Here is history that reads like fiction: the riveting story of two founding fathers of American industry—Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick—and the bloody steelworkers’ strike that transformed their fabled partnership into a furious rivalry. Author Les Standiford begins at the bitter end, when the dying Carnegie proposes a final meeting after two decades of separation, probably to ease his conscience. Frick’s reply: “Tell him that I’ll meet him in hell.”
It is a fitting epitaph. Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, a time when Horatio Alger preached the gospel of upward mobility and expansionism went hand in hand with optimism, Meet You in Hell is a classic tale of two men who embodied the best and worst of American capitalism. Standiford conjures up the majesty and danger of steel manufacturing, the rough-and-tumble of late-nineteenth-century big business, and the fraught relationship of “the world’s richest man” and the ruthless coke magnate to whom he entrusted his companies. Enamored of Social Darwinism, the emerging school of thought that applied the notion of survival of the fittest to human society, both Carnegie and Frick would introduce revolutionary new efficiencies and meticulous cost control to their enterprises, and would quickly come to dominate the world steel market.
But their partnership had a dark side, revealed most starkly by their brutal handling of the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. When Frick, acting on Carnegie’s orders to do whatever was necessary, unleashed three hundred Pinkerton detectives, the result was the deadliest clash between management and labor in U.S. history. WHILE BLOOD FLOWED, FRICK SMOKED ran one newspaper headline. The public was outraged. An anarchist tried to assassinate Frick. Even today, the names Carnegie and Frick cannot be uttered in some union-friendly communities.
Resplendent with tales of backroom chicanery, bankruptcy, philanthropy, and personal idiosyncrasy, Meet You in Hell is a fitting successor to Les Standiford’s masterly Last Train to Paradise . Artfully weaving the relationship of these titans through the larger story of a young nation’s economic rise, Standiford has created an extraordinary work of popular history.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Meet You in Hell|
|Release Date: 05-10-2005|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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Meet You in Hell
Chaptet 1: GAUNTLET
On a late spring day in 1919, so the story goes, only weeks before the Treaty of Versailles put an end to a war that had threatened the very fabric of civilization, one of America’s wealthiest men—his holdings valued at more than $100 billion in today’s dollars—sat up in his sickbed in his Manhattan home and called to one of his caregivers for a pen and paper.
Andrew Carnegie, eighty-three, once the mightiest industrialist in all the world, now a wizened and influenza-ravaged man who for nearly two years had been under doctors’ care in his block-long, six-level mansion on Gotham’s Millionaire’s Row, took up the instruments brought to him and began to write as if possessed. When he was finished, he summoned to his chambers his longtime personal secretary James Bridge, the man who had helped him write Triumphant Democracy, one of the most persuasive tracts ever written in the cause of fair treatment of labor, all the more compelling for its author’s position as a titan of industry.
“Take this to Frick,” Carnegie said as he handed the letter to his old confidant.
It would have been enough to snap Bridge upright. Surprise enough to hear Carnegie mention that name, much less hand over a letter to that person. True, Henry Clay Frick was a fellow giant of industry—recently dubbed one of America’s leading financiers by the New York Times—and he and Andrew Carnegie had been partners once. Frick had been the man Carnegie trusted above all others to manage the affairs of Carnegie Steel, a manufacturing combine so vast that its output surpassed that o