Walter P. Douglas, President of Phelps-Dodge Corporation

Walter P. Douglas, President of Phelps-Dodge Corporation

This portrait is from the Historical Photograph Collection at the Arizona State Archives Web site,

Born December 18, 1870, in Quebec, Canada. Died October 3, 1946.

Walter P. Douglas was the son of Dr. James Douglas, the developer of the Copper Queen Mine. He was naturalized in 1913 and attended the Columbia University School of Mines, arrived in Prescott as an engineer in 1890, and in 1901, at age thirty-one, he was appointed General Manager of the Copper Queen Mine, property of Phelps-Dodge Corporation, the dominant mine in the Bisbee area.

One of the most powerful men in Arizona, he and his family owned controlling interest in a number of Arizona newspapers, railroads, and banks, as well as mines. He was deeply secretive and his name was rarely seen in print. Unlike his father, who was concerned with the technical side of mining and inclined to labor-management cooperation, Walter had strong organizational and executive skills and was the prime force behind the 1915 corporate counteroffensive to the progressive coalition which had dominated early Arizona politics. He and his newspapers were instrumental in the unsuccessful campaign to recall progressive Gov. Hunt in 1915. He regarded ridding the state of organized labor as a crusade, and united mine management behind that goal, which culminated in the 1917 deportations of strikers in Jerome and Bisbee. It is believed that he attacked the IWW, the most radical of the unions, as a way of destroying the more moderate AFL unions.

The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 is widely believed to be his work, although he remained behind the scenes. The twenty-three cattle cars waiting to carry away the strikers belonged to his railway and he was the presumable source of the arsenal handed out to vigilantes. He was indicted by the federal government, along with 224 others, for conspiracy and kidnapping, but the charges were dropped.

After breaking the back of labor with the deportation, he broke ranks with management by creating a company union at the United Verde Mine in Jerome, owned by his brother, Rawhide Jimmy. In 1930, he was forced to retire due to poor health. He maintained homes in both Phoenix and New York, and died in Chauncey, New York.

[Sources: James W. Byrkit. Forging the copper collar: Arizona's labor management war of 1901-1921. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1982; John S. Goff, Arizona Biographical Dictionary. Cave Creek, AZ: Black Mountain Press, 1983.]