He was as enterprising as Huguette was eccentric and profligate.

After briefly studying Greek, Latin and law at Iowa Wesleyan University, he went west to Colorado in search of gold, a five-month, 800-mile trip by ox-drawn carriage.

Later, in Montana, he thrived by selling flour and tobacco, lending money and hauling U.S. mail 450 miles from Western Montana to Walla Walla, in what’s now Washington state.

His foray into copper mining coincided with the advent of the transatlantic cable, telephone, full-metal-jacket bullet and commercially practical incandescent light bulb.

“All of these advances in communication, everyday life, and warfare would depend on W.A. Clark’s copper,” write Dedman and Newell, whose father was Huguette Clark’s first cousin.

Bribery Scandal

The authors describe W.A. as a tough but fair businessman but make no excuses for a bribery scandal behind a bid for U.S. senate. (He resigned but was re-elected.)

After W.A.’s wife died of typhoid fever, a second marriage to a woman 39 years his junior produced Huguette. Since he ran his companies essentially as sole proprietorships, the empire collapsed soon after he died in 1925.

“W.A. failed in succession planning,” Dedman and Newell write. He left his empire in the care of his children.

From her parents Huguette inherited a passion for the arts and patronage, cultivated at New York’s Spence School. She painted, played violin and went on to collect Impressionist masterpiece paintings and Stradivariuses, which along with the real estate proved to be super investments.

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