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Series XIII. H.C. Frick Coke Company, 1871-1921

Historical Background

As a child, Henry Clay Frick lived in the rural but coal rich area known as the Connellsville region of southwestern Pennsylvania. This region was widely known for its high grade coal deposits of which even as a youth, Frick knew the potential value to the burgeoning steel industry. At age twenty-two, Frick entered the coke and coal business, buying 123 acres of coal lands with a $10,000 loan secured from a Pittsburgh banker and family friend, Thomas Mellon. Overholt, Frick & Company began on March 10, 1871 with a partnership between Frick, Joseph Rist, Abraham Tintsman, and Frick’s cousin J.S.R. Overholt. Overholt, Frick & Company purchased the land near Broad Ford, Pennsylvania to base their coke production firm. The following year, Frick built an additional 50 ovens and planned a 100 oven plant called the Henry Clay Works located on the Youghiogheny River, near Broad Ford. Frick promptly asked Mellon for a second loan to finance his growing business causing Mellon’s bank to evaluate his business and produce a mining report which noted: “the lands good, ovens well built; manager on job all day, keeps books evenings... knows his business down to the ground." After receiving the second loan, an expansion and reorganization of the company occurred and the firm shorted its name to Frick & Company in 1873. The company then owned 400 acres of coal lands and 200 beehive ovens to make coke that would support the production of Bessemer steel. Frick’s experience in coke production was in large part due to growing up in this region.

In September 1873, the leading U.S. financial house collapsed and a “financial panic” ensued, hitting much of the United States and greatly affecting Frick’s business. Due to the financial panic, Tintsman sold all of his shares to Frick, while Overholt sold a portion of his share in the company to another relative, C.S. Overholt. Frick and his company endured the financial crisis that affected many industries in the United States. Frick closely watched his mines, ovens, and funds, so that he was able to not only survive the crisis but profit from it by acquiring more coal lands at cheap prices from bankrupt owners and sold off his private railroad sections for a profit. Again, Frick put all profits into acquiring more coal land and building more ovens; Frick & Company eventually controlled 80 percent of the coke output of the Connellsville region.

On June 17, 1876, Frick bought out his partners and became sole owner of Frick & Company. However, this lasted only a short time; by January 22, 1877 Frick again went into partnership, but this time with family friends, Walton and E. Morewood Ferguson. With the formation of a new partnership, another name change occurred and the company was now known as H.C. Frick & Company. The company operated the Frick Works, Henry Clay Works, and Ferguson Works, as well as leasing the Valley Coke Works, Anchor Works, and Mullen Works. During their years of partnership, the company amassed more than 1,000 ovens, 3,000 acres of coal lands, and employed over a thousand in staff and laborers. Also as a side, Frick organized Morewood Coke Company on behalf of the Ferguson’s only owning a small portion of the shares. By 1879, Frick was supplying coke to places spanning from New Jersey to Wisconsin, and it was at this time Frick made his first million dollars by age thirty as he predicted.

The H.C. Frick Coke Company was formed in April 1882 and was the continuation of the earlier Frick companies bearing similar names. It was in this year when Frick and steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie formed a partnership whereby Frick would be the sole supplier of coke to Carnegie’s steel mills, giving Carnegie a slight discount over market price. Although he was the sole supplier for Carnegie, Frick continued to supply coke to other steel companies. The company moved its headquarters to Pittsburgh, but maintained their coke ovens and plants in the Connellsville Coke Region. The H.C. Frick Coke Company was comprised of a number of plants, including Adelaide; Leisenring Numbers 1, 2, and 3; Standard; Tip Top; Henry Clay; Calumet; Mammoth; and Sterling Number 1 and 2. Frick also owned stock and bonds in other railroads, gas, and mining companies in the region. Frick allied his company with a number of other businesses in the region, including Union Supply Company, Youghiogheny Northern Railway Company, Youghiogheny Water Company, Mount Pleasant Water Company, and Trotter Water Company.

In the Fall of 1891, the H.C. Frick Coke Company became a pioneer in placing electric lighting in coal mines. This was possibly in response to a terrible mining accident that occurred at Frick’s Mammoth mine in Mount Pleasant, Pa. which was less then ten miles from Frick’s childhood home. On January 27, 1891 a large explosion caused by gas igniting from an uncovered light, killed all of the men in the mine totaled 116 workers. According to newspaper articles regarding the accident, it was seen as the most horrific and worst mining disaster to date.

