HENRY CLAY FRICK by Jr. Schreiner

HENRY CLAY FRICK

The Gospel of Greed
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A flat account of America's Gilded Age and the life of one of its major players. Frick (18491919) was born to a respectable middle- class farming family in Pennsylvania. He announced at a very young age that he planned to be worth a million dollars before he died, and by the time he was 30, he had more than achieved this early ambition. Frick entered the business world at age 14, working in his uncle's general store. At 17, he moved to the exciting young industrial city of Pittsburgh and became a salesman of trimmings for ladies' apparel, later taking a job as bookkeeper at his grandfather's distillery. It was not until Frick was 21 that he began working toward his financial goal in earnest. He learned of the coke business through his cousin, Abraham Overholt Tintsman, who saw no prospects for the coal by- product. But Frick grasped the potential in coke, which could be used in the steel-making process. Thanks to the railroad boom, steel rails were much in demand--a fact that men like Andrew Carnegie used to their great advantage. Frick convinced his cousin that they should buy more coal land and build more ovens to produce the coke that Carnegie needed, and in 1872 H.C. Frick and Company came into existence. The firm weathered the recession of 1873 and eventually merged with Carnegie's steel works; Frick managed the whole conglomeration. Schreiner (A Place Called Princeton, 1984) devotes much of his book to the disputes between Frick and Carnegie, and the careers of the period's great businessmen, giving Frick himself fairly short shrift. The magnate is presented as an austere man, a brilliant manager who was hard on workers, and representative of the early success and great wealth, allied with a sense of civic duty, typical of his time, but the text never delves very deeply into his character. A dry, sterile tale.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11821-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995