Original Document
Original Document
Herbert N. Casson, "Work Men Partners of Carnegie: Steps in Rise of C.M. Schwab," 1907.

The most brilliant of all the young partners was Charles M. Schwab. His was the most meteoric career ever known in the steel business. He had risen step by step - but such steps!

Step number one - driving stakes for a dollar a day at the Edgar Thomson works.

Step number two, six months later - superintendent of the Edgar Thomson works, the foremost steel-making plant in the world.

Step number three - at thirty years of age superintendent of both the Edgar Thomson and Homestead plants, managing eight thousand workmen. This was the only instance in which Carnegie permitted one man to operate two plants.

Step number four - president of the Carnegie Steel Company, with a White House salary and three per cent. of the stock.

Step number five - president of the United States Steel Corporation, with twenty-eight million dollars' worth (par value) of its stock, and a salary of a hundred thousand dollars a year. In 1901 he sat on the apex of the towering steel pyramid - the victor among two hundred thousand competitors - at thirty-nine years of age.

"The first time I saw Schwab," said Mr. Long, a former president of the Pittsburgh Stock Exchange, "he was a barefooted boy at Loretto, a mountain hamlet near Altoona. The next time I saw him he was in his hundred-thousand-dollar private car."

Schwab's father kept one of the village stores, and Charlie drove the rickety stage between the village and Cresson station. It was a poor plank road at that time, but he has had it paved at his own expense since then. Those who remember him say that he was the happiest boy in the village - laughing, whistling, singing, cracking his whip. His nicknames were "Dolly Varden" and" Smiling Charlie." The drummers told him stories and made fun of his flaming red neckties. No one looked less like an embryonic steel king than Charlie Schwab.

By the time he was nineteen, Schwab had drifted away from Loretto, and anchored in a Braddock grocery store. For wages he got a five-dollar bill every two weeks. One evening he caught the eye of Captain Jones.

"Do you want to change your job, young fellow," asked Jones.

"Yes, sir!" responded Schwab.

"What are you willing to do?"

"Anything," replied the smiling young clerk.

"Well," said Jones, "come around to-morrow morning and I'll give you a dollar a day to hammer stakes."

This was the beginning of a friendship that lasted until the tragic death of Captain Jones. Schwab at once showed a natural talent for mechanics, and from Jones, who was without a peer as a leader of workmen, he learned to manage men.


After the death of his teacher, the heaviest burden of the Carnegie company fell on the shoulders of Schwab. It was he who reconstructed the Homestead works from the debris of the great strike; who created the profitable armour-plate department; who originated the Saturday meetings of superintendents. With cheerful self-assurance, he accepted any responsibility that was offered. Enthusiasm, he found, was better than experience. Nothing daunted him. He swept into the Golden Sea with all sails set and the band playing. Had he been asked to reconstruct the empire of Russia or to federate the South American republics, he would have replied without hesitation:

"Yes. Good idea! I'll attend to that next week."

Schwab's greatest achievement - the one lasting honour which nothing can take away - was his successful handling of the Homestead steel-works after the great strike. No steelmaker, before or since, has ever had to tackle so hard a job. When Schwab took Homestead, it was a failure. It was a four-million-dollar mistake. The machinery was not working properly and the men were not working at all. There was a stupid rabble of strike-breakers, and a sullen, defeated army of five thousand workmen to deal with. And the whole place had been for five months a battlefield, passion-swept and blood-stained - the Waterloo of organised labour.


Into this inferno of hate and bitterness came Schwab, caring no more for discouragements than a duck does for a drizzle. Little by little his "Hurrah, boys!" swung the great steel-mill into action. He was approachable and sympathetic, yet always as quick as lightning to turn everything to his own advantage. Always fluent and plausible, he was never at a loss for a reason or an inducement. In half a year the surly workmen were entirely won over by his invincible optimism and perseverance; and "Charlie is my darling" was heard in Homestead, instead of the curses and rifle-shots of a few months before.

"Schwab is a genius in the management of men and machinery," said Carnegie, when I asked him for an estimate of his young partner's work. "I never saw a man who could grasp a new idea so quickly."

As soon as Carnegie saw that Schwab had "made good" at Homestead, he made him president of the whole company, so that not even the masterful Frick was equal to him in authority. This was perhaps the first instance in which so young a man, absolutely without any business experience, was placed in command over so great a corporation. He had previously had an offer of the vice-presidency and had refused it.

"I'm a bigger man at the works," he said.

There was another young workman in the Carnegie company who followed Schwab like a shadow. He was four years younger, and his name was William Ellis Corey. He was as thoroughly an American as anyone can be, being a descendant of Benijah Corey, who flourished a hundred years ago and owned a farm of three hundred acres whose site is now covered by the streets of New York.


Schwab and Corey had been boyhood friends in smoky Braddock, when one was in a grocery-store and the other was working on a coal-tipple. Both got dollar-a-day jobs from the Carnegie company and worked up to be superintendents at twenty-one. Both married Braddock girls. Both became armour-plate specialists. Both made reputations as "drivers" and record-breakers. Both moved up from one presidency to another, Schwab being always one move ahead.

But here the resemblances cease. Schwab, the last of the individualists of steel, put personality first and organisation second. "Every business grows around a great individual," he said. Corey put the organisation first and the individual second.

To Schwab a workman was" Bill," or " Joe," or "Tom." To Corey he was "No. 137."

Schwab swayed his men by sentiment, by his contagious enthusiasm, by his personal knowledge of each man. Corey ruled by his tireless supervision and his thorough knowledge of every department. Schwab was brilliant, dramatic, impulsive. Corey was painstaking, methodical, trustworthy. On one of the very few occasions when he was persuaded to talk for publication, he said:

"The man who succeeds is the one with bulldog tenacity - who never gives up. He is the man who not only does what he is told, but more."

Schwab loves men and the applause of men. Publicity stimulates him like wine. Corey is reserved, stern-faced, nonmagnetic.

Schwab is a man of many interests. Even his charities are unique. He has built at Loretto, his birthplace, a cathedral and a monument to Prince Gallitzin, the founder of the town. To Braddock he has given a church and to Homestead an industrial school. At Richmond Beach, New York, he has established schools in which crippled and deformed boys and girls are learning trades. To the tenement children of New York he gives a thousand dollars' worth of toys as a Christmas present.

In his own pleasures, he loves display like a child. His New York palace is rated on the tax-list as the second highest in cost, Senator Clark's unfinished mansion being first. With land and furnishings, its value is probably more than five millions. Carnegie's austere residence is a model of simplicity when compared with Schwab's ornate pile of cream-coloured granite, with its gobelin tapestries, its music-room and chapel, its Flemish smoking-room, Louis Seize drawing-room, Henri Quatre library, Louis Quatorze dining-room, and Louis Treize breakfast-room.

Credit: Herbert N. Casson, The Romance of Steel: The Story of a Thousand Millionaires (New York: A. S. Barnes & Company, 1907), 155-59.
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