Frick was known as a strict businessman and constantly concerned with the bottom line. Frick struggled to maintain competitive production rates at the lowest possible cost. Frick countered raising wages rates by producing his own scrip which he paid his workers to use for highly inflated products in his company stores. Restless workers in the Connellsville Coke Region, and many other industrial areas, felt cheated and labor tensions begin to rise. The H.C. Frick Coke Company was no exception and many strikes occurred at Frick’s mines and plants. Frick’s company alone faced two major strikes in 1891 and 1894. It is with the events that transpired during these strikes that shaped Frick’s early disposition toward the labor movement and treatment of striking workers.

On March 22, 1900 the H.C. Frick Coke Company and the Carnegie Steel Company combined to form the Carnegie Company. At this time Frick received $30 million in securities and bonds, but he was originally threatened to be “barred from holding any managerial position” in the newly formed company. However, Carnegie soon changed his mind and made Frick manager. Carnegie feigned barring Frick as manager in response to the one of many Frick-Carnegie feuds over differing business-making decisions. It was also around this time that Frick began making plans to move out of Pittsburgh to live in New York City full time.

J.P. Morgan, a wealthy financer, purchased the Carnegie Company and Federated Steel to form the U.S. Steel Corporation in 1901. The H.C. Frick Coke Company became a division of the new company and later was completely absorbed by U.S. Steel. Frick became director, and later an advisor to the U.S. Steel Corporation while also pursuing business interests in coal, railroad, and mining companies.

Scope and Content Notes:

This series encompasses the first four early business ventures of Henry Clay Frick and the culmination of which became H.C. Frick Coke Company in 1882. It contains the business records of Overholt, Frick & Company (1871-1873), Frick & Company (1873-1876), H.C. Frick & Company (1876-1882), and the H.C. Frick Coke Company (1882- 1900). Within the records the following materials can be found: scrapbooks with newspaper and industry publications clippings, Frick’s outgoing letterpress copybooks; incoming correspondence, maps, legal material, financial documents, and ledger volumes. The majority of the materials are journals and ledgers concerning the financial activities of Frick & Company and H.C. Frick & Company.

Throughout this series are materials regarding employees, strikes, and labor unions which can be found in both scrapbooks and correspondence subseries. The records describe the daily business activities that concern productivity, quality, competitors, markets, and profits of these businesses. The material also addresses aspects of business specific to the late ninetieth century coke industry, including bituminous coal mining, water supplies, beehive ovens, railroad transportation crises, and accidents. Information regarding maps can be found in the Maps and Architectural Drawings Series. The material in this series dates from 1871 to 1921.

Subseries 1. Scrapbooks, 1884-1896

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries contains twenty-eight scrapbooks with newspaper and industry publication clippings from a variety of periodicals from the Pittsburgh area including Allegheny, Westmoreland and Fayette Counties. Some of the more common clippings are from the following publications: the Independent (Scottdale, Pa), Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh Post,Pittsburgh Dispatch,Connellsville Courier,Commercial Gazette,Uniontown Democrat, and Mt. Pleasant Journal. Industry publications include American Manufacturer and The Ohio Valley Manufacturer. These clippings were maintained by the company and concern the interests of the H.C. Frick Coke Company and the coke industry as a whole. Clippings document a wide variety of subjects, which include but are not limited to strikes and riots (Volumes 1, 8, 9, and 10), labor (Volume 3), transportation concerns (Volume 6), ethnicity issues (Volume 3), and Frick’s philanthropy in the Connellsville Region (Volume 22). The researcher should be aware the topics vary within individual volumes.

Each scrapbook contains a weekly “Report of the Operation and Output of the Coke Ovens of the Connellsville Region.” This was published in the Connellsville Courier and provides the name of the works, operator, number of ovens owned, number of ovens in operation that week, and estimated tonnage for the week. This information documents Frick’s rise in the coke industry, along with the output of his competitors in the region. These clipping even note the weekly, sometimes daily, ups and downs of the coke industry. The scrapbooks are arranged chronologically and are numbered according to the original volume numbers found on the books. The scrapbooks date from 1884 to 1896.


