper Co. lawyer named Cornelius "Con" Kelley. These two men would become the only leaders of the mighty Anaconda Co. from 1908 to 1955.
Ryan moved with ease in Butte's social stratosphere. He was handsome and bright, and always in the right place.
He joined other financial players, including Daly's wife, Margaret, who used her husband's fortune to help Ryan buy the First National Bank of Great Falls and the city's utility.
By 1904 he began working for Anaconda Co., where he solidified his reputation as a fierce negotiator by outmaneuvering the wily Fritz Augustus Heinze.
In 1906, Ryan was king of the Butte Hill, wrote Carrie Johnson, a historian who crafted an insightful story about Ryan's rise to power for Montana – The Magazine of Western History.
Ryan took over the company in 1908. By 1910, he had consolidated more mines and smelters in the area from W.A. Clark. The whole assemblage became known as the Anaconda Copper Mining Co.
Under Ryan's leadership the company was the world's copper giant, due in part by Ryan's other key feat in Montana history.
Through shrewd negotiations and an eye on the future, he created Montana Power Co. to deliver cheap reliable electricity to the Butte mines.
Ryan merged several small hydroelectric companies, then served as president of Montana Power and the Anaconda Co. until he died in 1933.
John J. "Jack" Burke, a Butte lawyer who worked for Anaconda and Montana Power, said Ryan and Kelley put the companies together.
"Kelley was the lawyer and Ryan was the businessman. Together, out of the crux of the turn of the century as Daly died ... Ryan and Kelley came up and made the Anaconda Co. what it was," Burke said.
Ryan had little use for the powerful Butte unions, and used tough tactics against the members, actions that touched off strikes, riots and murders.
To this day, Ryan's company agents remain suspect in the 1917 hanging death of Frank Little, a leader of the International Workers of the World. But, then, so do rival union men and superpatriotic vigilantes who were angered by Little's speeches against the nation's involvement in World War I, reported Montana historian Mike Malone.
It was under Ryan's tenure as boss that the Anaconda Co. became known simply as the "Company." It's still called that in Butte, more than two decades after it was merged into the Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco).
The same is true for Ryan's other company, Montana Power. One word is used to describe the company occupying 40 E. Broadway St. in Uptown Butte: the "Power."
During the 1920s, as the stock market boomed, Ryan and Kelley were among the deal-making tycoons of Wall Street.
Their Anaconda Co. bought American Brass Co. in 1922, making it the leading copper producer and the leading copper fabricator.
In 1923, Anaconda expanded and bought copper ore bodies in the Andes Mountains of Chile from the Guggenheim family for about $77 million, which included the mine at Chuquicamata.
At the time, Malone wrote, it was the largest cash transfer that Wall Street had ever seen.
It wasn't long before these Chilean mines replaced Butte as the company's main source for copper, producing two-thirds of the company's metal and three-fourths of its earnings.
In 1928, Ryan sold Montana Power to the American Power and Light Co. for $85 million in stock.
The next year, according to Johnson, Ryan's Anaconda Co. issued new stock and used some of the money to buy shares of speculative companies.
When the market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929, Ryan lost a fortune and the Anaconda Co. suffered serious financial setbacks.
He died nearly broke, but was buried in a copper coffin. His mighty Anaconda shares, once worth $175 each, had dropped to $4 at the bottom of the Great Depression.
As Johnson wrote: "Ryan operated in permissive environments – a state already captured by the 'copper trust,' an increasingly concentrated copper industry, and an era of rapid technological progress, corporate consolidation and free-wheeling finance.
"By the time he died, that form of capitalism had crashed.
"Although Kelley would maintain the Anaconda Company for another generation, the heyday of corporate growth and 'Company' autonomy had ended.
"Thus, John D. Ryan, the least flamboyant and most remote of the Montana copper kings, was not only the most expansive of those empire-builders – he was also the last."
|The American Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (Knights of Malta, SMOM) was founded in 1927. "By 1941 Francis Cardinal Spellman was listed as the 'Grand Protector' and 'Spritual Advisor' of the Order, with John J. Raskob as Treasurer. Members included John Farrell, then President of U.S. Steel, Joseph P. Grace, and John D. Ryan.|
The first association of the S.M.O.M in America was formed in 1926 into what was to become the American Association (or the ‘New York’ Association).
By 1941 Francis Cardinal Spellman was listed as the ‘Grand Protector’ and ‘Spiritual Advisor’ of the Association (see fn. 9).Using his inherent talent, drive, and devotion to the Association, Cardinal Spellman was able to enlist the aid of some of America’s elite, including: John J. Raskob, chairman of General Motors; John Farrell, then president of U.S. Steel; Joseph P. Grace of W.R. Grace & Co.; Joseph Kennedy, a Boston entrepreneur; George MacDonald of Pennsylvania; and John D. Ryan.
SMOM by mention: