March/April 2011

Economic geology

The foundations of modern economic geology (Part 2)

By R. J. (Bob) Cathro


T. A. Rickard at work in the MSP office. Although this cartoon shows him pecking at a typewriter, he stated in his autobiography that he never used one (Rickard, 1920)

The Engineering and Mining Journal (EMJ) was founded in 1866 and is still being published today, over 140 years later. This must be close to a record for any North American publication. It was probably not a coincidence that EMJ was born at the same time mining activity in the southwestern United States began to require large amounts of capital investment. Between 1875 and 1932, at least seven industrial publications were absorbed into EMJ, all with titles containing the words mining, engineering, metallurgy, coal or iron.

In 1922, EMJ was consolidated with the Mining and Scientific Press, based in San Francisco, and the combined publication operated as Engineering and Mining Journal-Press until 1926, when it reverted to the original title. These two were unquestionably the two leading international sources of information about mining methods, equipment and activity. They were also the most influential periodicals providing news and papers on economic geology up to about 1910.

T. A. Rickard (TA) became the editor of EMJ at the beginning of 1903. Although he had no previous journalistic experience, he had contributed stories and technical papers to the journal for years and was eminently qualified. He had nearly 20 years of experience as an international mining engineer, was well-read and articulate, believed in editorial independence, and had a wide circle of senior contacts within the mining industry. He succeeded R. W. Raymond and R. P. Rothwell, who had shared the title since 1867.

Rickard’s first initiative was to expand the list of special contributors from one (Raymond) to 12, seven of whom were based in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, and the others in Denver, London, Johannesburg and Sydney. Among the Americans were such eminent experts as S. F. Emmon and W. H. Weed of the USGS, Raymond, W. R. Ingalls, R. A. F. Penrose and Philip Argall.

In addition, he enlisted a group of about 60 mining engineers, metallurgists and geologists to become small shareholders in order to demonstrate the strength and breadth of the journal’s professional support. Of these, about 10 were based in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, 22 in Colorado, eight in London, five each in California and Mexico, four each in Montana and British Columbia (names unknown), and two each in Salt Lake City, Australia and South Africa. By November 1904, the number of special correspondents had increased to 28, of whom 20 were based in eight American cities, and the others were in London. Australia and South Africa.

The first weekly edition under TA (January 3, 1903) illustrates why it was such a invaluable resource. It was longer than normal, at 72 pages, because it contained 1902 summaries for every important metal, plus coal, steel and phosphate; the New York, Boston and London stock markets; and activity in the Lake Superior copper industry, Arizona, Montana, Leadville, Utah, Boundary district of British Columbia, South Africa, Western Australia, Coeur d’Alene, Sudbury, New Caledonia, York Region of Alaska tin deposits, Bolivia, Joplin zinc, Mexico, Kansas coal, Wyoming, Colorado petroleum, metallurgical progress in Australia, and the cyanide process in the United States.

EMJ was published every Saturday and posted internationally as second-class mail. Subscription rates were $5.00 in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Cuba and The Philippines, and $7.00 elsewhere. Branch offices were located in six American cities (four in the west) as well as Vancouver (Molson’s Bank Building), London, and Dortmund, Germany.

Although the journalistic side of EMJ prospered, the publishing side suffered from the financial weakness of the current owner. Within two years, the journal had passed into the hands of a third publisher, John A. Hill, who announced he intended to make significant changes that threatened TA’s journalistic independence. Hill later became a partner of James A. McGraw and formed the giant McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.

TA resigned from the journal at the end of June 2005 and, obviously pleased by his taste of technical journalism, purchased the Mining and Scientific Press (MSP), based in San Francisco, from J. F. Halloran for $200,000. This made him both the publisher and editor. During the six months before he took up his new duties, he spent six weeks in Nova Scotia on a consulting contract studying the provincial gold industry and a month in the fall touring Mexican mining districts. He later published an account of the Mexican trip (Rickard, 1907).

TA had a lot of family ties in the Bay Area and was pleased to settle in Berkeley, on the east side of the bay. His uncle Reuben had been president of the town council in 1888 and Reuben’s son Thomas was elected mayor in 1905. He took over ownership of MSP on December 1, just as one of the frequent, moderate temblors shook the office. “That always happens when the Mining and Scientific Press is transferred,” Halloran joked.

The next six months proved to be an exciting and severe test of TA’s managerial skill. At 5:13 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, 18 weeks after he became the owner, a major quake occurred, followed by a destructive fire that burned for three days. Known as “THE San Francisco Earthquake,” it completely destroyed much of the city, including the entire MSP plant.

TA and his new business manager, Edgar Rickard, who was another of Reuben’s sons and TA’s cousin and brother-in-law, proved they were up to this unique challenge. By noon, they had confirmed that their plant had been destroyed. Fortunately, they had saved a copy of their subscription list. By 5 p.m., they had rented space in a bank building in Berkeley and arranged for typesetting and printing by a local newspaper. An emergency issue of the MSP was mailed on Friday. With telegraph lines down, this was the first detailed news that many subscribers had of the damage. After Earthquake and Fire, a reprint of articles and editorial comment that appeared in MSP, was published later in the year (Rickard, 1906).

That was the eighth book that TA had published since 1897, preceded by books on stamp milling of gold ores, alluvial deposits of Western Australia, sampling and estimation of ore in a mine, the copper mines of Lake Superior, the economics of mining, and pyrite smelting. Some of these were collections of papers submitted by experts in the field for publication in EMJ that were edited and compiled by Rickard.

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