Andrew Mellon Inspired Industrial Empires

Article excerpt

Andrew W. Mellon, who for almost 40 years led the banking empire that bore his family's name, played a major role in Pittsburgh's industrial economy in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"He is certainly as important, or more important, than (steel magnate Andrew) Carnegie. Carnegie founded big steel mills, but Mellon founded many other industries," said David Hounshell, the David M. Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change in Carnegie Mellon University's history department.

"He was the quintessential venture capitalist. Through Mellon Bank or Union Trust, he picked the winners," Hounshell said.

Those "winners" made Pittsburgh one of the nation's richest industrial areas.

Under Mellon's leadership, the bank helped to fund or found key companies in the region. Mellon funded the Pittsburgh Reduction Co,'s venture into aluminum. It was renamed the Aluminum Company of America, now Alcoa. Mellon backed Carborundum, the Koppers Co., which made coke ovens, and Crucible Steel, Union Steel, Standard Steel Car and Gulf Oil Corp.

"He headquartered all his companies in Pittsburgh. He moved Koppers from Chicago to Pittsburgh," Hounshell said. When asked why Gulf Oil was not located near the Texas oil fields, Mellon said he loved Pittsburgh and wanted his companies headquartered here, Hounshell said. …