Frick came into the steel business as a matter of deliberate choice, whereas Schwab became associated with the Pittsburgh group more or less by accident.
The region of Connellsville contains almost 150 square miles underlaid with coal that has a particular heat value when submitted to the process known as coking. As early as the late eighties certain operators had discovered this fact and were coking this coal on a small scale. It is the highest tribute to Frick's intelligence that he alone foresaw the part which this Connellsville coal was to play in building up the Pittsburgh steel district. The panic of 1873, which laid low most of the Connellsville operators, proved Frick's opportunity. Though he was only twenty-four years old he succeeded, by his intelligence and earnestness, in borrowing money to purchase certain Connellsville mines, then much depreciated in price. From that moment, coke became Frick's obsession, as steel had been Carnegie's. With his early profits he purchased more coal lands until, by 1889, he owned ten thousand coke ovens and was the undisputed "coke king" of Connellsville. Several years before this, Carnegie had made Frick one of his marshals, coke having become indispensable to the manufacture of steel, and in 1889 the former distiller's accountant became Carnegie's commander-in-chief. Probably the popular mind associates Frick chiefly with the importation of Slavs as workmen, with the terrible strikes that followed in consequence at Homestead, with the murderous attack made upon him by Berkman, the anarchist, and with his bitter, longdrawn-out quarrel with Andrew Carnegie. Frick's stormy career was naturally the product of his character.
On the other hand, temperamental pliability and lovableness were the directing traits of the man who, in his way, made contributions quite as solid to the extension of the Pittsburgh steel industry. Schwab worked with the human material quite as successfully as other men worked with iron ore, Bessemer furnaces, and coal. He handled successfully what was perhaps the greatest task in management ever presented to a manufacturer when to him fell the job of reorganizing the Homestead Works after the strike of 1892 and of transforming thousands of riotous workmen into orderly and interested producers of steel. In three or four years practically every man on the premises had become "Charlie" Schwab's personal friend, and the Homestead property which, until the day he took charge, had been a colossal failure, had developed into one of the most profitable holdings of the Carnegie Company. As his reward Schwab, at the age of thirty- four, was made President of the Carnegie corporation. Only sixteen years before he had entered the steel works as a stake driver at a dollar a day.
When the Carnegie group began operations in the early seventies, American steel, as a British writer remarked, was a "hot-house product"; yet in 1900 the Carnegie partners divided $40,000,000 as the profits of a single year. They had demonstrated that the United States, despite the high prices that prevailed everywhere, could make steel more cheaply than any other country. Foreign observers have offered several explanations for this achievement. American makers had an endless supply of cheap and high-grade ore, cheaper coke, cheaper transportation, and workmen of a superior skill. We must give due consideration to the fact that their organization was more flexible than those of older countries, and that it regulated promotion exclusively by merit and gave exceptional opportunities to young men. American steel makers also had scrap heaps whose size astounded the foreign observers; they never hesitated to discard the most expensive plants if by so doing they could reduce the cost of steel rails by a dollar a ton. Machinery for steel making had a more extensive development in this country than in England or Germany. Mr. Carnegie also enjoyed the advantages of a high protective tariff, though about 1900 he discovered that his extremely healthy infant no longer demanded this form of coddling.