Henry Clay Frick 'Respected and Hated'
Leonard, Kim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Henry Clay Frick's lasting imprint on Pittsburgh's growth, and on its steel and coal industries and the nation's labor movement, remains a matter for debate 88 years after his death.
"So many people see him in different ways," said August R. Carlino, whose Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area runs tours of sites from the 1892 Homestead steelworkers' strike.
"A successful capitalist, a person who was unconcerned with the work-safety conditions and lives of people employed by him," Carlino said. "He is a man who is both respected and hated, depending on the group you talk to."
Born Dec. 19, 1849, in West Overton in Westmoreland County, Frick borrowed money at age 21 for a venture to turn coal into the coke used in steelmaking. His H.C. Frick & Co. grew to 1,000 employees and partnered in 1881 with Andrew Carnegie's steel business, though the events at Homestead soured their relationship.
Striking Carnegie Steel Co. workers and supporters overtook the factory. Frick hired 300 armed Pinkerton guards who landed by barge at the plant on July 6, 1892, and seven workers and three guards died before state militia ended the battle.
Though Carnegie had told him to end the strike, Frick was criticized for his union-busting tactics. Anarchist Alexander Berkman attacked him on July 23, 1892, at his Downtown office, and Frick survived being shot twice and stabbed. …