Robert C. Stanley was the driving force that built Inco into the largest nickel company in the world and one of the world’s most successful mining and metallurgical enterprises. Sudbury, Ontario, with a complex developed around eight mines, and Thompson, Manitoba, with its large mining and processing complex, are two of a number of communities whose fortunes have gone hand in hand with those of Inco.
Robert Stanley’s career began in 1910 when he joined a predecessor company of Inco, Orford Copper Company; by 1918, he was vice-president of all operations of International Nickel; in 1922, he became Inco’s president and in 1937, chairman of the board. In 1949, he relinquished the presidency but remained chairman of the board, a post he held when he died at his home on Staten Island, New York on February 12, 1951 at the age of 74.
In his 50-year career, nickel – originally a metallurgical problem-child with limited markets reached world-wide importance and Inco became the world’s largest nickel company.
Robert Crooks Stanley was born in Little Falls, New Jersey in 1876 and received a mechanical engineering degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1899. From the Columbia School of Mines he received a degree in mine engineering in 1901. As his career unfolded, a host of honourary degrees followed from educational institutions including Stevens Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Queens University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
A significant sidelight on the Inco story was the company’s response to the collapse of nickel markets at the end of the World War I. In the years before World War I, nickel was used largely as an alloy in the manufacture of armour plate, a market that practically disappeared when the war ended. Under Stanley’s direction, Inco formed the Development and Research division – essentially to find new markets for nickel. It did just that. Literally thousands of new commercial, peacetime applications were developed. This effort illustrated what research could accomplish in the industrial world and became an R&D trail blazer.
Mr. Stanley’s scientific approach to problem solving achieved many firsts in the industry. In 1905, he discovered Monel and in 1925, he patented an improved production process for it. His contribution to metallurgy included important advances in ore roasting techniques. In 1920, he patented a refining process that became the basis for recovering nickel by electrolytic refining.
His interests went beyond nickel. In 1904, his examination and report on silver discoveries at the northern end of Lake Timiskaming led to the development of the Nipissing Mine, the first important mine in the Cobalt area. His report on one of the properties in the Porcupine was a determining factor in the purchase of the famous Dome Mine in what is now Timmins, Ontario.
While “work not words” was the guiding principle of Robert Crooks Stanley, he was, nevertheless, a keen fisherman with a preference for salmon.