Historical Markers
Henry Clay Frick [Pgh office] Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Henry Clay Frick [Pgh office]

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
437 Grant St., Frick Bldg., Pittsburgh

Dedication Date:
December 10, 1946

Behind the Marker

Head and shoulders image of Henry Clay Frick, 1871.
Henry Clay Frick, 1871.
"The personal relations between Carnegie and Frick took on a somewhat puerile phase, but not without the expenditure of millions. To build a 15 story building and then to have your former chum build a 20 story building to shut out its light is not much different from the temper displayed when one boy, building a sand mound, finds that his former chum is undermining it to build another beside it."
                                   -Pittsburgh Dispatch, April 7, 1900.

This reporter from the Pittsburgh Dispatch had the truth down cold. By 1902, when the Frick Building opened its doors to tenants, relations between Henry Clay Frick and markerAndrew Carnegie had turned to ice. Just two years earlier, Frick had been humiliated by his ejection from the Carnegie realm.
This photo shows the Exterior View Home of Henry Clay Frick, at 5th Avenue and 70th Street, New York.
The Henry Clay Frick mansion at 5th Avenue and 70th Street in New York City,...

With the soaring twenty-story Frick Building, its gleaming white granite exterior, and beautiful lobby replete with a La Farge stained glass window (depicting the figure of Fortune and her wheel), Frick made a forceful statement. Certainly, his new building pushed Carnegie's fifteen-story skyscraper, the city's first, into the second tier. Later, in New York, Frick spent $5.4 million on building an opulent mansion in Manhattan (now the Frick Collection), reportedly to "make Carnegie's place look like a miner's shack."

Bad blood had existed between Frick and Carnegie for many years. Frick had entered the Connellsville coke industry in the 1870s, and quickly became its markerleading figure. His relentless search for capital to pay for more coal lands and more markercoke ovens brought him to the attention of Andrew Carnegie.
Genuine Connellsville coke engraving
"Genuine Connellsville Coke," H. C. Frick Coke Company lithograph, circa 1880.

Quite literally, Frick's coke fueled Carnegie's fortune in steel. In the early 1880s Carnegie and his partners took a small share in his coke company; after injecting substantial capital for expansion, they soon owned a controlling three-fourths share. In midst of a strike in 1887, they forced Frick to grant his coke workers a substantial pay raise to keep the coke flowing to the steel mills. Frick never forgave the insult.

Coal and coke were not the only valuable assets Frick brought to the Carnegie steelmaking enterprise. In his Autobiography, Carnegie recalled that Frick's company possessed not only valuable coal and coke but in Frick himself "a positive genius for its management." Fellow Carnegie executive markerCharles Schwab recalled Frick as "the most methodical thinking machine I have ever known." Frick was in the top ranks of decision-making at Carnegie Steel, serving as president or chairman from 1889 until 1900, during the very years the enterprise became the world's largest steelmaker.
Alexander Berkmann Pointing a Gun at Henry FrickAnarchist Alexander Berkmann attempts to assassinate steel factory owner Henry Frick during the Homestead strike in 1892
Alexander Berkmann attempting to assassinate Henry Frick during the Homestead...
Black and White photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clay Frick.  He wears a top hat and carries a cane. She is wearing hat and glove. Both are in formal dress walking together at an Easter parade.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Frick, circa 1913.

Frick's "controversial managerial style" was a blend of relentless drive for efficiency, blunt honesty, and utter disdain for workers. In 1891, at the markerMorewood Massacre near Mt. Pleasant, his deputies fired into a marching column of striking coke workers killing seven of them. With the markerHomestead strike of 1892, Frick gained national notoriety for provoking a deadly shootout with the strikers.

Though less well known, the real success of Carnegie Steel came in the wake of the Homestead crisis. The company broke the union, built up the markerDuquesne steel works and the Carrie iron furnaces, and created a coordinated business empire. It invested the massive profits from selling battleship armor in choice tracks of Minnesota iron ore lands. Finally, it battled the Pennsylvania Railroad for favorable rates and even built two railroads of its own. When J.P. Morgan formed U.S. Steel in 1901, the Carnegie Steel enterprise was its showpiece.

Frick remained a hard man through his death in December 1919, just four months after Carnegie himself died. In his later days, feeling generous as always, Carnegie sent him a note suggesting they meet and forget past battles. "Tell Mr. Carnegie," Frick answered, "I'll meet him in Hell."
Back to Top