STEEL TITAN: The Life of Charles M. Schwab by Robert Hessen

STEEL TITAN: The Life of Charles M. Schwab

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This biography revives the Captain-of-Industry as opposed to the Robber Baron tradition. From a spare German-American Catholic youth, Schwab became Andrew Carnegie's number three man in his twenties and, having been ousted from U.S. Steel after a naval supply scandal in 1903, built Bethlehem Steel into ""the American Krupp."" No inventive genius himself, Schwab nevertheless had an excellent instinct for innovation and expansion; to this extent the book makes its case that the early industrial magnates were not mere parasites but organizers and developers. The book provides detailed examination of perennial charges against Schwab for cheating on government contracts, war profiteering, and the like, while tending to fudge the sharp practices involved in Schwab's ""normal"" operations, which is unfortunate, not just in terms of moral bookkeeping but for the sake of accuracy regarding the way turn-of-the-century growth of the industry was accomplished. Hessen tones down labor clashes like the Homestead strike of 1892 so much that it will be hard for readers to comprehend why the steel barons drew such public outrage. And he denies that Schwab deserved the Nye Committee indictment as a ""merchant of death"" after WW I. In short, Hessen, a Hoover Institution associate, makes Schwab the businessman's businessman: quick, spectacular successes, triumphs after setbacks, canny coaxings and poundings for his work force, and the best of both government boons and private prerogatives. He enjoyed himself, too, as Hessen details, with mistresses, opera, and the biggest, gauchest house on Riverside Drive. Hessen's concern for detail, however, is used to best advantage in his lucid glosses of technological problems. Not exactly a ""balanced"" treatment, but useful.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1975
ISBN: 0822959062
Publisher: Oxford