Biography of Charles W. Merrill
San Francisco, CA Biographies





CHARLES WASHINGTON MERRILL
Holding eminent rank among the mining and metallurgical engineers of California is Charles Washington Merrill of San Francisco, whose reputation has extended far beyond the confines of this state, even into foreign countries, and who is regarded as a foremost authority on the cyanide processes and apparatus for the recovery of precious metals. He is president of the Merrill Company at 343 Sansorne street, and is also an executive and an officer in various other corporations, as noted in a subsequent paragraph.

Mr. Merrill was born in Concord, New Hampshire, on December 21, 1869, and is a son of Sylvester and Clara L. (French) Merrill. He attended the grade and high schools in Alameda, California, then took up his specialized studies in the College of Mining of the University of California, which institution conferred upon him the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1891. After his graduation, he was first connected with the noted old Standard Consolidated mine in Bodie, California, and from there went to the Harqua Hala mine in Arizona, thence to the Montana Mining Company in Marysville, California. In 1899, he became affiliated with the widely known Homestake Mining Company of South Dakota as metallurgist, and in this capacity he manifested the brilliant talents which became the foundation of his future career. He became extensively known by his work, and acquired material prosperity, and his creation of new methods, particularly in the process of extracting gold from the ore, brought to him wide fame. It is an established fact that he added to the value of the effective reserve in the ore property of the Homestake mine alone approximately twenty million dollars.

Nine years after he achieved his success in South Dakota, Mr. Merrill organized the Merrill Company in San Francisco, for the purpose of exploiting his patents in the cyanide process. Since 1909, when these tests started, one improvement has followed another each year, and the Merrill methods of treating ore are now in use throughout the world, wherever mining is conducted. He has over twenty five patents in the United States and foreign countries relative to metallurgical processes and mining apparatus. He has designed, installed and operated many reduction works in the United States, in Canada, and in Mexico. The cyanide process has proved in every instance a workable and practical invention, and has saved the mining companies which have used it untold millions of dollars. By its use, waste tailings and lean gold bearing rock have become valuable ore, and former losses have been converted into material profits.

In addition to the presidency of the Merrill Company, Mr. Merrill is president of the Merco Centrifugal Separator Company, Limited, of San Francisco; and is a director of the Union Dredging Company, the Merco Nordstrom Valve Company, the Alloys Company, and the Merco Nordstrom Manufacturing Company. He was formerly chairman of the California State Mining Board, and is a member of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (vice president, 1924), the Mining and Metallurgical Society of London, the Australian Institute of Mining Engineers, and the Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa. In 1929-30, he was chief of the minerals committee of the California State Chamber of Commerce. One of the greatest honors which has been paid to his achievements was the award in 1924 of the James Douglas medal, the annual award of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers to men who have won international distinction in the industry of mining.

On February 9, 1898, in Alameda, California, Mr. Merrill was united in marriage to Miss Clara Scott Robinson, of Alameda, a daughter of Dr. W. N. and Clara (Hawkins) Robinson. They have become the parents of four children, namely: Beatrice, who is the wife of Charles O. Morse, of Denver; John L., who won the Cecil B. Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, England, in 1924; Gregor C.; and Bruce R. The family home is situated at 2311 Warring street in Berkeley, California.

For many years, Mr. Merrill has been vitally concerned with charitable affairs in San Francisco and vicinity. He was a director of the Oakland Baby Hospital, and was selected as chairman of the executive committee of the San Francisco Community Chest in 1925 for a period of three years. He is a director of the Children's Hospital in Oakland, California, and has in numerous ways lent his cooperation and material aid to civic benefactions and institutions in the bay district. During the period of the United States participation in the World war, he was chief of the division of collateral commodities in the United States Food Administration in Washington, D. C., and in this connection his labors were of prime importance. He worked with Herbert Hoover in the adjustment of the chemical phases of the Food Administration, particularly in the relationship between the different divisions. He won special approbation for his tactful conferences with the dictators of Yucatan, by which he secured the much needed sisal hemp from that country. In 1929-30, Mr. Merrill was vice president of the California Conference of Social Work. Education has always been another favorite subject in his life, and in 1924-25 he was a regent of the University of California. He has always been interested in the student body, and to many young men of ability he has given a helping hand and employment. He was president of the Alumni Association of the University of California in 1924-25, and is a trustee of the Lick School of Mechanical Arts.

Mr. Merrill's religious affiliation is with the Unitarian Church, and in politics he has given his support to the republican party. He has been active in club circles of San Francisco and other cities, now belonging to the University, Engineers, Pacific Union, Commonwealth and Olympic Clubs of San Francisco; the Faculty Club of Berkeley; the Claremont Country Club; the Mount Diablo Country Club of Oakland; the Engineers and Recess Clubs of New York. He also belongs to the Inventors Guild of New York. Mr. Merrill may be considered an exemplary citizen from every standpoint, and one who has "given tireless service for the benefit of humanity, a service that has ever been characterized by the desire for fair play." As such his name is a credit to the history of San Francisco.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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