NCW: The Phelps Dodge Corporation Commissions

The Hercules Powder Company magazine, Explosives Engineer, and the Phelps Dodge Corporation copper mines commission of 1923.

In March, 1923, the Hercules Powder Company, located in Wilmington, Delaware, published its inaugural issue of Explosives Engineer, a trade magazine for the explosives industry engaged in mining and construction activities. Pages 13 – 16 featured the following oil paintings of anthracite miners from Pennsylvania by William Davidson White. These images are reproduced with permission from the Dyno Nobel Corporation. Below: In the Pennsylvania Anthracite Field.

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W. D. White, as he signed his paintings, was 26 years old at the time of publication. It is unknown whether White made these paintings on his own initiative, or whether Hercules commissioned the work. Regardless, they caught the attention of Percy G. Beckett, General Manager of the Phelps Dodge Corporation in Douglas, Arizona. Beckett invited White to spend several weeks in the summer of 1923 documenting the activities of the open pit copper miners at Sacramento Hill in Bisbee, Arizona and at Nacozari in Sonora, Mexico. As a result, White created 17 oil paintings for the Phelps Dodge Corporation which were donated by Percy Beckett in 1958 and are currently displayed at the University of Arizona Mineral Museum at Flandrau Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.  These paintings, and others, were reproduced in five subsequent issues of Explosives Engineer. Below: Workers on Sacramento Hill, February, 1924, pages 49-52, with credit to the Phelps Dodge Corporation.

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Below: Mining Men of the West, July, 1924, pages 231-234. No credit is given to Phelps Dodge; however, A Machine Man (page 32) and Muckers (page 33) are included in the Phelps Dodge collection at the University of Arizona.


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Below: Copper Miners of the Southwest, November, 1924, pages 387-390, with credit to P. G. Beckett and Phelps Dodge.

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It should also be noted that in 1935 White was offered a second commission by Louis Shattuck Cates, who became President of the Phelps Dodge Corporation in 1930. None of the resulting six paintings was published in Explosives Engineer magazine; however, the paintings are currently displayed in the Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum in Jerome, Arizona.

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