Box 488
Volume 1 Scrapbook, March 22, 1884-August 18, 1887

Box 489
Volume 2 Scrapbook, August 19, 1887-November 2, 1888

Box 490
Volume 3 Scrapbook, November 2, 1888-August 18, 1889

Box 491
Volume 4 Scrapbook, August 19, 1889-February 16, 1890

Box 492
Volume 5 Scrapbook, February 18-August 27, 1890

Box 493
Volume 6 Scrapbook, August 1-December 13, 1890

Box 494
Volume 7 Scrapbook, December 13, 1890-February 14, 1891

Box 495
Volume 8 Scrapbook, February 15-April 3, 1891

Box 496
Volume 9 Scrapbook, April 3-18, 1891

Box 497
Volume 10 Scrapbook, April 18-May 20, 1891

Box 498
Volume 11 Scrapbook, May 20-October 3, 1891

Box 499
Volume 12 Scrapbook, October 2, 1891-February 27, 1892

Box 500
Volume 13 Scrapbook, February 26-July 15, 1892

Box 501
Volume 14 Scrapbook, July 16, 1892-January 24, 1893

Box 502
Volume 15 Scrapbook, January 27-August 3, 1893

Box 503
Volume 16 Scrapbook, May 27, 1893-February 2, 1894

Box 504
Volume 17 Scrapbook, February 1-April 15, 1894

Box 505
Volume 18 Scrapbook, April 16-May 12, 1894

Box 506
Volume 19 Scrapbook, May 9-June 2, 1894

Box 507
Volume 20 Scrapbook, May 9-June 23, 1894

Box 508
Volume 21 Scrapbook, June 23-October 13, 1894

Box 509
Volume 22 Scrapbook, October 25, 1894-February 11, 1895

Box 510
Volume 23 Scrapbook, February 25-April 30, 1895

Box 511
Volume 24 Scrapbook, May 1-August 10, 1895

Box 512
Volume 25 Scrapbook, August 10-November 15, 1895

Box 513
Volume 26 Scrapbook, November 15, 1895-February 7, 1896

Box 514
Volume 27 Scrapbook, February 7-May 24, 1896

Box 515
Volume 28 Scrapbook, May 25-December 31, 1896

Subseries 2. Correspondence, 1891-1900

Scope and Content Notes:

The correspondence subseries contains letterpress copybooks and incoming letters concerning the H.C. Frick Coke Company. The majority of the correspondence in the letterpress copybooks are letters to H.C. Frick Coke Company and some outgoing business letters written by Frick. However, Frick’s longtime secretary, Giles Bosworth, wrote some of these letters. The correspondence details daily business activities, including letters to various coal and coke companies, and company employees. However, major events, such as the 1891 mining accident and strike, are only briefly mentioned in the correspondence. Indexes with individual names and companies can be found in each volume. Also, the letterpress copybooks begin with Volume 3; this is according to the original numbers on each book. Volumes 1 and 2 were not part of the original collection accession and are absent from this series.

Also included are two letterpress copybooks for the South West Coal & Coke Company and the South West Connellsville Coke Company of which Frick was President. The South West Coal copybook includes outgoing business letters from Frick to Morris Ramsay, Superintendent at Morewood Mines in Mt. Pleasant, Pa., Jay C. Morse, President of Illinois Steel Company; Mr. H.A. Gray, Secretary of Illinois Steel Company; and the son of the late Morris Ramsay; and William Ramsay, General Superintendent at Morewood. The letters pertain to the H.C. Frick Coke Company’s business affairs, which include coal, coke, and some letters pertaining to strikes and riots. Later in 1892, the South West Coal & Coke Company was reorganized into the South West Connellsville Coke Company. However, letters from this new company are still located in the South West Coal copybook. The copybook labeled as the South West Connellsville contain letters dated from February 1897 to January 1898. Most of the letters are outgoing from Frick to various persons regarding the company business matters.

The majority of the incoming correspondence are from Thomas Lynch, Superintendent and later President of the H.C. Frick Coke Company. The letters concern the daily business activities of the H.C. Frick Coke Company and small portion of responding letters from Frick can be found in the letterpress copybooks. Major company events are not discussed in these letters between Lynch and Frick. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.


