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Kruttschnitt, Julius (1885–1974)

by J. R. Hopper and A. J. Lynch

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Julius Kruttschnitt (1885-1974), mining executive, was born on 7 May 1885 in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America, son of Julius Kruttschnitt, railway engineer and his wife Wilhelmina, née Kock. Educated initially at Belmont, California, he went on to Yale University (B.Phil., 1906) and, after a year of postgraduate work, took up an appointment as a mine surveyor with the Arizona Copper Co. He joined the mining department of the American Smelting & Refining Co. as superintendent of the Reforma lead-mine in Mexico. He moved later to Asientos to superintend a silver-mine. Years later, his Spanish-style house at Mount Isa was named Casa Grande, probably commemorating his Latin American sojourn.

Recalled to U.S.A. to manage the company's mining department of the south-west with headquarters in Arizona, he was responsible for mine examination, exploration and operation over a wide area. In September 1930 Kruttschnitt accepted appointment as general manager of Mount Isa Mines Ltd, Queensland, arriving in December. He wrote later: 'To my consternation I found on my arrival a condition bordering on bankruptcy with creditors being importuned to await a none-too-certain influx of capital'. The financial situation and serious technical problems presented a challenge to the quietly spoken American, particularly since his directors were pressing for early production. Additional financial backing came from the American Smelting & Refining Co. and by July 1931 the mine and smelters were producing their first lead bullion. Although the operation showed a profit by 1937, no dividend was paid until 1947.

Kruttschnitt joined Mount Isa Mines long before the days of air-conditioning but he always dressed immaculately in a suit and tie even in very high temperatures. J.K., as he was known, even wore a tie when playing golf. With a high level of financial and technical skills Kruttschnitt, though small in stature, commanded respect. Remarkably in tune with the community, he involved himself in a wide range of social and sporting activities. While seeking to restore the ailing mining company, he showed an interest in the welfare of miners and their families, particularly in housing. The unique Mount Isa tent house, initially a tent to which was added a corrugated iron wall designed to create a ventilation channel, was developed while Kruttschnitt was general manager.

In 1931 Kruttschnitt was appointed a director of Mount Isa Mines Ltd and he became chairman in 1937. He retired as chairman in 1953 but stayed on the board until 1967. During his twenty-two years at Mount Isa he held other directorates with Big Bell Mines Ltd, Anglo-Westralian Mining Pty Ltd, the Mining Trust Ltd, New Guinea Goldfields Ltd and several other companies. For fourteen years he was president of the Queensland Chamber of Mines and was president of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in 1939 and 1952. In 1962 the English Institute of Mining and Metallurgy awarded him its gold medal. He was awarded the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy's medal in 1946 in recognition of his outstanding services to the industry in Australia. He was also a member of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. In 1953-60 Kruttschnitt was a member of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission's advisory committee on uranium mining. He was a board-member of the faculty of engineering at the University of Queensland in 1954-62 and was granted an honorary doctorate of engineering in 1971. In the same year Mount Isa Mines Ltd presented the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre to the university in his honour.

On 24 September 1907 in San Francisco, California, Kruttschnitt had married Marie Rose Pickering (d.1940); they had two sons and two daughters. On 3 June 1944 at Cloncurry, he married his secretary Edna May Roger, née Maxted. Shortly before his death he visited Mount Isa and spoke to senior students of the high school. 'Although he was by now a frail old man approaching 90', an observer commented, 'Dr Kruttschnitt held the normally restless teenagers spellbound for more than half an hour as he talked to them about mining'. He lived in retirement at Indooroopilly within sight of the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre and, predeceased by his wife in 1967, died in St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital on 23 September 1974. He was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Blainey, Mines in the Spinifex (Syd, 1960)
  • Courier Mail, 5 Feb 1944, 5 May 1960, 15 May 1967, 11 Sept 1968, 24 Sept 1974
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 10 May 1971, 24 Sept 1974
  • Sunday Mail, color magazine, 6 Jan 1974.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

J. R. Hopper and A. J. Lynch, 'Kruttschnitt, Julius (1885–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kruttschnitt-julius-7001/text12171, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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