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Series IV. Carnegie Steel Company, 1892-1900

Historical Background

Andrew Carnegie placed industrialist Henry Clay Frick in charge of Carnegie Brothers & Company, Limited beginning in 1881. By 1892, Frick was advising Carnegie to merge Carnegie Brothers & Company, Limited and Carnegie, Phipps & Company, Limited into one large company. The restructuring of these companies created Carnegie Steel Company, Limited on June 30, 1892. Frick was named chairman of the newly formed company. This reorganization helped create more efficiency between Carnegie’s many companies. The capital of the reorganization was $25 million, with Andrew Carnegie controlling more than half of the company’s interests.

The same day that the Carnegie Steel Company came into existence, a labor strike occurred at the Homestead Steel Works in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Labor troubles at Homestead were common during the period; the previous owners sold the works to Carnegie in 1883 specifically because they had grown tired of dealing with the increasing labor problems. Tension arose markedly when Frick attempted to cut the wages of the steel workers. He then began closing down his open hearth and armor-plate mill on the evening of June 28th, locking out 1,100 men. Frick was given full authority over Carnegie’s plants since Carnegie had just departed for a lengthy vacation. When no collective bargaining agreement was reached on June 29th, Frick determined to break the union, locked the rest of the employees out of the plant. A tall barbed wire topped fence, ordered by Frick, was erected to completely seal out the workers from the plant. Frick announced he would no longer negotiate with the union; now he would only deal with workers individually. As a result, union leaders were willing to concede on almost every level except on the dissolution of the workers union.

Frick, searching for a resolution to break the strike, turned to the enforcers he had employed previously, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency's private security guard. The Pinkertons, as they were commonly referred, were frequently used by industrialists of the era to protect their mills and break striking workers. At midnight on July 5th, tugboats pulled barges carrying hundreds of Pinkerton detectives armed with rifles up the Monongahela River. The boats were spotted by the strikers and a large crowd gathered to meet them. As the guards tried to land, a battle ensued. The skirmish resulted in the Pinkerton guards’ surrender and the death of sixteen men: seven Pinkertons and nine strikers. To restore order, the Pennsylvania National Guard entered Homestead on July 12th to regain control over the mill and town. Nearly two weeks later, there was a failed assassination attempt against Frick by anarchist Alexander Berkman. Frick soon recovered and immediately returned to work. By the end November 1892, the strike matters had dissolved with no real resolution. The union had been broken, workers returned to the mill, and Carnegie’s companies continued to dominate the steel industry.

During the company’s years of growth, tensions began to rise between Carnegie and Frick. In 1899, Frick and other company associates tried to buy out Carnegie, but were unsuccessful. In 1900, Carnegie and Frick had disagreements on the price of coke. When Frick refused Carnegie’s price, Carnegie threatened to evoke the Iron Clad Agreement against him. The Iron Clad Agreement stated that a withdrawing partner would only get the book-value payout of his shares. A partner could also be forced out upon a three-quarters partners’ vote. The agreement however did not apply to Carnegie as he owned more than half the stock. Frick still refused and Carnegie persuaded the board to enforce the agreement against him.

Frick decided to take the matter to court. In February of 1900, he filed suit against the Carnegie Steel Company. Instead of settling the feud in court, both men were willing to negotiate. Both parties met at Carnegie’s house in New York City and then later in Atlantic City. An agreement was made and a settlement proceeded. Carnegie bought out Frick and went on to combine the H.C. Frick Coke Company and Carnegie Steel Company, Limited to form the Carnegie Company. The Carnegie Steel Company, at its peak, operated a total of eight steel mills in the Pittsburgh region.

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains administrative records, correspondence, meeting minutes, financial statements, scrapbooks, and letterpress copybooks pertaining to the operation of Carnegie Steel Company, Limited. The series is further broken down into three subseries: Administrative Records, Iron Clad Agreement, and Scrapbooks. The records span from 1887 to 1901; however the majority of the materials are from 1892 to 1900. Also, due to size, there are additional records in the Maps and Architectural Drawings Series. Records contain maps, drawings, and a reproduction of company properties and equipment. Additional material regarding the Homestead steel strike and work relations could be found in the H.C. Frick and Andrew Carnegie Correspondence Series.

Related Material:

Additional letterpress copybooks that contain outgoing correspondence from Henry Clay Frick to Andrew Carnegie can also be found in Series IX. Correspondence, 1883-1919, Subseries 1. Andrew Carnegie, 1883-1912. Abstracts and digitized contents are available.

Subseries 1. Administrative Records, 1892-1900

Scope and Content Notes:

The administrative records includes company correspondence and legal material pertaining to Henry Clay Frick vs. the Carnegie Steel Company, Limited, as well as Board of Managers meeting minutes, Proposal to Purchase, and H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook.

The company correspondence consists of incoming original letters, telegrams, and a letterpress copybooks. Correspondences contain incoming letters from the company’s superintendents, sale agents, treasurer, and other businessmen for the years of July 1892 to March 1900. Some of these letters are stamped “answered.” The answered letters can be found in the letterpress copybooks in this series and the H.C. Frick Coke Company Series. Materials for the suit mostly consist of court briefs and memoranda. Memoranda highlight the events leading up to the suit include questions asked by Frick’s attorney John Johnson, and other legal aspects of similar court cases. The meeting minutes date from 1895 to 1900 and pertain to the company shareholders, operating department, and Board of Managers.

Records pertaining to a “Proposal to Purchase” the Carnegie Steel Company, Limited in 1899 consist of correspondence, telegrams, typescript copies of letters, and memoranda related to the proposed sale of the company. Frick, Henry Phipps, and William H. Moore created a plan to buy out Carnegie and form a new company. They confronted Carnegie with a proposal and a good faith deposit of $1,700,000. When the deadline came to an end, the deal was off and Carnegie pocketed the deposit. Most of the letters in the correspondence are from A.L. Schoonmaker, a steel agent for Carnegie to Frick.

The letterpress copybooks in this series contain the five volumes of Frick’s outgoing correspondence from the Company’s Board of Manager Chairman. Also included in these record books are some statements and memorandum. The copybooks date from January 12, 1892 to March 12, 1900.

The remaining materials consist of documents pertaining to the company’s net earnings, profit and losses, partner’s accounts, wages and salaries, and stock of materials. Also included are statements of monthly products and outbound material for all works under Carnegie Steel. The materials in this subseries date from 1892 to 1900.


Box 10
Folder 1 Agreements, July 1, 1892, February 20, 1893-March 28, 1900
Folder 2 Correspondence, July 7, 1892-August 5, 1893
Folder 3 Correspondence, August 18, 1893-March 31, 1897
Folder 4 Correspondence, August 20, 1897-March 23, 1900
Folder 5 Correspondence, undated
Folder 6 Formation, June 30, 1892, July 1, 1892
Folder 7 H.C. Frick vs. Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., March 1900
Folder 8 H.C. Frick vs. Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., 1900
Folder 9 H.C. Frick vs. Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., undated
Folder 10 Memoranda of Conversations, May 12-July 1, 1896
Folder 11 Meeting Minutes, May 9, 1895-November 8, 1898
Folder 12 Meeting Minutes, January 16, 1899-March 30, 1900
Folder 13 Meeting Minutes, September 1, 1899-January 6, 1900
Folder 14 Meeting Minutes, March 31, 1900
Folder 15 List of Shareholders, July 1, 1892-January 1, 1900
Folder 16 Basic Open Hearth Steel, June 14, 1895
Folder 17 Reports, April 14, 1899, undated
Folder 18 Merger of Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd. and H.C. Frick Coke Co., July 1, 1892-June 14, 1900
Folder 19 Statement regarding Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd. and Debts Owed by Railway Companies
Folder 20 Report on the Book Value of Stocks
Box 14 Statements of Monthly Products and Outbound Materials for All Works, 1899
Box 15 Total Sales of Pig Iron Record Book, November 2, 1893-December 11, 1899

Box 16
Folder 1 Proposal to Purchase, Agreements, April 24, 1899, May 19, 1899
Folder 2 Proposal to Purchase, Correspondence, May 6, 1899-July 25, 1899
Folder 3 Proposal to Purchase, Memo, 1899
Folder 4 Proposal to Purchase, Telegrams, May 4, 1899-July 1899
Folder 5 Proposal to Purchase, Typescript Copies of Letters, May 4, 1899-November 18, 1899
Folder 6 Proposal to Purchase, Typescript Letter, undated
Folder 7 Proposal to Purchase, Copy of Power of Attorney, April 24, 1899
Folder 8 Statements, November 30, 1892-December 31, 1896
Folder 9 Statements, November 1, 1897-September 19, 1898
Folder 10 Statements, January 25, 1899-September 23, 1899
Folder 11 Statements, October 13, 1899-December 13, 1899
Folder 12 Statements, January 2, 1900-March 31, 1900
Folder 13 Statements and Notes, 1893, 1896, 1900
Folder 14 By-Laws and Organization, July 1, 1892, December 31, 1895
Folder 15 Interest in Option, 1899

Section: H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybooks, 1892-1899

Scope and Content Notes:

The letterpress copybooks comprises copies of outgoing correspondence from H.C. Frick to numerous individuals. Due to the significance of Frick's correspondence with Andrew Carnegie in particular, abstracts were created for these specific letters by History undergraduate students interning at the Archives Service Center. The numbering besides each item below refers to the page number in the copybook where the letter can be found.

There are no abstracts for the contents of the letterpress copybook dated May 4-June 2, 1899 (Box 13 Volume 2) since the correspondence mostly pertains to matters regarding a buyout option that Frick, Henry Phipps, and William H. Moore created for Carnegie.


Box 11
Volume 1 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, January 12, 1892-February 4, 1893
1. Frick alerts Carnegie on a letter arriving from Mr. Knox on his opinion of the government's armor plate contract. Also, Frick thinks the Secretary should visit Homestead to withdrawal all doubts. January 12, 1892
3. Frick wires Carnegie that they won. January 16, 1892
11. Frick writes on meeting with Mr. [Otis] Childs on the New Beam Mill matter and on arranging for the managers to visit Duquesne to select a new furnace location. February 2, 1892
31. Frick wires Carnegie his response to Carnegie's April 4th telegram. Frick declines Carnegie's invitation to stay with him. April 4, 1892
43. Frick writes that he received Carnegie's telegram wishing for all papers related to the Thomas patent that mention Mr. Kennedy's letter. Frick will be sending the papers; however, Mr. Kennedy's letter is missing. April 9, 1892
59. Frick wires Carnegie on the Beam Mill running successfully, [Otis] Childs visiting Bethlehem, Judge Reed obtaining Newell's consent in Cleveland, [Ohio], and Dillon winning a decisive victory. April 21, 1892
75. Frick wires Carnegie that [William] Shinn died this morning and certificates of consolidation should reach him by the 12th. May 5, 1892
77. Frick wires Carnegie a coded message. May 6, 1892
97. Frick wires Carnegie on successful test results for the four-inch New York armor. May 26, 1892
98. Frick wires Carnegie on the completion of signed papers. May 30, 1892
105. Frick wires Carnegie on the death of Borntraeger's wife. June 7, 1892
106. Frick wires Carnegie a coded message. June 7, 1892
123. Frick writes on Gayley and Schwab's disappointment after reading Carnegie's letter about the addition to the Carnegie Library at Braddock. June 16, 1892
125. Frick wires Carnegie on asking Whitworths for price on 10,000 ton press. June 16, 1892
130. Frick wires Carnegie a coded message. June 22, 1892
141. Frick wires Carnegie a coded message. July 4, 1892
145. Frick wires Carnegie about "small plunge," and that their position will work out favorably. July 7, 1892
154. Frick wires Carnegie on "small plunge," and says the sentiment is with them and the state guard will be at "plunge" soon. July 11, 1892
165. Frick wires Carnegie a coded message, and also states that warrants have been issued for murder charges. July 18, 1892
701. Frick writes on the Homestead strike, the arrival of Pinkerton men, strike breakers, and newspaper sympathy for the strikers. July 4, 1892
Volume 2 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, February 6-November 27, 1893
37. Frick wires Carnegie about canceling his trip to Bethlehem because Secretary [of the Navy Tracey ] has called him to Washington, [D.C]. February 24, 1893
79. Frick wires Carnegie asking him if he can make it to Washington [D.C.] for a plate testing. May 9, 1893
671. Frick wires Carnegie about Mr. Clarke declining their offer. November 20, 1893
686. Frick wires Carnegie on a scheduled meeting for Friday when papers will be ready. November 21, 1893

Box 12
Volume 1 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, November 27, 1893-October 22, 1894
79. Frick wires Carnegie a Christmas and New Years greetings. December 25, 1893
Volume 2 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, October 23, 1894-February 16, 1897
576. Frick wires Carnegie on making a contract with Badly and Balance, with Board approval. March 2, 1896
578. Frick wires Carnegie asking him to come to St. Augustine [Fla] to meet with Earnest. March 4, 1896
644. Frick writes on including a letter from Mr. Dalzell, and on Mr. Curry thinking it would be a mistake to aim for higher duty on Ferro Manganese. December 16, 1896
648. Frick writes a response to [Frank] Thomson's propositions. December 17, 1896
648. Carnegie writes that he wishes [Frank] Thomson would have sent Frick a complete statement, and includes Frick's reply. December 18, 1896

