Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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MACKAY, John William, capitalist, born in Dublin, Ireland, 28 November, 1831. He is of Scotch-Irish descent, and came with his parents in 1840 to New York, where his father died soon after their arrival. Young Mackay obtained a public-school education, and was apprenticed to the trade of ship-building. On the discovery of gold in California he went with the crowd that was then thronging to the Pacific, and lived a miner's life for several years, with varying fortunes, acquiring a perfect command of the technical and practical knowledge of mining. Before he was thirty years old he had made and lost a small fortune. In 1860 Mackay left California for Nevada, where he has since made his home. In Nevada his fortunes slowly and steadily improved, and he became a leader of men among the rough spirits that formed the mining community. He was a man of rigidly temperate habits, which saved him from the misfortunes that attended so many in the early mining days. In 1872 he was among the discoverers of the Bonanza mines, on a ledge of rock in the Sierra Nevadas, under what is now Virginia City. The discovery of their vast deposits of silver and gold is the most noted and perhaps the most romantic incident in mining history. It changed the face of the silver markets of the world, and to nations like India and China became an important and embarrassing factor in modern political economy. The mines that came within the Bonanza designation were owned by John W. Mackay, James C. Flood, James G. Fair, afterward senator from Nevada, and William O'Brien. Of this interest Mr. Mackay owned two fifths--double that of any of his partners, in 1873 the great silver vein was opened, and from one mine alone Mr. Mackay and Mr. Fair, the practical mining members of the Bonanza firm, took out $150,000,000 in silver and gold. In 1875 the working of the mines was interrupted by a fire, but the owners continued to pay dividends in order that the share-holders, many of whom were their workingmen, should not lose their income. During the active yield of the mines Mr. Mackay devoted himself personally to their superintendence, working in the lower levels as an ordinary miner. In 1878, with Mr. Flood and Mr. Fair, he founded the Bank of Nevada, with its headquarters in San Francisco. Mr. Mackay has spent some time in Europe for the education of his children, and, although he has a special interest in the study of art, he has maintained his active and personal interest in mining. His firm are understood to control the principal mines on the Comstock lode. In 1884 Mr. Mackay, in partnership with James Gordon Bennett, laid two cables across the Atlantic from the United States to England and France. These cables are under a system known as the Commercial cable company, although the private property of Mr. Mackay and Mr. Bennett. In 1885 Mr. Mackay was offered the nomination as United States senator from Nevada, under circumstances that would have made his election virtually unanimous, but he refused, as his private business rendered, in his opinion, a useful public life impossible. He has been liberal in his donations to charities, and among other gifts to the Roman Catholic church, of which he is a member, has founded an orphan asylum in Nevada City.
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