The World's Richest Neighborhood: How Pittsburgh's East Enders Forged American Industry

The World's Richest Neighborhood: How Pittsburgh's East Enders Forged American Industry

The World's Richest Neighborhood: How Pittsburgh's East Enders Forged American Industry

The World's Richest Neighborhood: How Pittsburgh's East Enders Forged American Industry

Excerpt

For thirty years I have been researching and writing a literary pantheon of American industrialists. These industrial “gods” have included George Westinghouse, Henry Clay Frick, William McGuffey, H. J. Heinz, William McKinley, Edward D. Libbey, Andrew Carnegie, Michael Owens, and others. As I filled these seats with biographies, a number of issues and questions arose. They were not saints but had the same human faults as all of us that money only magnified. They were often much like us; still, they stood out among the robber barons of the Gilded Age (some might say the best of the worst). This Pantheon of greatness was, however, meant to be an example of the best of capitalism and social responsibility for the students at the university. The marriage of the two makes the pantheon uniquely American. They were not the scammers of today, so often seen on the news. They were not financial men but manufacturers who profited from the making of things. An in-depth look at their lives reveals the complexity that would make sitting in the judgment seat a difficult task. They professed strong beliefs and ideals, whatever their shortcomings. As I searched for these ideals, a high percentage of these men were coming from one Pittsburgh suburb — the East End. What did they have in common? A number of factors emerged. Many were Scotch–Irish, and certainly Scotch–Irish values are a common thread even among those of non-Scotch–Irish backgrounds. These values included a thrifty style of living, an assumed responsibility to give back to the community, and a disciplined life. With a few exceptions, they rose from rags to riches. Many were Freemasons, as was common among the Scotch–Irish, and many were Presbyterians. Most believed in the Presbyterian and Scotch–Irish concept of the absolute property rights of individuals. All or most all were Whigs or Republicans. Most were from abolitionist families. Still, the factor that seems most dominant among these self-made men was a geographical location; and that location was Pittsburgh’s East End. Geography can account for almost all of the other factors.

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