- In Montana High Wide and Handsome,
Joseph Kinsey Howard wrote of William Andrews Clark that "never
a dollar got away from him that didn't come back stuck to another..."
William Andrews Clark was born January 8, 1839 in Connellsville,
Pensylvania. He worked on his father's farm until 14 when he
entered the Laurel Hill Academy and then attended law school
at the University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa for two years. He then
taught school in Missouri from 1859 to 1860. In 1862, he headed
west with a small grubstake to enter the risky business of gold
mining near Central City, Colorado. Hearing of a gold strike
in Bannack, he moved north to Montana
Territory with a friend named Selby and together they staked
a claim on Jeff Davis Gulch near Bannack. They worked the claim
and sold it within two years for $1,500.
Clark in his later years revisiting one of his first Montana
abodes--a cabin that he called home during his early days in
Deer Lodge, Montana.
Clark decided that he was better at helping miners to manage
their findings than he was as a a miner himself. He invested
his profit in a team of horses and a wagon and traveled to Salt
Lake City, Boise and elsewhere and began hauling supplies to
the mining camps in Montana Territory. From there he began recording
claims for miners and making loans based on their claims. From
there he quickly amassed a growing fortune through his many mining
and banking ventures, at one point having an income that was
recorded as about $17 million dollars a month.
When he decided to build his Butte home, then, the cost of the
Copper King Mansion at the time, estimated at about a half-million
dollars, represented a half day's income for him.
By 1900, Clark had amassed a personal fortune estimated at $50,000,000
and was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world.
With his business ventures secure, Clark pursued his passion
for politics. He served as the president of Montana's two constitutional
conventions. He was instrumental in ensuring that the state capital
would be located in Helena. He was elected to the US Senate from
Montana and served from 1901 to 1907.
At the height of his career, Clark's business ventures spanned
the continent. He owned newspapers in Montana and Utah including
The Butte Miner, The Great Falls Tribune,
and The Salt Lake Herald. He owned sugar plantations
in California with one of the largest factories in the West--the
Los Angeles Sugar Company. Nearby, he owned land with oil wells
in Long Beach, California.
In Elizabeth, New Jersey he owned the W.A. Clark Wire Company,
one of the largest in the country and in New York he owned the
Henry Bonnard Bronze Company, the largest in the country.
He is probably the only man ever to personally finance the development
of a railroad. Rather than issuing stock or using corporate capital,
the railroad was completely financed by his private fortune.
The railroad and its branches ran for 1,100 miles and eventually
became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
In Nevada, he owned property that he developed as a ranch for
his railroad workers and miners to recover from chronic diseases
in the dry desert climate. He later sold this property to make
way for the development of a modest village known as Las Vegas
-- still situated in Clark County named for him.
He controlled mining interests in Arizona and Montana. In Arizona,
he owned 97 percent of the United Verde Mining Company in Jerome
and founded the town of Clarkdale, Arizona.
In Butte, he entered the mining business by foreclosing on an
undercapitalized silver mine and then bought several others.
He then returned for a year to the Columbia School of Mines in
New York to better understand the technical aspects of his new
In Butte, he built the first successful smelter and stamp mill,
established the water company, the first commercial electric
light company and an electric railway. He donated money to the
YMCA and to the First Presbyterian Church.
Perhaps his greatest legacy to
Butte was that he built the beloved Columbia Gardens, a 68-acre
playground and amusement park for the young at heart of Butte
and the region. Thursdays were set aside to transport children
for free to the Columbia Gardens on his electric trolley system.
Other charitable efforts of Clark include a camp for girls in
Upstate New York still named for one of his daughters, the Paul
Clark Home, an orphanage in Butte that provided sanctuary for
the sick and the indigent, and the YMCA home in Los Angeles for
homeless girls and their mothers.
In addition to the Copper King Mansion, Clark maintained homes
in New York, Santa Barbara, California, and Washington, DC and
residences in several other cities including Paris, France. Clark
was married twice. His first wife, Katherine was a childhood
sweetheart and they had six children together before she died
in 1893. In 1901, Clark married Anna Lachapelle and they had
- In his later years, Clark developed a
passion for collecting European art. To better be able to negotiate
for coveted pieces, he learned to speak fluent French and German.
At his death in 1925, Clark's open casket was surrounded by the
art pieces that he had collected in his many forays throughout
Europe. His collection is largely responsible for the establishment
of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC where his heirs donated
most of his personal collection. The vast fortune dispersed through
his heirs also resulted in the founding of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
From May 1st through September 30th, the mansion is open daily for guided tours
on the hour every hour from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The price of the guided tour is $7.50 for adults and
$3.50 for children. The tour is free
for overnight guests. To arrange a tour, or to reserve a room
for the night, call 406-782-7580 or send e-mail to email@example.com.