Box 516
Volume 3 Letterpress Copybook, 1199 pages, April 4, 1890-August 31, 1891

Box 517
Volume 4 Letterpress Copybook, 996 pages, August 31, 1891-June 10, 1893
Volume 5 Letterpress Copybook, 502 pages, February 9, 1893-June 17, 1895

Box 518
Volume 6 Letterpress Copybook, 497 pages, June 18, 1895-September 17, 1896
Volume 7 Letterpress Copybook, 276 of 498 pages, September 21, 1896-June 8, 1900
Volume 8 Letterpress Copybook, 12 of 502 pages, September 21-23, 1896

Box 519
Volume 2 Southwest Coal & Coke Co. Letterpress Copybook, April 19, 1889-Feburary 5, 1897
Volume 3 Southwest Connellsville Coke Co. Letterpress Copybook, February 8, 1897-January 11, 1898

Box 520
Folder 1 Correspondence, February 1872-June 1877
Folder 2 Correspondence, August 1883-October 2, 1888
Folder 3 Correspondence, January 10-31, 1889
Folder 4 Correspondence, February 1889
Folder 5 Correspondence, March 1889
Folder 6 Correspondence, April 1-16, 1889
Folder 7 Correspondence, May 16-June 29, 1889
Folder 8 Correspondence, July 1889
Folder 9 Correspondence, August 1889
Folder 10 Correspondence, September 1889
Folder 11 Correspondence, October 2-14, 1889
Folder 12 Correspondence, October 16-30, 1889
Folder 13 Correspondence, November 1-14, 1889
Folder 14 Correspondence, November 16-29, 1889
Folder 15 Correspondence, December 1889
Folder 16 Correspondence, January 1890
Folder 17 Correspondence, February 1890
Folder 18 Correspondence, March 1890

Box 521
Folder 1 Correspondence, April 1890
Folder 2 Correspondence, May 1890
Folder 3 Correspondence, June 1890
Folder 4 Correspondence, July 1890
Folder 5 Correspondence, August 1890
Folder 6 Correspondence, September 1890
Folder 7 Correspondence, October-November 1890
Folder 8 Correspondence, December 1890
Folder 9 Correspondence, January 1891
Folder 10 Correspondence, February 1891
Folder 11 Correspondence, March 1891
Folder 12 Correspondence, April 1891
Folder 13 Correspondence, May 1891
Folder 14 Correspondence, June 1891
Folder 15 Correspondence, July 1891
Folder 16 Correspondence, August-September 1891

Box 522
Folder 1 Correspondence, October-November 1891
Folder 2 Correspondence, December 1891
Folder 3 Correspondence, January 1892
Folder 4 Correspondence, February 1892
Folder 5 Correspondence, March 1892
Folder 6 Correspondence, April 1892
Folder 7 Correspondence, May 1892
Folder 8 Correspondence, June 1892-September 1892
Folder 9 Correspondence, October 1892
Folder 10 Correspondence, November-December 1892
Folder 11 Correspondence, November 1, 1894-June 22, 1895
Folder 12 Correspondence, September 1895
Folder 13 Correspondence, October 1895
Folder 14 Correspondence, November 1895
Folder 15 Correspondence, December 1895
Folder 16 Correspondence, January-April 1896
Folder 17 Correspondence, May-June 1896
Folder 18 Correspondence, September 1896
Folder 19 Correspondence, October-December 1896
Folder 20 Correspondence, January-February 1897
Folder 21 Correspondence, April-June 1897
Folder 22 Correspondence, July 1897-June 1898
Folder 23 Correspondence, March 1899-May 1, 1900

Subseries 3. Administrative Records, 1871-1921

Scope and Content Notes:

The administrative records contain financial and legal materials relating to the H.C. Frick coke companies, allied companies, and other businesses. The materials consist of publications, balance sheets, meeting minutes, and financial statements concerning labor and production costs. However, the majority of information for this subseries can be found in the ledgers, journals, and daybooks of Frick & Company and H.C. Frick & Company. The volumes contain information about stocks, profits and losses, expenses, employee names and earnings, bank notes, accounts with coke customers, and daily financial operations.

The daybook and journal from March 20, 1876 to April 27, 1881 are for the Broad Ford and Valley Company stores contains records of daily purchases, listing of customer names, item, quantity purchased, and cost. The inflated price of products in the company stores would later become a point of contention for Frick’s striking workers. Also, the journals provide a log of coke output, number of cars, tonnage, cost, payroll, and rent for company houses. On the first pages of the Journal dated December 1, 1879 there is information regarding the company and its coal and coke property. Volumes are arranged in chronological order according by type of book.

This subseries also contains various annual reports for the H.C. Frick Coke Company, South West Connellsville Coke Company, and the McClure Coke Company, which was purchased by Frick in November 1895. These materials date from 1895 to 1898 and include basic information included in annual reports, such as profits and losses. H.C. Frick Coke Company maintained a detailed listing cars, tonnage, and rates for coke shipments to various locations in Pennsylvania, surrounding states, and Canada. In addition, the 1898 annual report provides a listing of coke shipments for 1882 to 1898. Also the South West Connellsville Coke Company’s 1895 annual report documents ethnicity of coke miners. In this report there is a detailed list of laborers by nationality according to their work site.


