May 09

anton_eilers4F. Anton Eilers is  my Great Great Grandfather.  I have an extensive timeline about his travels and employment which I hope to use as a skeleton for a more complete biography.


From the Engineering and Mining Journal  Vol 103, No. 17. Pages 762 – 764.  April 28, 1917.

Anton Eilers by Rossiter W. Raymond

Frederic Anton Eilers was born in Nassau, Germany, Jan 14, 1839.  He received his technical education at the University of Gottingen and the mining school of Clausthal.  In 1859 he came to the United States and in 1863 became an assistant in the office of Adelberg and Raymond, New York City, consulting mining engineers and metallurgists, of which firm I was the junior partner.

The death of Mr. eilers removes the last survivor of a group of young men who began in our office and under our directions careers of considerable importance and honor — Hereman Credner, afterward professor of geology at the University of Leipzig and Director of the Royal Saxon Geological Survey; Charles A. Stetefeldt, destined to international fame as the inventor of the Stetefeldt furnace; Otto H. Hahn, a distinguished contributor to the rapid development of American metallurgy and one of its most skillful practitioners; and, last, but not least, Anton Eilers – all began their technical careers as employees of Adelberg & Raymond.  I cannot say that they learned their business from us, but their expertise with us carried them to some extent over that period of acclimation which was in those days often disagreeable and sometimes disastrous to foreign experts in this country.

anton-familyOf all those whom I have named, I think Eilers became the most completely Americanized.  Though he retained the thoroughness, simplicity, directness and geniality which he brought with him, he acquired the ability to recognize new conditions and me and to adapt himself to them.  From 1866 to 1869 he had charge of the Betty Baker copper mine and furnace in Carroll County, Virginia.  This enterprise was based on the superficial “black” oxide copper ores resulting from a “secondary enrichment” along the outcrop of a formation like that of Ducktown, Tenn., and of course the supply of ore was soon exhausted.

Having become in 1868 United States Commissioner of Mining Statistics for the states and territories in and west of the Rocky Mountains, I was very glad to secure in 1869 the services of Mr. Eilers as my deputy.  Of the eight volumes of my annual reports, all but the first contain results of his faithful, intelligent and intrepid labors.  I say “intrepid,” because they sometimes involved personal danger, as for instance, in Arizona, the mining districts of which he visited while the Apaches were still on the warpath.  In the preparation of the annual report, Eilers and I traveled separately through different parts of the great field, inspecting mines and securing trustworthy agents and correspondents.  In the course of the eight years of my commissionership, we managed to reach personally all the states and territories concerned.

This method (the only one possible with an annual appropriation of never more than $15,000 to cover all salaries, traveling expenses, correspondence, clerical and editorial labor)  produced in the resulting volumes a peculiar series of public documents.  Each volume contained the personal impressions and observations of the commissioner and of the deputy commissioner as to certain regions, together with the reports (edited by me) of special agents in the remaining regions.  Since this fact was clearly stated in each successive preface, it is easy now to find what portions of any one of the eight volumes represent the special work of Eilers, and whoever makes such an examination will gain a betteer notion of its remarkable extent and quality than I can here impart.

One pleasant exception to our habit of separate work was furnished in 1870 [ed note actually 1871] when, after completing our individual tours, we met by appointment in Virginia City, Mont., and proceeded with four other persons to explore the then newly discovered geyser basins of the Yellowstone.  An account of this exploration, including our running interview with Sitting Bull and a dozen of his braves, who had chosen that time for a raid off the reservation, was published thirty-odd years ago in my little book, “Camp and Cabin.”  This episode became a lifelong memory of humor and adventure to us both.

I confess that I am surprised, in my old age, to see how much we did with exuberant strength and enthusiasm when we were young.  Our work was that of a special agency, not of a government bureau.  Perhaps it was at the time more helpful to the young industries which it represented than an expensive systematic collection of statistics would have been.  But, when I finished my volume for 1876, I frankly advised the discontinuance of Congressional appropriations for the work;  and in due time it became a part of the United States Geological Survey, to the great advantage of the country and the mining industry and those engaged in it.

