World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

William Cornell Greene


William Cornell Greene

William Cornell Greene
Born (1852-08-26)August 26, 1852
Duck Creek, Wisconsin
Died August 5, 1911(1911-08-05) (aged 58)
Cananea, Sonora, Mexico
Nationality American
Other names Colonel W. C. Greene
Occupation Businessman
Known for Cooper Mining Venture
William C. Greene addresses striking miners in Cananea, 1906. Photo courtesy SMU.

William Cornell Greene (August 26, 1852 - August 5, 1911) was an American businessman, who was famous for discovering rich copper reserves in Cananea, Mexico and founded the Greene Consolidated Copper Company in 1899. By 1905, William Greene was one of the wealthiest businessmen in the world.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Copper magnate 3
  • Cananea copper bubble 4
  • Career end 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Greene was born in Duck Creek, Wisconsin, on August 26, 1852. He was a son of Eleanor Cornell and Townsend Greene. He was educated at private schools and at the Chappaqua Mountain Institute in Chappaqua, New York.


Greene started off as a clerk for O. H. Angevin & Co. where he worked for three years before heading out to the western United States as a surveying party member of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He left the Railroad and then in 1870 staked out the site of Fargo, North Dakota before becoming involved with various businesses. He worked in both mining and cattle-raising industries across the southwest which included Montana, Colorado, Arizona, and Mexico.

Most notable is that William led an adventurous life while prospecting and ranching in the southwestern United States and Mexico. He was reported to have had numerous encounters with local native tribes and outlaws that roamed the areas where he prospected.

Copper magnate

On September 15, 1899, William founded the Greene Consolidated Copper Company to develop copper rich resources he discovered near Cananea, Mexico.[1] Greene Consolidated became in a very short time one of the richest sources of copper ore in the world, with an average output over 70 million pounds per year. Accordingly, Greene himself soon became one of the wealthiest businessmen in the United States and based on his success soon created a number of other ventures; the Pacific Coast Coal Company, Greene Consolidated Gold Company, and the Cananea Railroad Company, Sierra Madre Land and Lumber Company, as well as many others. None of his other ventures ever produced the wealth found in the copper mines of Cananea.

Cananea copper bubble

The Lawson Panic of 1904 and mining strikes two years later were the beginning of the end for Greene Consolidated. The panic, started by Thomas Lawson, a popular investor and writer of his day, created a selling frenzy on Wall Street that sent the price of shares spiraling down. There was some recovery to the share price but the situation worsened in May 1906 when the company was under siege by hostile miners unhappy about unequal pay.[2] There was a call for help, and Greene Consolidated was quickly supported by the local Sonoran rurales as well as by the Arizona Rangers who entered Sonora against orders.[3]

In addition to the troubles with miners, many of Greene’s backers in New York began to turn on him. They began to sell their shares which sent his stock price lower. Still, it was not until his own overspending in related businesses, combined with the aggressive business tactics of rival business men and competitors, forced Greene to succumb. In 1906 with dwindling finances and nowhere else to turn, he sold Greene Consolidated to Thomas F. Cole, John D. Ryan, and Amalgamated Copper.[1]

Career end

After selling Greene Consolidated, Greene was forced out of daily operations of the mine. He disappeared from society for the most part and lived a quiet life in Cananea until his death on August 5, 1911 as a result of pneumonia which was induced by an accident which overtook him several days before.[4] At his funeral, and after the religious service in his home, the coffin was loaded onto his private train and was brought to Los Angeles, California. In 1918, Charlie Wiswall, Greene’s general business manager and regarded as a man of "great heart," married the widowed Mary. The marriage was performed with a prenuptial agreement that Wiswall not have access to the assets of the estate and that he would be considered a permanent employee of Greene Emporium. Wiswall died in 1953 and Mary in 1955; Greene’s son, William, was determined to bring his father’s remains to Cananea, where he was buried in the heart of the city’s cemetery in 1956.[5]


  1. ^ a b "THE CAREER AND FINAL COLLAPSE OF A COPPER KING; Five Years Ago Col. Greene's Cananea Mine Ranked Among the World's Greatest Copper Producers. Then Came Panic, Dramatic Struggle, and To-day the Daring Miner Is a Recluse in Mexico. The Career and Final Collapse of a Copper King" New York Times November 1, 1908
  2. ^ "ARMED AMERICANS AT GREENE'S MINE; Rushed Into Mexico from Arizona Against Gov. Kibbey's Orders. TAFT HOLDS UP U.S. TROOPS Cavalry from Huachuca Stopped at the Frontier – Only Two Americans Killed in Riots" New York Times June 3, 1906
  3. ^ "WENT AGAINST ORDERS; Governor of Arizona Warned Capt. Rynning and Other Americans" New York Times June 3, 1906
  4. ^ "Thousand View Col. Greene’s Body." New York Times August 8, 1911
  5. ^ [1] Greene's Grave in Cananea

Further reading

  • Charles Leland Sonnichsen, Colonel Greene and the Copper Skyrocket : The Spectacular Rise and Fall of William Cornell Greene Copper King, Cattle Baron and Promoter, Arcadia Publishing, 1974, ISBN 0-8165-0429-6 ISBN 9780816504299.
  • Miller, Joseph, editor, The Arizona Rangers, Hastings House, 1975, hardcover, 268 pages, ISBN 0-8038-0353-2
  • O'Neal, Bill, The Arizona Rangers, Eakin Press, 1987, ISBN 0-89015-610-7
  • Zimmerman, David A., "Panic! Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction", Chapel Hill, 2006, ISBN 0-8078-3023-2, ISBN 0-8078-5687-8

External links

  • Prominent Americans
  • The O RO Ranch History
  • Greene Cattle Company Collection
  • Colonel William C. Greene and the Cananea Copper Bubble
  • History of Cananea in Mexico (Spanish language)
  • National Mining Hall of Fame: Colonel William C. Greene, accessed 20 May 2009,
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.