Dr James Douglas, LLD

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James Stuart Douglas (4 November 1837 - 30 June 1918) was a Canadian mining engineer and businessman who introduced a number of metallurgical innovations in copper mining.


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.

Dr. James Douglas 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, also a Dr James Douglas,  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.

In 1860, while at Edinburgh University, he met and married Naomi, the daughter of Capt. Walter Douglas, who had been Commodore of the fleet of the Cunard Line, and 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.


James S. Douglas was always known as Dr. Douglas. His son, James Douglas, Jr., or "Rawhide Jimmy" (1867-1949), followed in his father's footsteps, and built a major fortune with the United Verde Extension mine in Jerome, Arizona. His Jerome mansion is open to the public as the Jerome State Historic Park.

Throughout this time, Douglas maintained an interest in Canadian history and heritage. He wrote several books on the subject in his lifetime, namely Canadian Independence, Old France in the New World, and New England and New France—Contrasts and Parallels in Colonial History. In addition to bailing Queen’s University out of a financial crisis with approximately a million dollars from his own pocket, Douglas also established the first chair in Canadian and Colonial History there in 1910. He also financed many libraries, such as the library of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, where interest from his donations is still used to purchase books.

Douglas also donated to several medical causes, most notably the Douglas Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. This institution pursued the cause which had been taken up by his father, a pioneer in the treatment of mental health in Quebec. Douglas’ donations helped keep the hospital alive in the institution’s early years. Originally called the “Protestant Hospital for the Insane”, the institution took on the name of Douglas Hospital in 1965 as a tribute to James Douglas, Jr. and his father.

Since 1922, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers annually awards the James Douglas Gold Medal in his memory. The Douglas Library at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, is named in his honor, as is Douglas Hall at McGill University.


Born November 4, 1837, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, died June 30, 1918 (aged 80), in Manhattan, New York, U.S.A. He married Naomi Douglas, daughter of Captain Walter Douglas.

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.


•  Dr James S. Douglas was a founder of the National Radium Institute in Colorado.



See also

  • The Douglas Mansion

  • •  The Douglas Chair


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    This page was last updated on 24 August 2023

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