Marcus Daly was born December 5, 1843 in county Caven, Ireland, the youngest of eleven children of an Irish farm family. Like most immigrants of the time, Marcus arrived in New York in 1856 with few belongings, very little money and a limited education and job skills. He was only 15 years old at the time. He did odd jobs for the first 5 years until he had saved enough money to buy passage to San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama and then overland up the coast to California where a sister lived.
His first experience with mining was in California, where he teamed up with another young Irishman named Thomas Murphy. Daly learned quickly and found employment in one of the silver mines of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada. It was here that Daly met George Hearst who became one of Daly's financial backers in years to come.
By 1871, Daly was at Ophir, Utah, and became a foreman for the Walker Brothers, a banking and mining syndicate, in Salt Lake City. In 1872, while Daly was inspecting a mine at Ophir with a Mr. Evans and his daughter Margaret, the young lady lost her balance on an incline and tumbled into Daly's arms. Later that year they were married in one of the Walker Brothers homes in Salt Lake. Margaret was 18 years old and Marcus was 30. The Daly's first two children, Margaret Augusta (Madge) and Mary (Molly) were born in Ophir, Utah.

In 1874 Marcus Daly became a citizen of the United States. The Walker Brothers sent Daly to the Montana Territory in 1876 to find and invest in a silver mine. Daly bought the Alice mine for the company and retained a one fifth interest for himself. In 1881, Daly sold his interest in the Alice mine and purchased the Anaconda claim, with the backing of George Hearst and his associates, James Ben Ali Haggin and Lloyd Tevis. The Anaconda was mainly a silver mine until they hit the copper vein 300 feet deep and 100 feet wide.

Copper was just coming into use for telegraph wire and electricity. Thomas Edison had just completed the world's first electric light power plant in New York City. Copper was selling for between eighteen and twenty-three cents a pound in the early 1880's but smelting costs were high because the ore had to be shipped to smelters in Swansea, Wales. Daly realized that there could be a profit in copper if smelting costs could be reduced. Again with the backing of Hearst, Haggin, and Tevis, Daly built a smelter on a site twenty-eighty miles west of Butte. Daly built the town of Anaconda to support his smelter. By 1890, the copper mines of Butte were producing over seventeen million dollars worth of copper a year, and Marcus Daly, although a junior partner in the Anaconda venture, had become a very rich man. The Daly's only son, Marcus II (Mark) was born in Butte, as well as their fourth child and third daughter, Harriot (Hattie).

Marcus Daly was not a man to share confidence or talk about himself. He did not leave the details of the history of his life to be recorded. Shortly after the death of Marcus Daly, his personal records from Anaconda were sent to the Bitterroot Stock Farm and burned. Even letters between Marcus and Margaret were destroyed by Margaret. Daly was stocky and had a dark complexion and the usual Irish temperament. His eyes were clear and his voice in conversation was low and mellow. He spoke with brogue, chewed tobacco and loved to have a beer with his fellow miners. Marcus Daly was a fighter. He did not deal in generalities, he was blunt and forthright, and he was a creator. He was always known to be generous to his friends. Marcus Daly died in New York City's Netherlands Hotel, November 12, 1900 of complications of diabetes and a bad heart. He was 58 years old. His death came near the New York Harbor, where as a 15 year old Irish immigrant, Marcus Daly first glimpsed the America of his dreams. His remains were placed in the Daly mausoleum in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.
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Marcus Daly