Homecoming and New Horizons
Mary returned to La Salle from Germany during the summer of 1886. By this time, her father’s company had grown substantially since its founding nearly three decades earlier. In 1888 M&H was reported to be the largest zinc smelting operation in the United States. In addition to the production of zinc, the company now manufactured sulfuric acid and sulfate of soda. In order to handle its high production, it employed between 700 and 800 men, and Hegeler’s net worth was estimated at $10 million (over $200 million in today’s dollars). Mary, who was now a highly qualified engineer, was given a central role in the management of the vibrant company. At the relatively young age of 25, she was appointed to serve on the company’s board of directors.
M&H was not the only thing occupying Mr. Hegeler’s time and interest. During the same summer of Mary’s return, he was busy planning a new endeavor that derived from his passion in the sciences but also from his deeply held religious beliefs dating back to his youth. He wanted to use some of his wealth to fund the publication of an intellectual periodical in which he could give voice to his religious perspective and greater philosophic worldview. To this end he began the Open Court Publishing Company. Its first publication was the semimonthly The Open Court, the first issue of which appeared in January 1887. The Open Court went on to have a long and prestigious existence publishing original monographs, translations of canonical religious and philosophic texts, and the two periodicals The Open Court and The Monist. Many leading theologians, philosophers, and scientists published with the Open Court over the years.
The long time editor-in-chief of the Open Court was the German-American immigrant and doctor of philosophy Paul Carus. Carus had arrived in La Salle to begin editorial work in March 1887. He and Hegeler shared a close kinship of philosophical worldviews from the beginning of their relationship. Mary would discover that she too had a close connection to Carus. When Paul arrived, Mary started assisting him with his English. The two highly educated individuals were compatible on an intellectual level. Both had studied at German universities, and they likely discussed such topics as the role of higher education in society and the differences between the American and European systems. (Carus had recently published an article entitled “Defects of the American University System.”) In little time Mary and Paul became romantically involved, and the couple married on 29 March 1888.