Box 13
Volume 1 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, February 16, 1897-December 4, 1899
Volume 2 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, May 4-June 2, 1899

Subseries 2. Iron Clad Agreement, 1887-1900

Scope and Content Notes:

In 1887, the death of a prominent associate of the Carnegie Brothers & Company, Ltd., led to the first Iron Clad Agreement. The crux of the agreement said that when a shareholder dies or leaves the company, the remaining partners can purchase the person’s holdings back at book value, instead of the market value. This subseries contains the copies of three iron clad agreements that were created. The second and third agreements were drawn up in 1892 and 1897. Other materials pertaining to the Iron Clad Agreements consist of correspondence, lists, notes, memoranda, and notices dating from 1896 to 1900. The correspondence in this subseries are typescript copies, handwritten, original, and letter copies. Most of the typescript copies are outgoing from Frick. Some of the incoming letters to Frick are from F.T.F. Lovejoy, Secretary of Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd.; A.M. Moreland, Secretary of Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd.; and Millard Hunsiker, a personal friend of Frick. The materials in this subseries date from 1887 to 1900.

Folder 16 Copy of Iron Clad Agreement, 1887
Folder 17 Copy of Iron Clad Agreement, July 1, 1892
Folder 18 Copy of Iron Clad Agreement, September 1, 1897
Folder 19 Correspondence, June 15, 1896-February 15, 1900
Folder 20 Signed Members List, December 26, 1899
Folder 21 Memoranda, January 8, 1900
Folder 22 Memoranda and Notes, January 12-17, 1900
Folder 23 Notices, January 10-29, 1900

Box 17
Volume 1 H.C. Frick Letterpress Copybook, Iron Clad Agreement, June 10, 1898-March 12, 1900
49. Frick writes on making the Iron Clad Agreement more legally binding. June 10, 1898

Subseries 3. Scrapbooks, 1892-1900

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries contains newspaper clipping scrapbooks that were maintained by the Carnegie Steel Company and mainly cover news reporting at the time of the Homestead steel strike, riot, aftermath, and other subsequent events. The material highlighted the strikes and riots (Volume 1); assassination attempt (Volume 1 and 2); nonunion, union, and strikers (Volume 3 and 4); Private W.L. Iams Case (Volume 4); poisoning conspiracy (Volume 4 and 5); and Hugh O’Donnell (Volume 2 and 5). Only Volumes 1 and 2 are indexed.

Most of the scrapbooks are day-by-day accounts of specific events related to the company. Clippings are primarily from local and national presses, but there is some international coverage as well. Some of the local periodicals include the Pittsburgh Leader, Pittsburgh Dispatch, and the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette. Some of the national clippings include the Boston Globe, Boston News,Chicago Globe, Post Dispatch (St. Louis), Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), and the New York Tribune. Examples of the international newspapers include the Manchester Guardian, The Echo (London), and The Times (London). The scrapbooks also include some journal articles from The Illustrated American, Harper’s Weekly, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.

Volumes 6 through 8 contain articles pertaining to the Frick-Carnegie law suit, plot to free attempted assassin Alexander Berkman, and Frick Building construction. There are also clippings on J. P Morgan, Philander C. Knox, Henry Phipps, and Charles M. Schwab. The majority of articles are from the New York Sun. Volume 9 documents the company’s history in an unbound draft proof. The scrapbooks date from July 1892 to December 1900.


Box 18
Volume 1 The Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., Strike and Riot of 1892, June 2-July 23, 1892

Box 19
Volume 2 The Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., Strike and Riot of 1892, July 23-August 18, 1892

Box 20
Volume 3 The Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., Strike and Riot of 1892, August 16-October 27, 1892

Box 21
Volume 4 The Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., Strike and Riot of 1892-1893, October 27, 1892-January 19, 1893

Box 22
Volume 5 The Carnegie Steel Company, Ltd., January 19, 1893-April 18, 1894

Box 23
Volume 6 Newspaper Clippings, July 6, 1892-September 11, 1892

Box 24
Volume 7 Newspaper Clippings, January 3, 1900-October 31, 1901

Box 25
Volume 8 Newspaper Clippings, January 10-December 28, 1900

Box 26
Volume 9 The History of the Carnegie Steel Company Draft Proofs, (unbound), 1903