Julius Kruttschnitt, Jr. (1885-1974), was so famous in Australia that a letter addressed “Julius Kruttschnitt, Australia” was likely to reach him. But in the late 1960s when the mining magnate visited the St. Louis suburb where my family lived, he was just another great grandfather visiting his great grand children.
According to his biography, The Man from Asarco, Kruttschnitt, who grew up in New Orleans, California, and Chicago, then raised a family in Tucson, missed the United States later in his life. He had moved the family to Australia in 1930 to take a job at the troubled Mount Isa Mines. He rescued the mines, grew the business tremendously, and achieved fame and success.
But by the late 1960s, his detachment from his family in the United States seemingly grew too much to bear. Or maybe it was the death of his second wife, Edna, in May 1967. Shortly after Edna died, he resigned or refused re-nomination to the boards of several companies and stepped down as the chairman of two others. The 82-year-old asked for a three-month leave of absence. Who is going to deny someone of that age a little vacation time?
Kruttschnitt asked his daughter Meanie to arrange a farewell tour, of sorts. When he came to St. Louis, we had our picture taken in front of a portrait of the grandmother he never knew, Felicia Caire Kock. The portrait hung in the living room of our home. According to his biography, he was kind, humorous, sharp, and well-dressed. Family sources confirm the accuracy of these traits.
According to these same family sources, who may or may not be telling the truth, the executive once approached a bus at bus stop and acted like he was going to get on. When the bus door opened he put his foot on the step and tied his shoe and then said “thanks a lot” and kept walking down the street. He also famously made the comment that “If I can’t have it with chocolate, I don’t want it at all.”
The Man from Asarco had returned to the United States on earlier occasions, often to attend Yale University reunions. I remember once, when I was very young, meeting him at my grandmother Meanie’s home in Bronxville, N.Y., where he had stopped after the reunion. Grandmother Meanie related that her father had once again won the award at the reunion for traveling the farthest to attend.
The self-effacing business leader admitted in one interview that he graduated from Yale “not with the highest honors, but without the stigma of a flagrant flunk.” His college scrapbook indicates he spent a good deal of time in college participating in debates, rowing, and baseball. He also went to quite a few shows, based on the ticket stubs he left behind. Small of stature, he for many years had to live with the nickname “Tiny.”
That may have been one reason why Kruttschnitt was motivated to achieve “Big” success in business. Kruttschnitt’s first job, after marriage to his first wife, Marie Rose Pickering, was with the Arizona Copper Company, which worked in the Clifton-Morenci-Metcalf district. Meanie was born in this arid setting.
The family lived in a modest home in Morenci. They made ends meet by converting a couple spare rooms into apartments and rented them to fellow engineers. The income allowed Kruttschnitt to hire a servant to care for the rentals and his family.
After two years, the family moved to Mexico, where Kruttschnitt took a job on the staff of the Guggenheim Brothers, who controlled American Smelting & Refining Company, or Asarco. It’s unclear how Julius, Jr., got the job, but his father may have had something to do with it. Julius Sr. was in charge of the railroad over which much of Asarco’s ore traveled.
Shortly after he arrived at the mine in Mexico, several armed horsemen arrived on the scene. They circled Kruttschnitt and his staff and lined them up at gunpoint. For five hours, the management team was subjected to a series of speeches and management demands by the rebels. After the management team agreed to pay raises for the workers, the rebels left. He later described them as “drunken bandits posing as Maderista soldiers.”
What Kruttschnitt didn’t know was that at the same time a similar scene was played out at several Asarco mines in Mexico. The ruckus was part of an orchestrated effort to extract concessions from Asarco. The same pressure was applied in Chihuahua, Monterrey, Aguascalientes, Parral, and El Oro, among other mining sites.
By early 1912, Kruttschnitt was transferred back the United States. He first worked at the smelters in El Paso, but was soon transferred to Tucson. Their home there has been lovingly restored and converted to a bed and breakfast. The family lived in Tucson for many years, until they made the big move to Australia. Much more on that later.