Henry Clay Frick
In this paper I am going to talk about how Henry Clay Frick was an important man to our history and some things that he contributed. Not only was he a successful industrialist, but an art patron and a philanthropist. He was one of the most important people that helped put Pittsburgh on the map.
It all started in a small town in Westmoreland county called West Overton. He was born in 1849 into a wealthy family not his parents but his grandfather had some money. His grandfather was Abraham Overholt, who was a wealthy rye whiskey distiller. As he was growing up his grandfather gave him a job as a bookkeeper. And that was the job that made him want to become a wealthy man in his future.
It didn’t take long either Henry with an entrepreneurial spirit became the largest producer of coke from coal. By the time he was thirty he was already a millionaire and this caught the eye of another important Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie looked at Frick, as a man that could really help him out since coke was a key ingredient in the making of steel. This led to Carnegie bringing Frick into his company Carnegie Brothers and Company, and this assured him of having a constant supply of coke. After joining up with Carnegie, Frick took and reorganized the world’s largest coke and steel company. But Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie were both aggressive business competitors. The end was near for their partnership because of the twos’ aggressive nature. One of the major problems between Frick and Carnegie began with the 1892 labor strike at the Homestead Works, which was part of Carnegie’s Steel Company. It started because Carnegie wanted to eliminate the unions in his mills, but Frick supported actions that setback the labor movement for decades. The Homestead Works strike didn’t look good for Carnegie because of the death and violence, which had happened, and he tried to avoid any connections with him. The two kept disputing each other which led to Frick resigning form the company in 1899(Warren, 1996).
After the violence at Homestead, Alexander Berkmann, attempted to assassinate Henry Clay Frick in his second floor office in Downtown Pittsburgh. While recovering from his attack at his home his son Clayton died shortly after birth. Frick also didn’t have much public support after the Homestead violence. However after these to instances he gained public sympathy (Warren, 1996).
After his near death experience and fall out with Carnegie Steel Company he continued his business interests in Pittsburgh, New York, and other cities. He formed the St. Clair Steel Company in 1900, with the largest coke works in the world in Clairton. He then played a major role in the formation of United States Steel Corporation, after Carnegie sold his interests in the Carnegie Steel Company in 1901. He then began investing in a large real estate in Downtown Pittsburgh that included the Frick Building, William Penn Hotel, Union Arcade, and the Frick Annex. He also played a major role in the construction of two major building in Downtown Pittsburgh: the Carnegie Building, the first steel skyscraper, and the original Union Trust Company Building in Pittsburgh’s Fourth Avenue Financial District (Schreiner, 1995).
He also started an art collection shortly after he became a millionaire, which he was interested in dating back to his youth. By the beginning of the twentieth century, he had a very significant art collection. He considered building an art museum, to house his works of art, in Frick Park. But he finally decided to move his large collection of artwork to New York City with the family in 1905, ironically to avoid the soot of Pittsburgh’s industries. His art collection serves as the core of the Frick collection, which is housed, in his former New York City mansion. When he died in December of 1919, Henry Clay Frick bequeathed this residence and the works of art for the formation of a public gallery for the purpose of encouraging and developing the study of fine arts (Serrin 1992).
Even though the Frick family moved to New York in 1905, Henry continued his business interests and philanthropy in Pittsburgh. In 1905, $65,000 was still needed to finish the new Allegheny Observatory building, and was needed for the astronomical research to escape the air pollution of the inner city. Henry Clay Frick promised to pay half of the sum if astronomer John. Brashear could find the other half of the amount. In 1909, Henry Clay Frick organized a commission to fund supplemental educational opportunities for public school teachers with John Brashear, and Frick donated $250, 000 to the commission. The commission became permanent in 1916, and it became known as the Henry Clay Frick Educational Commission. In addition to many grants to individual teachers, for special training, the Commission constructed the Henry Clay Frick Training School for Teachers, located just four blocks from the present day site of the Frick Fine Arts Building. In the 1990s, the Henry Clay Frick Educational Commission became the Henry Clay Frick Educational Fund, one of the specially endowed funds of Pittsburgh’s Buhl Foundation (Schreiner 1995).
To end this paper I find it very inspirational that someone that was born less then five minutes from were I lived my whole life did so much to better the people, society, and culture around him. It was just amazing how good he was at everything he did and didn’t fail at all. It just makes me think maybe someday a small town boy like me will think of something to better everything for everyone and become an icon like Henry Clay Frick