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September 22, 2005

News & Opinion: Great Read

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:13 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Highly recommended: Meet You In Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America by Lee Standiford. This compelling history of the acrimonious relationship between two of the men who created the modern steel industry casts a novelists eye on a great story. Standiford, who has written ten novels, uses the Homestead steel strike of 1892 as the central event to illustrate the conflicts of capitalism. In this famous battle, the Carnegie Steel laborers, facing the breaking of their union and the smackdown of their wages, battled a crew of 300 Pinkerton agents shipped in by Frick as muscle. More than 30 people died in the battle.
The company triumphed over the workers in this instance, busting the union and proceeding to enjoy massive productivity and profit gains over the next decade (without listing the wages of the laborer in step). Carnegie went on to become one of the worlds wealthiest men, a philanthropist who endowed more than 3,000 libraries, foundations, and so forth. Standiford does a terrific job showing that his late-life largesse was made possible only through a ruthless approach towards seeing labor as a fixed cost that should always be reducedan approach executed by the brilliant Frick, who went on to amass his own superfortune. For those interested in a smart, textured, history of a key time in American industry, this book will delight.