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Henry Frick

Tour Clayton, the Gilded Age home of the Henry Clay Frick Family

This tour introduces you to the Frick family and their home on Pittsburgh’s Millionaire Row from 1882-1905. See the Dining Room, Parlor and Reception Room as well as private spaces such as the family bedrooms and bathrooms. 

Radio broadcasting during the era of recovery from the Great Depression was a critical factor in that recovery. The early Radio networks were recovering as well. Cash-strapped and low on capital, the networks of the era turned more and more to independent programming producers to meet the Nation’s voracious appetite for new and unique Radio entertainment. The mid-1930’s found more networks extending their programming around the clock, commencing as early as 5:00 a.m. and broadcasting as late as midnight to 1:00 a.m. in most metropolitan areas of the country. The increase in demand combined with longer and more regular programming schedules presented even greater opportunities to a growing number of independent transcription houses. The mid-1930’s also saw a great deal of consolidation in transcription houses–on the east and west coasts, in particular. Here’s a representative list of the independent and network transcription houses throughout 1934.

Henry Clay Frick (December 19, 1849 – December 2, 1919)

He was an American industrialistfinancier, and art patron. He founded the H. C. Frick & Company cokemanufacturing company, was chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, and played a major role in the formation of the giant U.S. Steel steel manufacturing concern. He also financed the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Company, and owned extensive real estate holdings in Pittsburgh and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. He later built the historic neoclassical Frick Mansion (now a landmark building in Manhattan) and at his death donated his extensive collection of old masterpaintings and fine furniture to create the celebrated Frick Collection and art museum. Once known by his critics as “the most hated man in America,” — Portfolio.comnamed Frick one of the “Worst American CEOs of All Time” — he has long been vilified by the public and historians for his ruthlessness and lack of morality in business.

H. C. Frick and Andrew Carnegie

Shortly after marrying his wife, Adelaide, in 1881, Frick met Andrew Carnegie in New York City while the Fricks were on their honeymoon. This meeting resulted in a partnership between H. C. Frick & Company and Carnegie Steel Company, and was the predecessor to United States Steel. This partnership ensured that Carnegie’s steel mills had adequate supplies of coke. Frick became chairman of the company. Carnegie made multiple attempts to force Frick out of the company they had created by making it appear that the company had nowhere left to go and that it was time for Frick to retire. Despite the contributions Frick had made towards Andrew Carnegie’s fortune, Carnegie disregarded him in many executive decisions including finances.

The Johnstown Flood

At the suggestion of his friend Benjamin Ruff, Frick helped to found the exclusive South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club high above Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The charter members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were Benjamin Ruff; T. H. Sweat, Charles J. Clarke, Thomas Clark, Walter F. Fundenberg, Howard Hartley, Henry C. Yeager, J. B. White, Henry Clay Frick, E. A. Meyers, C. C. Hussey, D. R. Ewer, C. A. Carpenter, W. L. Dunn, W. L. McClintock, and A. V. Holmes. The sixty-odd club members were the leading business tycoons of Western Pennsylvania, and included among their number Frick’s best friend, Andrew Mellon, his attorneys Philander Knox and James Hay Reed, as well as Frick’s occasional business partnerAndrew Carnegie. The club members made inadequate repairs to what was at that time the world’s largest earthen dam, behind which formed a private lake called Lake Conemaugh. Less than 20 miles (32 km) downstream from the dam sat the city of Johnstown. Cambria Iron Company operated a large iron and steel work in Johnstown and its owner, Daniel J. Morrell, had little regard as to the safety and thoroughness of the repairs to the dam. Morrell had even sent his own engineer to inspect the site but little was done in the long run to satisfy his concerns and the matter was largely dropped after Morrell’s death in the mid-1880’s. Poor maintenance, unusually high snowmelt and heavy spring rains combined to cause the dam to give way on May 31, 1889, resulting in the Johnstown Flood. When word of the dam’s failure was telegraphed to Pittsburgh, Frick and other members of the club gathered to form the Pittsburgh Relief Committee for assistance to the flood victims, as well as determining never to speak publicly about the club or the flood. This strategy was a success, and Knox and Reed were able to fend off all lawsuits that would have placed blame upon the club’s members. Although Cambria Iron’s facilities were heavily damaged, they returned to full production within a year and a half.

Homestead strike

Frick and Carnegie’s partnership was strained over actions taken in response to the Homestead Steel Strike, an 1892 labor strike at the Homestead Works of the Carnegie Steel Company, called by the Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers Union.  At Homestead, striking workers, some of whom were armed, had locked the company staff out of the factory and surrounded it with pickets. Frick was known for his anti-union policy and as negotiations were still taking place, he ordered the construction of a solid board fence topped with barbed wire around mill property. The workers dubbed the newly fortified mill “Fort Frick.” With the mill ringed by striking workers, Pinkerton agents planned to access the plant grounds from the river. Three hundred Pinkerton detectives assembled on the Davis Island Dam on the Ohio River about five miles (8 km) below Pittsburgh at 10:30 p.m. on the night of July 5, 1892. They were given Winchester rifles, placed on two specially-equipped barges and towed upriver with the object of removing the workers by force. Upon their landing, a large mêlée between workers and Pinkerton detectives ensued. Several men were killed, nine workers among them, and the riot was ultimately quelled only by the intervention of 8,000 armed state militia. Among working-class Americans, Frick’s actions against the strikers were condemned as excessive, and he soon became a target of even more union organizers. Because of this strike, some people think he is depicted as the “rich man” in Maxo Vanka‘s murals in St. Nicholas Croatian Church, but the Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (which works to preserve the artwork) says it depicts Andrew Mellon.

Assassination attempt

Inspired by his lover and lifelong friend, Emma Goldman, the anarchist Alexander Berkman plotted to murder Frick in revenge for the nine steelworkers killed when they were attacked by the Pinkerton detectives hired by Frick to disperse the locked-out workers and allow in strikebreakers. On July 23, 1892, Berkman, armed with a revolver and a sharpened steel file, entered Frick’s office in downtown Pittsburgh.

Berkman’s attempt to assassinate Frick, as illustrated by W. P. Snyder in 1892, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.

Frick, realizing what was happening, attempted to rise from his chair while Berkman pulled a revolver and fired at nearly point-blank range. The bullet hit Frick in the left earlobe, penetrated his neck near the base of the skull, and lodged in his back. The impact knocked Frick down, and Berkman fired again, again striking Frick in the neck and causing him to bleed extensively. Carnegie Steel vice president (later, president) John George Alexander Leishman, who was with Frick, was then able to grab Berkman’s arm and prevented a third shot, saving Frick’s life. Frick was seriously wounded, but rose and (with the assistance of Leishman) tackled his assailant.   All three men crashed to the floor, where Berkman managed to stab Frick four times in the leg with the pointed steel file before finally being subdued by other employees, who had rushed into the office. Frick was back at work in a week; Berkman was charged and found guilty of attempted murder. Berkman’s actions in planning the assassination clearly indicated a premeditated intent to kill, and he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.  He eventually served a total of fourteen years, and under pressure from supporters in the labor movement, including the forming of The Berkman Defense Association, was pardoned in 1906. Negative publicity from the attempted assassination resulted in the collapse of the strike.  Approximately 2,500 men lost their jobs, and most of the workers who stayed had their wages halved. ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.