Spencer Penrose and his partners, Charles Tutt and Charles MacNeill, provided the financial backing that allowed Danial Jackling to pilot test and prove the feasibility of bulk mining low-grade copper ores at Bingham Canyon, Utah. Jackling’s success changed the course of mining history.
Spencer Penrose arrived in Colorado Springs in 1892, broke but not without connections. He hailed from a prominent Philadelphia family, he had a Harvard education, and he had a brother, Dick, who was a geologist. Charles Tutt, also from Philadelphia, had already established a real estate business in Colorado Springs. Tutt invited Penrose to join him. Over the next ten years, the firm of Tutt & Penrose pursued increasingly profitable ventures in the Cripple Creek District, first in mining stock promotion, then in ore buying, then, with Charles MacNeill as their plant-operations man, in ore processing. In 1901, the three partners organized the United States Reduction and Refining Company, capitalized at $13 million, with seven mills processing Cripple Creek ores.
In 1902, MacNeill hired a metallurgist, Daniel Jackling, to work at the partners’ Canon City mill. Jackling had recently studied the vast, low-grade copper deposit at Bingham Canyon. He told anyone who would listen that with half a million dollars he could build a pilot plant that would prove the deposit could be profitably mined. Not many listened, including some prominent mining people, including the Guggenheims, but Penrose, Tutt, and MacNeill listened.
Penrose asked his brother, Dick the geologist, what he thought about Jackling’s idea. Dick Penrose thought it might work. In 1903, Utah Copper Company was formed, with 500,000 shares at $1 per share. Almost all of the shares were taken up by the three partners, their milling company, and Penrose relatives. Jackling had his pilot plant in operation by February 1904. It was an immediate success. Charles Tutt, who wanted to retire, soon sold his shares to Spencer Penrose. The Guggenheims, who had once scorned the project, came on board in 1905 with capital needed for large-scale development.
Spencer Penrose remained Utah Copper’s largest shareholder. From the time Utah Copper began to pay dividends in 1909, he regularly received dividends of more than $1 million per year. He remained on the Board of Directors of Utah Copper until the company was sold to Kennecott Copper in 1923. He was a member of Kennecott’s Board of Directors from that time until his death.
With his great fortune, Spencer Penrose subsequently built the world-famous Broadmoor Hotel, the Pikes Peak Highway, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. He and his wife, Julie, became great benefactors to Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado, establishing in 1937 the El Pomar Foundation, which makes grants to charitable and educational non-profit organizations throughout Colorado.
The role of Penrose, Tutt, and MacNeill at a turning point in mining history can hardly be exaggerated. Relatively unknown at the time, they provided seed money to establish the feasibility of bulk surface mining of low-grade ores.