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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
James Douglas, LL.D


THE Douglas family is one of the most powerful and romantic in the stirring annals of Scotland; in fact, in every generation a Douglas has been a leader of daring enterprise, and his name a household word for successful accomplishment. Wherever in the world they have settled, their descendants have carried with them this quality of dominating energy, and we find them at the forefront in every field of endeavour.

Dr. James Douglas’s own family has had an adventurous and varied history. A consideration of this will help greatly toward understanding his versatile and successful career. His great-grandfather was a mason and stone-cutter in Yorkshire. His grandfather, a Methodist clergyman, was stationed at Brechin, Scotland, where his father was born. Dr. James Douglas himself was born in Canada, has lived a great part of his life in the United States, and his activities have been bound up chiefly with that most picturesque and adventurous section, Mexico and the Southwest. He comes naturally by his varied career and many-sided abilities, also by his literary and scientific skill, for his grandfather was a man of talents, within the limitations of a country clergyman, and his father, as we shall see, was a man of broad culture and one of the most distinguished men of science in Canada.

His father, also Dr. James Douglas, took his career in his own hands at an early age. After attending school for a time in Scotland, he was placed by his father in the Methodist Academy, Woodhouse Grove. Complaining that the standard of education was below that to which he had been accustomed, he ran away when twelve years old and was indentured to a physician. After serving his term of six years and spending one season in Edinburgh, he entered the Medical Department of Edinburgh University. From the beginning he showed great aptitude for his chosen profession. His first summer holiday was spent as surgeon to a Greenland whaler. He was graduated as a surgeon at Edinburgh and London, first entering the services of the East India Company, but returned to England to take medical charge of Sir Gregor MacGregor’s fatal colony to the Mosquito Coast of Central America. More dead than alive, he was rescued from the Black River by a Yankee skipper and taken to Boston, where he was months recovering his health. Later, while travelling through New York, he was held up at Utica by a break in the Canal, and, seeing the need of that locality, practised surgery there for several years. His success led to his appointment as Professor of Anatomy in the Auburn Medical College, where his duties "involved him in practices not then provided for in a legitimate manner," and he was obliged to go to Canada in the dead of winter, taking his young wife with him. In Canada he had a large practice, was noted for his scientific attainments and liberal benevolence and was the founder of the first public institution in the Dominion for the care of the insane.

Dr. James Douglas, the subject of the present sketch, was born November 4, 1837, in Quebec, Canada. He received his early education at home and in the local schools. As a boy he was much in the company of his brilliant father and received great inspiration from him. After two years in the University of Edinburgh, which he entered in 1855, he returned to Canada and completed his studies at Queen ‘s University, Kingston, Ontario, receiving his A. B. in 1858. lIe then returned to Edinburgh, took a course in theology and was admitted as a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, before its amalgamation with the Free Church in Canada. This theological training, along the broadest lines of scholarship, has proven to him a valuable asset, for not only has his life been dominated by deep religious conviction and Christian spirit, but the experience he received in public speaking and the literary tastes he developed during this period have coloured his whole career. Later father and son travelled extensively together in Europe and the Orient, visiting Egypt three times and bringing back important archaeological collections, which were subsequently presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

The father’s health failing, the son studied medicine in order to be able to assist him and to carry on the work of the Quebec Lunatic Asylum, which the father had established, and which was still largely in an experimental state. Also, Dr. Douglas, Sr., had invested heavily in gold and copper mining in Canada and the United States; so, while studying medicine, the son was compelled to interest himself in mining and metallurgy in an endeavour to conserve these properties. Thus he was led away from the chosen path of literary and religious work, and these investments for the most part proving unfortunate, was forced to make a living as best he could out of an occasional fee and lectures on chemistry and metallurgy. However, he entered these new fields of endeavour with the same keen intelligence, enthusiasm, and honesty of purpose that he has shown in whatever he has attempted.

He was professor of chemistry in Morrin College, Quebec, for three years, and while there began, in association with his life-long friend, the late Dr. Thomas Sterry Hunt, experimenting with the hydro-metallurgy of copper. Dr. Hunt and Professor Silliman, of New Haven, were interested in a company organized to extract the copper from the copper-bearing portions of the Jones Mine ores, on the Schuylkill River, above Phoenixville, Pa., and offered the position of manager to Dr. Douglas. He accepted and came to the United States in 1875.

The Chemical Copper Company was a failure, on account of lack of capital. Its work, however, was important, in that it was the pioneer in working out many of the methods that have since proved invaluable in the industry. It was the first establishment to refine copper electrolytically, and put many tons of anodes on the market. While employed at Phoenixville, Dr. Douglas gained valuable experience in the working out of metallurgical processes, and in further developing the well-known Hunt-Douglas patents for the wet extraction of copper. His keen powers of observation and description, coupled with his wide scientific knowledge, also put him immediately in demand as an investigator and mining expert.

It was in this capacity that he became acquainted with Mr. Dodge and Mr. James, of Phelps, Dodge & Company, and it was upon his advice that they became interested in the Detroit Copper Company and later acquired the Copper Queen, Atlanta, and other copper properties at Bisbee and elsewhere in Arizona and Mexico, that, developed under Dr. Douglas’s management, have been such prominent factors in the growth and prosperity of that important concern.

