Earl Tappan Stannard

December 9, 1882 - September 9, 1949

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Photo of Earl Stannard

Earl Tappan Stannard, undated
Photo: Louie Cononelos, Rio Tinto

Earl Tappan Stannard was born on December 9th, 1882, in Chittenango, New York, a small town better known as the birth place of L. Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz. Stannard's technical brilliance and his ability as planner and strategist were well known. In his work for Kennecott Copper Company and Guggenex, Stannard would perform his own brand of wizardry with the recovery of copper.

Earl's family had comfortable means, and funds for his education were never in doubt. He prepared for a Yale education at Phillips Andover, leaving there in 1902 to enroll in Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University. Stannard chose Mining Engineering as his major and did well as a student. He received honors in mathematics in his freshman year and general honors in his junior year (in the second year of Sheffield's unusual 3 year curriculum). He repeated with general honors in his senior year. Stannard graduated with the class of 1905 and earned a graduate scholarship for his senior thesis on mine ore-crushing machinery. Further recognition of Stannard's collegiate accomplishments is suggested by his induction into the national scientific fraternity Sigma Xi and into Yale's Book and Snake society. Stannard's later interest in a paper trail in all aspects of mine management can perhaps be foreseen from his position as the chair of class statistics (Yale University, 1910). Unlike some of his Eli brothers Stannard left Yale and apparently did not look back. He missed his class Triennial dinner celebration in 1908 where a high point of the festivities seems to have been the loss of the beer wagon and its timely recovery by class biographer Bill Barber.

Shortly after his graduation in 1908, Stannard was named Milling Superintendent for the Federal Mining Company of Flat Rock, Missouri. Stannard stayed at Flat Rock until 1910 when he had the opportunity to trouble shoot the new mill erected at Braden, Chile for the El Teniente copper mine, an acquisition of Guggenex that, in 1915, would become a major asset of Kennecott Copper Corporation. In 1913, Stannard arrived in Kennecott, Alaska with general mandates to enlarge and update the existing 300 ton/day gravity mill and to develop other methods for recovering the ore.

As a day-to-day mine manager Earl Tappan Stannard left a few things to be desired. He was aloof, looked down on the miners and even some of his peers. In his years at the Kennecott Mine (1913-1920), some long-time Kennecott officers, like company secretary Carl Ulrich, found Stannard a bit hard to take, especially in comparison to his mentor Stephen Birch. Stannard did receive some popular acclaim as a baseball player on the Kennecott team, as baseball and the accompanying gambling were major Kennecott sports. In the July 4, 1913 game against McCarthy, Kennecott won largely on the strength of Stannard's hitting (Wesley E. Dunkle tapes).

In the long term, Stannard's technical brilliance prevailed. A special assignment was to recover the copper carbonate ore that formed as much as 50 percent of the ore in parts of the mine but was largely lost in the mill's gravity circuits. Stannard solved the copper carbonate problem with an ammonia leaching plant that was only one of three in the world at that time, all built about simultaneously: one at Kennecott, another in upper Michigan and the third in Africa. The principles involved in the ammonia plant were relatively simple, but the engineering was complex. Copper carbonates were dissolved in an aqueous ammonia solution, and then copper oxide was precipitated as the ammonia was boiled off to be recycled through another batch of carbonate ore. To recover the very fine-grained copper carbonates that fouled the circuit, Stannard sulfidized the copper carbonate with alkali sulfides that enabled the materials to be recovered by flotation, also a relatively new technique at the time. Altogether, Standard's additions allowed recovery of more than 95% of the copper in the ore. Stannard's rebuilt mill at Kennecott had a throughput of 1200 tons per day, but usually operated at about 1000 (see Douglass, 1954 and Hawley 2003).

Besides his work at Kennecott, Stannard also designed and constructed a flotation mill at the company's Beatson mine in Prince William Sound. In its early years Beatson ore was mined selectively to maintain a copper content of 4-8 percent. The ore body was large, larger than those at Kennecott, but of lower grade. Stannard proposed a mill large enough to process all the ore. The flotation plant successfully upgraded the pyrite rich massive sulfide ore from about 1.5 percent copper to 15 or somewhat more percent copper. Although the mill was capable of further enrichment, it balanced the copper grade with moderately high iron content necessary to flux the sulfur-poor Kennicott and Chitna Valley ores.

Stannard came into his own when he was moved out of Alaska and was given more executive responsibilities. As Stephen Birch's chosen successor, Stannard left Kennecott stronger than he found it. In 1920 Stannard was transferred to Seattle and in 1923 was named vice-president for operations of Kennecott Copper Company. At the same time Stannard was made president of Alaska Steamship Company and the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad. In 1933, Stannard became president of Kennecott Copper Corporation answering only to Birch, but essentially equal in rank to D. C. Jackling who ran the affiliated Utah Copper Company. At about this time, Stannard became active internationally, as part of an industry group studying the problem of global oversaturation of a depression- limited copper market (Time, Inc., April 1935). In addition to his position in Kennecott, Stannard served as a director to the J.P. Morgan and Johns Manville companies.

