Frick, Henry Clay

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Frick, Henry Clay

Henry Clay Frick, 1849–1919, American industrialist, b. Westmoreland co., Pa. He worked on his father's farm, was a store clerk, and did bookkeeping before he and several associates organized (1871) Frick & Company to operate coke ovens in the Connellsville coal district. He strengthened his position by buying out competitors during the Panic of 1873 and soon held a key place in the industry.

Andrew Carnegie, in order to control a business so vital to steelmaking, acquired heavy interests in Frick's organization. Frick, in turn, was given large holdings in the Carnegie company, and because of his managerial ability, he was made (1889) chairman of the steel company. He played a key role in the organization (1892) of the Carnegie Steel Company, and as its acting head Frick engineered a large expansion of the company by buying out competing companies and acquiring many holdings in railroad securities and in Lake Superior iron ore lands. Frick, frequently over Carnegie's protest, dealt in strong-handed fashion with the company's workers, and his adamant stand resulted in a pitched battle in the strike (1892) at Homestead, Pa.—one of the bitterest strikes in U.S. history (see Homestead strike). He was largely responsible for the antiunion policy that characterized the steel industry for many decades.

Disputes between Frick and Carnegie led to a struggle between them for control, and in 1899 Frick resigned. He became a director of the U.S. Steel Corp. and turned to other interests, chiefly railroads. His mansion in New York City, together with his art collection and endowment of $15 million, was willed to the public as a museum. Princeton and the city of Pittsburgh also benefited from his philanthropies.

See biography by G. B. M. Harvey (1928).

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