The founding of a great smelting center at Douglas, Arizona, impelled Phelps, Dodge & Company, Inc., into which the original company was merged, to purchase the Dawson Coal Fields, in order to secure an uninterrupted supply of fuel. Transportation requirements led first to the building of branch railroads, then to the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad, which, with its Mexican connections, aggregates more than a thousand miles of standard gauge track and forms an important link between the Rock Island and Southern Pacific railways. Thus from small beginnings in 1881, the company now turns into the markets of the world annually about 180,000,000 pounds, or 7% of the total production of copper. The subsidiary companies responsible for this great output are the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, the Detroit Copper Mining Company, the Moetezuma Copper Company, and The United States Mines; and the Stag Canon Fuel Company extracts 1,500,000 tons of coal yearly, about one-half of which is converted into coke.

Dr. Douglas is president of all the companies controlling and operating these interests. All of them may be said to have been instigated by him. The technical and financial success with which this great organization has been handled bespeaks his thoroughness and business ability. His work has brought to him honour and wide professional fame, but, in the words of one of his associates, there is "a feature dominating all of it that is more notable and worthy of record. One cannot conceive of Dr. Douglas remaining the technical head of an enterprise tainted in any way with stock-jobbing, unfair treatment of employees or double dealing of any sort. Fortunately for him, his associates have been men of similar ideals, deeply sympathizing with the high motives that actuated their technical associate in all of his efforts for the uplifting and comfort of miners and other employees. He has always stood for free trade in ideas, and his mines and works are open to the student, as well as to his brother engineers. He is never too busy freely to give anyone sound advice and the results of his experience that many others feel justified in keeping to themselves."

Dr. Douglas has twice been president of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. He is a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Geographical Society, the Society of Arts, London, England, the Iron and Steel Institute and many other prominent societies of America and Europe. He is a member and gold medallist of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, London, England, and has been honoured with the degree of LL.D. by McGill University.

Dr. James Douglas was awarded in 1915 the John Fritz Gold Medal for that year for notable achievements in mining, metallurgy, education and industrial welfare. In 1914 he presented to the American Museum of Natural History at New York a large model of the Copper Queen Mine at Bisbee, Arizona, with which he has been so closely identified since 1880. He has made other gifts to the Museum and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dr. Douglas has aided his alma mater, Queens University, Kingston, and McGill University, Montreal. He has given largely to one of the New York hospitals, particularly toward cancer research work, and his philanthropy extends in many other directions.

He is a member of the Century Association, Engineers’ Club, City Club, Adirondack League Club, and Montmorency Fish and Game Club.

When at Edinburgh Dr. Douglas was a prizeman in English literature. His early training, his diversified studies and wide experience have given him a broad outlook on life. Endowed with a fine literary taste, in the midst of an exceptionally busy career he has never permitted the light to grow dim. For a time, when Mr. Garrison was editor, he wrote extensively for The Nation. These papers cover a wide variety of subjects, literary, historical, religious, philosophical and sociological, and many were of a significance to attract notable attention. He has also contributed to many other American, Canadian and British periodicals. He is an authority upon the early history of Canada. His books include: Canadian Independence, Old France in the New World, New England and New France—Contrasts and Parallels in Colonial History, and Imperial Federation and Annexation.

His reports and papers on strictly scientific subjects reflect the same literary training and are distinguished for their lucidity and accuracy. His contributions to the literature of mining and metallurgy are numerous and important. Following are some of the more important: The Gold Fields of Canada, 1863; The Copper Deposits of Harvey Hill, 1870; Recent Spectroscopic Observations of the Sun, 1870; The Copper Mines of Chili, 1872; The Copper Mines of Lake Superior, 1874; Conditions of the Survey for the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1874; Historical and Geographical Features o.f the Rocky Mountain Railroads; The Metallurgy of Copper, 1883; The Cupolo Smelting of Copper in Arizona, 1885; Copper Production of the United States, 1892; Recent American Methods and Appliances in the Metallurgy of Copper, Lead, Gold and Silver (Cantor Lectures), 1895; Record of Borings in Sulphur Springs Valley, Arizona, 1898; Treatment of Copper Mattes in Bessemer Converter, 1899; Gas from Wood in the Manufacture of Steel, 1902. Some of these have been collected in a little book.

He was married in 1860 to Naomi Douglas, one of the daughters of Capt. Walter Douglas, who brought over the Unicorn as the first vessel of the Cunard line in 1840, and commanded her for some years while she was in commission on the St. Lawrence River.

Of their children, six reached maturity: James S., Walter, Elizabeth, Edith M. (Naomi E. and Lilly, deceased). James S. has two sons; Walter has three daughters and two sons; Edith M. (married Archibald Douglas) has two sons and one daughter; Elizabeth, unmarried; Lilly (married Col. H. R. Hayter) left at her death one son and one daughter. James S. Douglas is President of the United Verde Extension Mining Co.,. which has a large copper mine in Arizona, and Walter Douglas is Vice-President of Phelps, Dodge & Co., of which Dr. James Douglas is President.


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