One thing, however,  it had unquestionably done.  It had made both Eilers and me exceptionally familiar with all parts of the Pacific slope, their natural resources, industries prospects and people.  And so, in 1876, when I resumed my private practice, Eilers selected the Salt Lake valley as the scene of his technical activity and became part owner and general manager of the Germania Smelting and Refining Works in that valley.

This was the beginning of an uninterrupted progress in professional reputation and business success, which made him one of the universally recognized and adequately rewarded “captains of industry.”

It was not difficult, indeed, for a graduate of Clausthal to improve the Salt Lake practice of that day.  The valley contained many little shaft-furnaces, smelting argentiferous galena, and experiencing a  “salamander” pretty regularly once a week or oftener.  If I remember correctly, eight days’ run without “gobbling-up” and “digging out,” and “blowing-in” again, was considered good practice.

The Germania furnaces, running indefinitely without such interruption, were a revelation to the metallurgical pioneers of the valley.  But, German-American enterprise was not satisfied with that.  Soon, from Salt Lake and other American districts we began to hear of larger furnaces, better apparatus – in short, of a new practice, which made Clausthal and Freiberg and Swansea sit up and take notice.  In this surprising advance Eilers was one of the leaders, daring yet prudent.

In 1879, he formed a partnership with the late Gustav Biling and built and operated for several years the Arkansas Valley smelting works in Leadville, Colorado.  This concern also was highly successful.

Meanwhile, he had entered the field of technical authorship.  Having joined the American Institute of Mining Engineers in 1871, the first year of its existence, he united with O.H. Hahn and myself in the preparation of a paper on “The Smelting of Argentiferous Lead Ores in Nevada, Utah and Montana. “ This was followed by several metallurgical papers, and in 1875 (just before he took charge of the Germania works) by one on the “The Progress of the Silver-Lead Metallurgy of the West During 1874.”  These contributions show him to have been a close observer of the progress, in which he afterward played so conspicuous a part.

colorado_smelterBut the great opportunity for which  many years of manifold preparation had fitted him came in 1883 [ed note this should be 1881].  Eilers had been called in to show the owners of the Madonna Mine, at Monarch, Colorado, near the Continental Divide, how to run its little charcoal furnace on lead-carbonate ores, without salamanders.  It was Salt Lake over again.  But after remedying the immediate trouble, he convinced the owners that they could not succeed commercially by local smelting of a single ore, low in silver, while hauling all the supplies and shipping all products in wagons.  The result not only vindicated his business judgment, but also illustrated his power to command confidence through honest frankness.

The Colorado Smelting Company was formed, the owners of the mining taking their share of stock, and Eilers and his friends receiving the rest upon the fulfillment of certain pledges, including the securing of a railroad to the mine and the erection of smelting works at Pueblo.  This combination proved profitable even beyond expectation.  Cheap freight rates on the downgrade via Marshall Pass to Pueblo brought the Madonna ore to the furnaces at low cost; the mine itself developed enormous bodies of nonsiliceous fluxing ore, admirably suited for smelting with high-grade siliceous ores, and was for years the largest tonnage producer in Colorado; so that the company did not have to buy barren fluxes or compete in the market for fluxing ores.  As a consequence it enjoyed a secure prosperity so long as the Madonna held out.

But the joy of his life came to Eilers in the opportunity to select freely a suitable site, build model up-to-date smelting works, surround himself with chosen assistants, and train them in his own notions of technical efficiency.

