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Daniel Guggenheim

Daniel Guggenheim

Daniel Guggenheim (1856-1930) was a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the world during the early twentieth century. He led his family's mining enterprise, which controlled much of the world's metal industry. When Guggenheim retired at the age of 67, he turned his attention to philanthropy.

Daniel Guggenheim was born July 9, 1856 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the second son and one of 11 children born to Swiss immigrants Meyer and Barbara Guggenheim. Meyer Guggenheim was a hard-working peddler. He and his father had become successful by manufacturing stove polish and "coffee essence," an inexpensive coffee substitute. During the Civil War, Meyer sold wholesale supplies to the Union Army. He also had a lace and embroidery business. By 1880, he had $800,000 in the bank.

Although the family was Jewish, Daniel Guggenheim attended a Catholic high school in Philadelphia until the age of 17. When Meyer Guggenheim determined that Daniel would never be a scholar, he sent him to Switzerland to study the Swiss lace and embroidery business and serve as a buyer for Meyer's importing business, M. Guggenheim's Sons.

While his son was in Switzerland, Meyer invested in two Leadville, Colorado, lead and silver mines. The mines proved to be extremely productive. Meyer founded the Philadelphia Smelting and Refining Company and built a smelter in Pueblo, Colorado, so that he could control both the mining and refining of his ore. Soon Meyer was earning $750,000 a year. Meyer closed the lace business and, in 1884, asked Daniel to return to the United States and help the family manage the mining company. The same year, Daniel married Florence Schloss. The couple had three children, Robert, Harry and Gladys.

Family Dominated Mining

In 1888, Meyer Guggenheim, his six sons and their families moved to New York City, where they managed their business and sought to dominate the mining industry in North America. Daniel was considered the most ambitious of the sons and became the business's primary negotiator and organizer.

In 1890, a tariff was placed on imported ore and the price of the Mexican lead and silver the Guggenheims refined in Colorado rose dramatically. They responded by buying Mexican mines and building their own smelter in that country. Daniel successfully negotiated the new venture. His father and brothers were so impressed with his business acumen that they assigned him to oversee the company's mining and smelting business and to plan future expansion.

At 34, Daniel was driven to achieve wealth and stature. His father had arrived in America penniless and wanted to make every one of his sons a multi-millionaire. Biographer John H. Davis described Daniel as "short, quick, intense, of medium build" and "a born general, in whom command was instinctive." During his years in Switzerland he had acquired a European air. He felt comfortable with aristocratic society, which helped him negotiate business contracts. His years in Germany had also taught him to be dogmatic, industrious and disciplined. He was a tireless worker, and extremely autocratic.

By 1895, the Mexican operation was producing a profit of $1 million a year. The Guggenheims formed the Guggenheim Exploration Company and named Daniel president. The independent corporation searched for mines throughout the world, purchased and developed them, then invited public participation in them. Soon another American mining concern, American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), backed by the Rockefeller family, began to challenge them. Daniel Guggenheim took the lead in negotiating on behalf of the family and, after a lengthy struggle, the family acquired majority control of ASARCO. Daniel was named chairman of the board. Meyer died in 1905. He had lived to see his sons become multi-millionaires.

Amassed Enormous Wealth

Following his father's death, Daniel assumed control of the family and its enterprises. He was power hungry and tenacious. He suffered repeatedly with stomach ulcers and hypertension. With firm control of mining in the Western Hemisphere, the Guggenheims went on to dominate mining and metallurgy throughout the world during the next three decades. Through ASARCO and their family-owned companies, the Guggenheims mined tin in Bolivia, gold in the Yukon, diamonds and rubber in the Belgian Congo, diamonds in Angola, copper in Alaska, Utah, and Chile. Daniel Guggenheim's business policies affected entire nations. "It was said that Daniel could make or break a government with a telegram," Davis said.

The Guggenheims' strategy required large sums of money to find mining properties and overcome engineering obstacles to move the ore out. They utilized modern technological processes to mine and process the ore, often using low-grade metals that others found unprofitable. In 1912, the Guggenheims joined with J. P. Morgan and Jacob Schiff to mine copper in Kennecott Creek in Alaska. The syndicate built a railroad over a moving glacier to get to the mountain of copper. At Chuquicamata, Chile, in 1911, workers had to get to a mine at 9,500 feet, 45 miles from a water supply and 85 miles for a power supply.

During World War I, the Guggenheims were criticized for profiteering. This led to a wave of anti-Semitism, as the family was the most prominent Jewish family in the United States. When the press, Congress and President Woodrow Wilson demanded that the company lower the price of copper during World War I, the Guggenheims refused until Wilson threatened to nationalize the metals industries.

Tough on Labor

The Guggenheims had a reputation for being tough on labor. Daniel Guggenheim claimed to favor labor unions. During a meeting with Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), in 1917, the two men embraced and appeared to agree on labor issues. In reality, Daniel, like many other capitalists of the day, paid his employees starvation wages and forcibly broke strikes. In 1912, when workers at Guggenheim's Perth Amboy mine struck, the company brought in strikebreakers and four strikers were shot. In 1916, the Guggenheims evicted strikers from their bunkhouses in Alaska when they struck over poor conditions and low wages. The laborers were left in minus 30 degree weather.

Guggenheim was also criticized for his flagrant disregard for conservation. Gifford Pinchot, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, battled the Guggenheim-Morgan syndicate for mining Alaskan land that Pinchot said belonged to all the American people. The Guggenheims won the battle with the help of their brother, Simon, a United States senator.

Guggenheim amassed enormous wealth through his mining enterprises. By 1918, the family fortune was estimated at $250 million to $300 million, making them among the richest people in the world.

Family Disagreements

Over the years, a rift had developed among the seven Guggenheim brothers. The two youngest brothers, Will and Ben, often disagreed with their siblings' business decisions. The older brothers believed that Will and Ben didn't want to work hard, since they had grown up after the family had become wealthy and didn't have the same work ethic as their father. The family empire began to collapse during a series of events in the early 1920s. Younger brother Will Guggenheim accused his older brothers of excluding him from a profitable copper mine in Chile. The well-publicized case attracted attention around the world. It was settled for an undisclosed sum when the older brothers decided they didn't want the family's finances revealed to the public.

In 1922, the older Guggenheims were accused of milking ASARCO, which they controlled, to the benefit of their family business, Guggenheim Brothers. The ASARCO board voted the brothers out of control. Then, in 1923, the family had the opportunity to sell the Chilean copper mine for $70 million. The older brothers, who were ready to retire, wanted to take the offer. Will and some of the Guggenheims' sons disagreed. When the older family members won the battle, some of the sons resigned from Guggenheim Brothers, leaving the family business without firm guidance from the next generation. The family's final indignity occurred when Daniel led the family into a bad investment in Chilean nitrates.

Established Foundations

With their reputations tarnished, the four older brothers, Daniel, Sol, Murray and Simon, retired. They each set up foundations and in essence, established new careers as philanthropists, trying to outdo each other with their generosity. Daniel, who retired in 1923 at the age of 67, retreated to his castle-like home overlooking Long Island Sound where he enjoyed the life of an aristocrat. In 1924, he established the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation, which supported education, arts and medicine all over the world. Benefactors included Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, the New York Botanical Gardens and New York's Guggenheim Museum.

But Daniel's principal interest was in the field of aviation. His son Harry first got Daniel interested in aviation after he returned from World War I. Harry was appalled to discover that the United States was far behind Europe in aviation development. America's idea of aviation was airmail pilots and barnstormers. The public had no desire to develop aviation for personal travel. Daniel set out to develop the American aviation industry by volunteering $500,000 to create a school of aeronautics at New York University. In 1926, he established the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics to promote aeronautical education, research and transportation. The fund established schools at a number of universities and proved the necessity of two-way radio communications, navigation aids and weather reporting during flights. The fund was liquidated in 1930 after Guggenheim determined that its goals were accomplished.

The Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation went beyond aviation and contributed to the aerospace industry. It supported the experiments of Dr. Robert H. Goddard of Clark University, a young scientist who believed that rockets could propel themselves into outer space. It also helped train aerospace engineers and laboratories, helping to usher in the age of rocketry. In 1929, Guggenheim earned the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' first aeronautical medal in recognition of his support of the aviation industry. In 1930 he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Commercial Science from New York University.

Guggenheim died on September 30, 1930 in Sands Point, New York, at the age of 74. By the time of his death, the man who had been hated for being a greedy, union-busting capitalist had earned a reputation as the "father of aviation." Known for his generosity, few people today realize how Daniel Guggenheim amassed his fortune.


Davis, John H., The Guggenheims, 1848-1988: An American Epic, Shapolsky, 1988.


Aviation History November 7, 1996.


"Daniel Guggenheim," Business Leader Profiles for Students. Gale Research, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. The Gale Group, 2000, 20, 2000).

"Daniel Guggenheim," Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936.Reproduced in Biography Resource Center . The Gale Group, 2000, 20, 2000).

"Daniel Guggenheim," Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center . The Gale Group, 2000, 20, 2000). □

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American Smelting and Refining Company


Meyer Guggenheim (18281905) a man of humble beginnings, arrived in Philadelphia from Switzerland in 1847. Struggling to support his family, he sold household goods in the coal towns of northeast Pennsylvania. Peddling goods led Guggenheim to manufacture a polish for stoves. Realizing the profits to be made from manufacturing, Guggenheim began to produce and sell lye, a synthetic coffee, and other goods. Guggenheim eventually built a prosperous wholesale business in household goods. By 1868, Meyer Guggenheim had fathered seven sons, whom he trained to become one of the best management teams in the nation.

Sending two sons overseas, Guggenheim established machine-made lace factories in Switzerland, which enabled him to import and sell fine laces and embroideries into the United States under the firm name of "M. Guggenheim's Sons." In 1879, at the age of 51, Meyer Guggenheim had amassed a fortune. After acquiring interests in Colorado lead and silver mines in 1881, Guggenheim invested $20,000 for operational costs. These proved to be some of the richest mines in the area. By 1888 they were producing approximately $750,000 a year. The Guggenheim metal empire had just begun.

Meyer Guggenheim became aware that smelters generated more profit than the mining of ore. In 1888 he built a smelter in Pueblo, Colorado, and started the Philadelphia Smelting and Refining Company. With his next step, Guggenheim consolidated some of his various businesses, including his share of Philadelphia Smelting, under the name of "M. Guggenheim's Sons." Guggenheim then delegated various duties among his seven sons.

The Guggenheims had been importing ore from Mexican mines for their Pueblo smelter. With the introduction of the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, this proved to be a far more expensive venture. The Guggenheims went on to build two smelters in Mexico, taking advantage of the cheaper Mexican labor rates, and they were able to avoid the tariffs. With the passing of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act (where the U.S. Treasury Department agreed to buy four million ounces of silver every month) in 1890, the price of silver rose sharply. In 1895, in addition to being one of Mexico's largest industrial giants, the Guggenheim smelter operations were producing in excess of $1 million a year.

In an attempt to dominate the nonferrous metal industry, Henry H. Rogers (18401909) along with William Rockefeller and brothers Adolph and Leonard Lewisohn formed the United Metals Selling Company in the 1890s. The even larger launch of the American Smelting and Refining Company (officially renamed ASARCO in 1975) was assembled in 1899. This included the amalgamation of 23 other smelters. The Guggenheims refused an invitation to join the American Smelting and Refining Company. Instead, they formed the Guggenheim Exploration Company. With the assistance of son Daniel Guggenheim (18561930), the Guggenheims had mining operations in all parts of the world by the end of the nineteenth century.

Problems arose for American Smelting in 1900; mineworkers were striking against 12-hour days and the company's capital was estimated at too high an amount. American Smelting began to flounder. Daniel Guggenheim's strategy to drive the price of lead and silver down by flooding the market, worked. As ASARCO stock prices fell, Daniel Guggenheim bought it up. In April 1901, under the Guggenheim's terms, American Smelting and Refining Company and the Guggenheim family, merged. With the Guggenheims having controlling interest, Daniel Guggenheim became chairman of the board and president of ASARCO; Solomon Guggenheim became treasurer; and Isaac, Murray and Simon Guggenheim were named as members of the board. Expansion and acquisitions continued as Daniel Guggenheim increased the family business holdings to include mines in Bolivia, Chile, Alaska, and the Congo. When Daniel Guggenheim resigned as president in 1919, Simon Guggenheim assumed leadership of American Smelting and Refining Company. Murray and Solomon Guggenheim, also gave up their board positions, at that time.

At the start of the Great Depression (19291939), American Smelting and Refining Company was the largest refiner of nonferrous metals in the world with a net income of about $22 million. Business declined though, and by 1932 ASARCO had suffered a $4.5 million deficit. ASARCO continued to expand, despite hard times, and acquired a huge source of scrap metal with the purchase of Federated Metals Incorporated. In 1934, ASARCO invested $8 million in a mine at Mount Isa, Australia, which supplied copper during World War II (19391945). The huge extent of the mine's copper deposit was not known until 20 years later.

Upon the death of Simon Guggenheim in 1941, ASARCO's bylaws were changed to make the of chairman of the board into the chief executive officer. Francis H. Brownell, already chairman in 1941, was in charge until Roger Straus, son-in-law of Daniel Guggenheim, took over in 1947. A member of the Guggenheim family was always at the helm of ASARCO until 1958, when John D. MacKenzie became the chief executive officer.

A prolonged copper strike in 1959 kept ASARCO's 13 U.S. smelters and refineries shut down for one hundred and thirteen days. Due to the decline in lead and zinc prices, ASARCO focused on copper mining, entering the 1960s still the world's leading custom smelter. By 1963, ASARCO was the forth-largest copper producer behind Kennecott, Anaconda, and Phelps Dodge. Copper comprised nearly two-thirds of ASARCO's revenue in the early 1970s, with aggregates, lead, molybdenum, silver, specialty chemicals, and zinc taking up the balance. From 1974 to 1978, labor problems, market fluctuations, and anti-pollution regulations, impeded the growth of ASARCO. Despite the high demand for copper in the early 1980s, the price was dropping due to a copper glut on the market ASARCO lost $304 million in 1984. Richard J. Osborne stepped in as CEO and chairman of the board in 1985. Osborne restructured, renegotiated, and redeveloped ASARCO's financial health, and by 1987, ASARCO had bounded back.

ASARCO increased its copper holdings and continued to diversify with the purchase of two more chemical companies. The mining operations were suspended at two silver mines in 1992, due to a drop in the price of silver. In 1994, ASARCO sold its gold-mining operations in Australia. A leader in mining, refining, and smelting of nonferrous metals, ASARCO's interest in mined copper reached one billion pounds, for the first time in 1996, indicating that this company's firm hold on the copper industry would continue well into the 21st century.

See also: Daniel Guggenheim


"ASARCO: The Metal Maker." New York: ASARCO Incorporated, 1981.

Davis, John H. The Guggenheims (18481988): An American Epic. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1978.

Encyclopedia of World Biography. Farmington Hills: The Gale Group, 1998, s.v. "Meyer Guggenheim."

"Guggenheim Family Page," [cited April 5, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @

"Guggenheim Family," [cited April 5, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @

Hoover's Company Profiles. Austin, TX: Hoovers Incorporated, 1999, s.v. "ASARCO Incorporated."

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Guggenheim, Daniel


Daniel Guggenheim (18561930) dominated the U.S. mining industry in the first half of the twentieth century. One of ten surviving children in an immigrant household, he took over his father's successful mining interests and turned them into one of the great U.S. family fortunes.

Guggenheim's father, Meyer, emigrated with his family to the United States from Switzerland in 1847, and settled in Philadelphia. With his father, Simon, Meyer worked as a peddler, carrying packs of household goods into the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania. Soon realizing that stove polish was the most popular item he sold, he located a chemist who taught him how to make the product. Simon then stayed home to produce stove polish while Meyer sold it at a substantial profit. Within four years Meyer made enough money on his peddling business, stove polish, and a product called "coffee essence" to marry and open a grocery store.

During the American Civil War (18611865) Meyer speculated successfully in supplies required by the Union troops and began to accumulate a comfortable nest egg. His subsequent business ventures in spices, lye (needed for the manufacture of soap), railroads, and imported Swiss lace and embroidery were each more successful than the last. By 1880, a little more than thirty years after arriving penniless in the United States, Meyer had put together an $800,000 bank account.

As a teenager, Daniel Guggenheim, the second son in a family of eleven children, was sent to Switzerland to learn the lace and embroidery business. Like his brothers, he later joined the family embroidery and lace importing firm, M. Guggenheim's Sons. Beginning in the early 1880s Meyer began to invest money in two Leadville, Colorado, lead and silver mines. According to Guggenheim family biographer, John H. Davis, the mining operation hit a great silver lode in 1881. The strike produced nine million ounces of silver and 86,000 tons of lead by 1887, earning Meyer Guggenheim about $750,000 per year. Meyer closed the embroidery business and invested everything he had in mining and the refining of metals. He acquired a smelter and channeled the efforts of his seven sons into the new family enterprise.

Of all the sons, Daniel Guggenheim was the most energetic and ambitious. Together he and his brothers sought to dominate the Western mining industry. Both their mines and the smelter were immensely profitable. But they took no chances. They beat back the railroads on transportation charges, aggressively evicted miners who squatted on their property, and used armed thugs to force striking mineworkers back to work. The brothers also expanded into Mexico, where Guggenheim had managed to obtain a concession for the family to "undertake the exploration and exploitation of any mine they may want to lease or buy." By 1895, due to the great success of the smelters they built in Monterey and Aquascalientes, the Guggenheim family established a strong industrial presence in Mexico.

In 1891 the Guggenheims formed a trust, the Colorado Smelting and Refining Company, to consolidate their various enterprises. They were now faced with competition for control of the U.S. mining industry. A rival trust, the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), was formed with the financial backing of the Rockefellers. Daniel Guggenheim led his brothers in several battles for power against the new trust. By 1901 he won the struggle. The Guggenheim family assumed control of ASARCO and achieved dominance over the U.S. mining industry, including its largest metal-processing plants, for the next two decades.

Until 1919 Daniel Guggenheim was chairman of the board and president of ASARCO. He convinced financiers J. P. Morgan (18371913) and Jacob Schiff (18471920) to form a syndicate to mine the great copper deposits at Kennecott Creek in Alaska. By the end of 1912 the Kennecott copper mine had paid dividends of $3 million to Morgan, Schiff, and the Guggenheim family. Meanwhile the Guggenheims were mining tin in Bolivia, diamonds in Africa, and copper in Utah. Their worldwide domination of the mineral industry gave them great international power. It was said that Daniel Guggenheim could make or break a government with one telegram.

Because the family controlled so many essential natural resources the Guggenheims emerged from World War I (19141918) with a fortune estimated between $250 million to $300 million, enough to rank them second only to the Rothschilds as the richest Jewish family in the world. In 1923, although the brothers no longer involved in the day-to-day administration of ASARCO, the family still controlled vast international holdings. They sold a large copper mine in Chile to the Anaconda Copper Corporation for $70 million in cash, the largest private sale of a mining property in world history at that time. With that sale the surviving Guggenheim brothers retired from active business and turned to philanthropy.

By the last half of the twentieth century the scale of the family's charitable activities through their various foundations became their greatest legacy. Medicine, education, and the arts all benefited from their largesse. Among them was the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation, established in 1924 to advance the "well-being of mankind throughout the world." The Foundation supported Robert Goddard's work on the development of liquid-propelled rockets and established many research centers and scholarly activities concerned with the aerospace sciences and exploration. Daniel Guggenheim died in 1930, a successful businessman who led his family to success in American industry.


Davis, John. The Guggenheims: An American Epic. New York: William Morrow, 1978.

Hoyt, Edwin P., Jr. The Guggenheims and the American Dream. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1967.

Lomask, Milton. Seed Money: The Guggenheim Story. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1964.

O'Connor, Harvey. The Guggenheims: The Making of an American Dynasty. New York: Covici, Friede, 1937.

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