Stannard retained his position with the CR & NW Railway and Alaska Steam and managed a long term mine closure plan for the company's Alaska mines as their ore was depleted. Beatson closed as the developed copper ore was depleted in 1930. The Wrangell Mountanis Mines continued to operate, but shut down in 1932 when the copper price dropped below the cost of production. In 1935 every newspaper in Alaska headlined that the mines would be reopened (Time, Inc, June, 1935). The copper price had not increased substantially, but Stannard announced that the amounts of silver (and gold) in the ore were sufficient to allow reopening of the mines. The remaining ore in the mines was largely composed of the high grade chalcocite ores preserved in pillars, and the chalcocite could carry as much as 20 ounces of silver per ton.

Under the local control of mine superintendent W. A. Richelsen, the last of Kennecott's high grade ores were mined, and in early December 1938, Kennecott's Alaska mines closed.

After the 1938 mine closure, Stannard was in contact with representatives of the National Park Service about a possible future for the Kennecott area as a National Park. Stannard pledged road maintenance and preservation of some buildings that might be valuable to a future park.

In 1940, Stephen Birch died and Stannard took over Birch's role on the management committee. Stannard acted as Kennecott CEO from that time until his own death eight years later. As in World War I, the demand for copper seemed insatiable. Little Kennecott-Alaska was hardly missed as Kennecott's great porphyry mines in the western US and in Chile went back into full production. Kennecott, having played tag with Anaconda for years, now became the world's largest copper company.

In 1944, Stannard disposed of the last significant Kennecott-Alaska asset when the company sold Alaska Steamship Company to Seattle interests. In 1948, Stannard was due to retire. Essentially all senior managers of the original Kennecott Copper venture were also at retirement age, and the company had to look outside for someone to take Stannard's place. They found an excellent man in Arthur D. Storke, who had directed copper mines in Africa and molybdenum mines in Colorado. To guide exploration, the company picked Russell J. Parker.

Stannard, uncertain about the future of post WW II copper demand, had guided the company towards diversification, and Parker found a large titanium project in Quebec that might serve as the flagship of a diversified Kennecott (esp. see Navin, 1978).

Canadian Pacific DC3

Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 aircraft that was blown up by a bomb September 9th, 1949, the third in-flight bombing incident in history. Stannard, incoming Kennecott CEO Arthur Stoke, Vice Kennecott’s Manager of Exploration Russell Parker, and 20 others were killed.
Photo Credit: Jacques Trempe Collection #2469

Arthur Storke, Stannard, and Russ Parker were all killed in one of the first airplane bomb incidents on their way to visit the titanium project in Quebec. It was found that Albert Guay, a French Canadian citizen from Quebec, had planted a bomb to kill his wife, also a passenger, for her $10,000 insurance policy. All 23 on board, 4 crew and 19 passengers, on a Canadian Pacific DC-3 (C-47) perished. The fatal crash was on September 9, 1949. Kennecott's loss that day was huge, and the company's management was decapitated. Arthur Storke was to be Stannard's successor to run the company. R. J. Parker was Vice President of Exploration for Kennecott Copper.

Only a few months before his death, Stannard and a very distinguished group of men and women, including Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Alfred P. Sloan Jr., had founded the National Fund for Medical Education, Inc. in response to a plea from the medical profession.

The Kennecott board picked Charles Cox from U.S. Steel to run the company. Cox proved an exceptional manager, but the company's direction was now his and not the Alaska-connected Kennecott that was managed since its inception by Stephen Birch or his proteégé Stannard.

A copper mining company that grossed $50 million a year in Stannard's early years, grossed $350 million annually at his death. When Stannard came to his sudden and unusual death, Kennecott was the world's largest copper mining company. Stannard was recognized with an honorary doctorate by the Michigan School of Mines at Houghton.

Written by Charles Hawley, October 26, 2008


Douglass, William C., 1964, A History of the Kennecott mines, Kennecott, Alaska, ADGGS MP-21. Fairbanks

Dunkle tapes, transcription available at Anchorage Museum of Hine Art and History

Hawley, Charles Caldwell, 2003, Wesley Earl Dunkle: Alaska's Flying Miner. University Press of Colorado. Boulder (Reprinted 2006, University of Alaska Press).

Navin, Thomas R., 1978, Copper Mining & Management University of Arizona Press. Tucson, especially on Kennecott Copper Corp.

National Fund for Medical Education, Inc., Minutes of the Organizational meeting, Cloud Club, NY, May 12m 1949.

Staff, 1935, "World Code" [copper cartel], Time Magazine Issue of April 8, 1935

____________, "Kennecott Reopening," Time Magazine Issue of June 17, 1935

____________, 1974, Causes celebres du Quebec, Dollard Dansereau Edition Lemeac, Montreal, Canada.

____________ ,2008, Albert Guay, Biography by Wikipedia, 2 pages.

Yale University, 1910 Class of 1905, including an account of the Triennial class meeting in 1908, Sheffield School, New Haven, CN.

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