John Hays Hammond, a gold specialist and one of the most celebrated mining engineers in history, became a legend in the African gold fields.
He spent years working in Africa, first for the DeBeer diamond mines, then for Cecil Rhodes at Consolidated Gold Fields. It was while working for Rhodes that he achieved his world-wide reputation as an engineer. At one point, the Boers condemned him to be hanged for his alleged part in Dr. Jameson’s Raid, an incident leading up to the Boer War. He was saved from the gallows when the U.S. Senate petitioned the Boer leader for mercy, though Hammond was not released until Rhodes paid a fine of $125,000.
In 1902, he was hired by Daniel Guggenheim for a staggering $250,000 a year plus a quarter interest in all properties he recommended. He immediately left for Mexico where he pushed for acquisition of the Esperanza, Mexico’s greatest gold mine. It was the first of many properties to come under Guggenheim rule during Hammond’s regime. Others included most of Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene mines and smelters on Puget Sound, in Tacoma, San Francisco and Illinois. He pushed for the building of the monster copper smelter at Garfield, Utah, said to be the largest on earth. Lead, silver and copper mines in Mexico, rubber plantations in the Congo, and gold and diamond properties in Africa were all acquired. Under his leadership, Guggenheim Exploration entered the Yukon with giant dredges.
President Taft named Hammond Special Representative at the coronation of King George V in London,and in 1929, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers awarded him its highest honor; the William Lawrence Saunders Medal.