In the first years of the 20th century the Copper Kings Fritz Augustus Heinze, Marcus Daly, and William Clark, largely to spite each other, each sold out to the buyer that was least likely to benefit the others. In each case it was Standard Oil. By 1906, Standard Oil, soon to reconfigure its holdings as the Anaconda Company, controlled almost everything in Butte. It became known simply as “The Company.” Then, in the 1910s, when the Anaconda Company became yoked with the Montana Power Company, these two corporations controlled practically the whole state.
The Copper Kings had been largely beneficent to their workers and even suffered the unions gladly. Not so the Company. During the 1910s, Butte was a battlefield of labor-management disputes. Conditions in the mines worsened. The presence of “Wobblies” from International Workers of the World (IWW), a labor union that propounded revolutionary struggle during World War I, led to the Anaconda Company’s targeting of “communist” influences that resulted in lynchings. The Great Depression further darkened conditions in Butte as the world price of copper fell 80 percent. Production of copper in 1933 was 10 percent of what it had been in 1929. The Company shifted much of its operations to Chile and Mexico, where copper was mined in open pits, involving lower labor costs. Butte, once one of the richest cities in the West, now faced massive unemployment problems.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition