John Stanton, through persistence, high moral character, and attention to detail, achieved a place of high regard in the U.S. copper industry. Starting with small ventures in the eastern United States and moving on to moderately profitable copper mining in Ducktown, Tennessee, Stanton finally experienced great success on Michigan’s Copper Range. He was a co-founder of the long-lived Copper Range Company and was recognized as one of the ablest mining engineers and best authorities on mining in the country.
John Stanton’s father was a Welsh colliery owner, who came to the United States in 1835 and initially engaged in coal mining in Pennsylvania. Young John gained practical mining experience under his father’s guidance, starting at an iron mine in Dover, New Jersey in 1848. John turned to copper in 1852, and in Maryland, he was incorporator, secretary, and part owner of the Carroll Copper Mining Company. In Ducktown, Tennessee prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, he invested with some success in the Isabella and Eureka mines.
In 1863, John Stanton made his first investment in Michigan copper, and his Central mine was one of the district’s first success stories. He organized the Atlantic Mining Company in the 1870s, the first significant step in opening the district’s South Range mines. In the 1880s and 1890s, he and Joseph Gay brought the Wolverine and Mohawk mines to profitability. The Atlantic and other Stanton mines were known for efficient mining of low-grade ores, and Stanton gained an almost legendary reputation as a mining entrepreneur.
Capping off his Michigan career, John Stanton worked with William Paine at the turn of the century to consolidate the Copper Range Company. Now controlling nine mining companies representing some 30% of Michigan copper production, they then formed the Michigan Smelting Company and erected modern reverberatory furnaces to smelt their ores. In 1904, production exceeded 62 million pounds of Lake Copper. The Copper Range Company would prove to be John Stanton’s greatest corporate achievement, outliving all other historic Michigan copper companies and eventually developing the famous White Pine Mine.
In addition to his notable companies in Michigan, John Stanton had large mining interest in Colorado and Arizona. In 1876, he participated in the founding of the new York Mining Stock Exchange and became its first president. In 1892, he helped organize the Copper Producers Association and served as its president until his death.
Throughout his career “Honest John” Stanton was respected as a “man of great shrewdness, combined with a high regard for right in both method and detail of action.” The Engineering and Mining Journal’s apt 1892 description concludes, “Mr. Stanton possesses a strong, sterling character, clear business insight, and marked and acknowledged executive ability.”