Box 523
Folder 1 Advertisements, Publications, Ephemera, 1874
Broad Ford Mine, Billhead, 1870
Charles Hubbard & Co., Ink blotter paper, undated
Union Safe Deposit Company (Frick Building), postcard, c1920
View of ovens at the Davidson works, Connellsville, Pa., postcard, 1920
Booklet, "Connellsville Coke, H. C. Frick Coke Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.", c1883
Booklet, "Connellsville Coke, H. C. Frick Coke Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.", 1890
Booklet, "'Frick' Connellsville Coke", c1892
Folder 2 Allied Companies, 1895-1900
Folder 3 Balance Sheets, 1876-1889
Folder 4 Capital Stock Agreements, 1882-1887
Folder 5 Chicago & Connellsville Coke Company, 1887
Folder 6 Excerpts from Journals and Daybooks, 1871-1876
Folder 7 Excerpts from Journals and Daybooks, 1874-1876
Folder 8 Excerpts from Journals and Daybooks, 1874-1876
Folder 9 Excerpts from Journals and Daybooks, 1876-1881
Folder 10 Excerpts from Journals and Daybooks, 1878-1880
Folder 11 Excerpts from Journals and Daybooks, 1879-1881
Folder 12 Hecla Coke Company, 1890
Folder 13 Investments, 1886-1893
Folder 14 Labor Costs, 1887
Folder 15 Meeting Minutes, 1899-1900
Folder 16 Stocks and Bonds, 1882-1900

Box 524
Folder 1 Stocks, Receipts, and Notes, 1889-1900
Folder 2 Mortgages, 1888-1890
Folder 3 Newspaper clippings, 1887, 1911
Folder 4 North Rolling Mill Company, 1887
Folder 5 Pennsylvania Railroad Company, 1888
Folder 6 Philadelphia Company, 1884
Folder 7 Pleasant Unity Coal Company, 1886 and undated
Folder 8 Production Costs, 1887-1896
Folder 9 Promissory Notes, 1886
Folder 10 South West Connellsville Coke Company, 1887-1897
Folder 11 Statements, 1886-1900
Folder 12 Stockholders v. H.C. Frick Coke Company, 1900
Folder 13 William J. Rainey, 1884
Folder 14 Production Binder, 1902-1904
Folder 15 Card of Accounts, 1905
Folder 16 Excelsior Journal, January 1, 1900-December 31, 1900
Folder 17 Manuscript of Henry Clay Frick, undated
Folder 18 South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, May 8, 1882
Folder 19 Pigeon Creek Coal Field, March 1, 1898

Box 525
Folder 1 Annual Report, South West Connellsville Coke Company, 1895-1896
Folder 2 Annual Report, McClure Coke Company, 1896-1898
Folder 3 Annual Report, H.C. Frick Coke Company, 1895-1896, 1898

Section: H.C. Frick Coke Company Record Books


Box 526
Volume 1 Record Book, Memorandum of Conveyance, 1878-1890
Volume 2 Record Book, Statement of Shares, 1889
Volume 3 Record Book, Mortgage of H.C. Frick Coke Co. to Fidelity Title & Trust Co., 1889
Volume 4 Invoice File, March 28, 1878-February 28, 1879

Box 527
Volume 1 Daybook, March 10, 1871-January 29, 1876
Volume 2 Daybook, October 29, 1874-April 29, 1876
Box 528 Daybook, August 1, 1874-January 22, 1877
Box 529 Daybook and Journal, March 20, 1876-April 27, 1881
Box 530 Payroll Book, March 1871-January 1875
Box 531 Payroll Book, October 1872-March 1876
Box 532 Payroll Book, February-May 1874
Box 533 Journal, September 1, 1875-June 30, 1876
Box 534 Journal, March 1, 1878-January 20, 1881
Box 535 Journal, December 1, 1879-March 31, 1881
Box 536 Journal, April 1, 1881-December 31, 1921

Box 537
Volume 1 Ledger Index, undated
Volume 2 Ledger “A,” March 10, 1871-1875
Box 538 Ledger “B,” May-December 1876
Box 539 Ledger, August 1879-December 1902