Friday, October 18, 2013

William A. Clark

William A. Clark

Mark Twain portrayed Clark

as a disgusting creature

William Andrews Clark, Sr. (January 8, 1839 - March 2, 1925) was an American politician and entrepreneur, involved with mining, banking, and railroads.


Clark was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. He moved with his family to Iowa in 1856 where he taught school and studied law at Iowa Wesleyan College. After working in quartz mines in Colorado, in 1863, Clark made his way to Montana to find his fortune in the gold rush.

He settled in the capital of Montana Territory, Bannack, Montana, and began placer mining. Though his claim paid only moderately, Clark invested his earnings in becoming a trader, driving mules back and forth between Salt Lake City and the boomtowns of Montana to transport eggs and other basic supplies.

He soon changed careers again and became a banker in Deer Lodge, Montana. He repossessed mining properties when owners defaulted on their loans, placing him in the mining industry. He made a fortune with small smelters, electric power companies, newspapers, railroads and other businesses, becoming known as one of three "Copper Kings" of Butte, Montana, along with Marcus Daly and F. Augustus Heinze.

Between 1884 and 1888, Clark constructed a 34-room, Tiffany-decorated, multimillion dollar home, incorporating the most modern inventions available, in Butte, Montana. This home is now the Copper King Mansion bed-and-breakfast and museum.

Political career

Clark served as president of both Montana state constitutional conventions in 1884 and 1889.

Clark yearned to be a statesman and used his newspaper, the Butte Miner, to push his political ambitions. At this time, Butte was one of the largest cities in the West. He became a hero in Helena, Montana, by campaigning for its selection as the state capital instead of Anaconda. This battle for the placement of the capital had subtle Irish vs. English, Catholic vs. Protestant, and Masonic vs. non-Masonic elements. Clark's long-standing dream of becoming a United States Senator resulted in scandal in 1899 when it was revealed that he bribed members of the Montana State Legislature in return for their votes. At the time, U.S. Senators were chosen by their respective state legislators. The corruption of his election contributed to the passage of the 17th Amendment. The U.S. Senate refused to seat Clark because of the 1899 bribery scheme, but a later senate campaign was successful, and he served a single term from 1901 until 1907. In responding to criticism of his bribery of the Montana legislature, Clark is reported to have said, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."

Clark died at the age of 86 in his mansion at 952 Fifth Avenue in New York City, one of the 50 richest Americans ever.

In an 1907 essay Mark Twain portrayed Clark as the very embodiment of Gilded Age excess and corruption:
He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's time.


William married Catherine Louise "Kate" Stauffer (1840 Pennsylvania - 1893 New York).  They had the following children;
  • Mary Joaquina (May) Clark Culver Kling de Brabant (January 1870 Montana - December 19, 1939 New York)
  • Charles Walker (Charlie) Clark (November 3, 1871 Montana - April 3, 1933 New York)
  • Unnamed son (1874 - 1874)
  • Jessie Clark (1875 - 1878)
  • William Andrews Clark, Jr. (March 29, 1877 Montana - June 14, 1934 California)
  • Paul Francis Clark (January 1880 France - 1896)
  • Katherine Louise Clark Morris (May 11, 1882 Montana - c. 1974)
After Kate's death, William married the woman who had been his teenage ward, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle (March 10, 1878 Michigan - October 11, 1963 New York). They claimed to have been married in 1901 in France. Anna was 23 and William was 62.  They had two children;
  • Louise Amelia Andrйe Clark (August 13, 1902 Spain - August 6, 1919 Maine); died of meningitis
  • Huguette Marcelle Clark (June 9, 1906 Paris, France - May 24, 2011 New York City).

William Andrews Clark, Jr.

Clark's son, William Andrews Clark Jr.. founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1919, left his library of rare books and manuscripts to the regents of the University of California Los Angeles. Today, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library specializes in English literature and history from 1641 to 1800, materials related to Oscar Wilde and his associates, and fine printing.

Huguette Marcelle Clark

Born in Paris, France, in June 1906, Huguette (pronounced: hyoo-GETT) was known as a reclusive heiress, who was the younger daughter of former U.S. Senator William A. Clark's children with his second wife, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle. She was reportedly "devastated" by the death of her sister in 1919, but in the mid-1920s she was a fixture in the society pages of New York City newspapers as one of America's most eligible young women. She made her society debut in 1926, one year after her father died. In 1928 she married William MacDonald Gower, the son of a business associate of her late father. Their marriage lasted less than one year and in 1930 she traveled to Reno, Nevada, to obtain a quick, uncontested divorce: a photograph taken of her the day her divorce became final was the last image ever made public. She retreated to her magnificent 42-room Manhattan apartments on New York's Fifth Avenue at 72nd Street, overlooking Central Park, and lived in isolation with her mother. In 1988, she moved out of her apartment and lived the remainder of her life, voluntarily, in New York City hospitals.

In February 2010, she became the subject of a series of reports on after caretakers at all three of her residences had not seen her in decades despite the fact she controlled a net worth estimated at $500 million, including a $24 million estate in Connecticut, and her Fifth Ave. apartment valued at $100 million. It was later determined that she was in the care of a New York City hospital. Building staff reported that she was frail but not ill when she left her Fifth Avenue co-op in an ambulance in the late 1980s. In August 2010, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office initiated a probe into her affairs managed by her accountant, Irving Kamsler, and her attorney, Wallace Bock. Recently Bock submitted a legal response to a petition filed by three of her relatives seeking to have an independent guardian put in charge of her affairs. In that filing he states that in 1988 Huguette Clark voluntarily decided to live at Mount Sinai Medical Center before being transferred to Beth Israel Medical Center where she died on the morning of May 24, 2011. She was 104.

Clarkdale, Arizona

Clarkdale, Arizona, named for Clark, was the site of smelting operations for Clark's mines in nearby Jerome, Arizona. The town includes the historic Clark Mansion, which sustained severe fire damage on June 25, 2010. Clarkdale is home to the Verde Canyon Railroad wilderness train ride which follows the historic route that Clark had constructed in 1911.

Clark County, Nevada, and art collection

Clark's art collection was donated to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. after his death, greatly enriching that museum's holdings of European as well as American art. The Clark donation also included the construction of a new wing for the Corcoran, known appropriately as the Clark Wing.

The city of Las Vegas was established as a maintenance stop for Clark's San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. The Las Vegas area was organized as Clark County, Nevada, in Clark's honor.