Those of us who visited the works of the Colorado Smelting Company in the days of its glory will never forget that oasis of beauty and rest – the clean and airy buildings, the orderly yards, the reservoir masquerading as an embowered lake, beloved of ducks, the sociable clubhouse for young men.  Travelers made haste to arrive there and were slow in leaving.  The birds of a continent steered in their migrations to that haven of rest.  Yet, business routine and the technical system of the place were as good as if it had been dirty and ugly.  Indeed, the absence of ugliness and dirt had a direct relation to the cleanness of slags and the proper handling of by-products and waste.

Here in full freedom, a kindly dictator, Eilers trained his young men.  Robert Sticht, Walter H. Aldridge, Arthur S. Dwight, H.C. Bellinger, Howard F. Wierum, Frank H. Smith, Karl E. Eilers, and others whose names stand high in metallurgy, were “Eilers’s boys” and still acknowledge gladly their filial debt to him.

great_falls_smelterAbout 1890 Mr. Eilers, with the same friends who had joined him the Colorado enterprise, organized the Montana Smelting Company and built large works at Great Falls Montana.    Thes works, together with the East Helena smelting works, became part of the great consolidated Amercian Smelting and Refining Co [Ed note aka Asarco], which was formed in 1899 and which comprised most of the important establishments of Colorado also.  Of this company, and of the subsequently organized American Smelter’s Securities Co., he was director and the technical member of the excecutive committee until 1910, when he retired from active business, though he still visited his New York office almost daily until within a comparatively recent period and retained many incidental positions of trust, such as vice presicent of the Last Dollar Gold Mining Co., of Cipple Creek, Colorado, and president of the Colorado Mines Exploring Co.

As already noted, he was one of the earliest members of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, of which was a manager for six years (1875-7 and 1882-4 inclusive) and a vice president in 1876 and 1877, to the Transactions of which he contributed valuable papers, besides those specifically mentioned.  He was also a member of the American Forestry Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, the Technical Society of New York, and of the following clubs:  The Engineers’, German and Rocky Mountain (New York); Germania (Brooklyn); Denver (Denver, Colorado); and Alta (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Mr. Eilers was married to Elizabeth Emrich in 1863, just before he came to me as an assistant.  His death makes, I believe, the first break in his large an happy family.  Two daughters and a son, together their mother, survive him [editors note:  One son and 5 daughters].  The son, Karl, has achieved a reputation worthy of his blood and is now a vice president of the American Smelting and Refining Co.  I have known them all from cradle.  Their home has been a home to me, in Salt Lake City, Leadville, Pueblo, Denver, Brooklyn and Sea Cliff.  It was at Sea Cliff, Long Island, the beautiful country seat where he had indulged to the full his love of tress and flowers and hill-horizons and cordial hospitality, that Anton Eilers, after long illness, passed away on Saturday morning, Apr 21, and this is my farewll, so far as earthly companionship is oncerned, to my genial, upright, generous comrade  through four and fifty years of loyal friendship and mutual trust unmarred by doubt or discord.


(Grave marker located at Roslyn Cemetery, Roslyn, Nassau County, New York, USA —

Information needing to be researched from the Bancroft Library:

  • Adolph Sutro Papers: 1 letter from A. Eilers in 1877.  It might be related to the Rossiter Raymond letters as well.

Other References:

3 Responses to “Anton’s Memorial by Rossiter Raymond”

  1. Biography: Else Eilers 1864 - 1949 | Eilers Family History Says:

    […] refers to her aws Tante Else.  Else and Emma were the last two surviving kids of Anton and Elizabeth Eilers following the death of their brother Karl Emrich Eilers.  Dad told the story […]

  2. Anton & Elizabeth Eilers Grave Site | Eilers Family History Says:

    […] “Find A Grave” which helps people located gravesites.  Not only did I find a grave, Anton and Elizabeth Eilers, but they had pictures too!  I don’t know who chose a […]

  3. Biography: Emma Eilers 1870 - 1951 | Eilers Family History Says:

    […] the daugther Anton and Elizabeth Eilers, she was likely born in the Bronx.  Here parents likely moved her to Denver Colorado around the […]

Leave a Reply