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Industrial Genius

Industrial Genius: The Working Life of Charles Michael Schwab

Kenneth Warren
Copyright Date: 2007
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5vkf7c
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkf7c
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  • Book Info
    Industrial Genius
    Book Description:

    Charles Schwab was known to his employees, business associates, and competitors as a congenial and charismatic person-a 'born salesman.' Yet Schwab was much more than a salesman-he was a captain of industry, a man who streamlined and economized the production of steel and ran the largest steelmaking conglomerate in the world. A self-made man, he became one of the wealthiest Americans during the Gilded Age, only to die penniless in 1939.

    Schwab began his career as a stake driver at Andrew Carnegie's Edgar Thomson steel works in Pittsburgh at the age of seventeen. By thirty-five, he was president of Carnegie Steel. In 1901, he helped form the U.S. Steel Corporation, a company that produced well over half the nation's iron and steel. In 1904, Schwab left U.S. Steel to head Bethlehem Steel, which after twelve years under his leadership, became the second-largest steel producer in America. President Woodrow Wilson called on Schwab to head the Emergency Fleet Corporation to produce merchant ships for the transport of troops and materials abroad during World War I.

    Kenneth Warren presents a compelling biography that chronicles the startling success of Schwab's business career, his leadership abilities, and his drive to advance steel-making technology and operations. Through extensive research and use of previously unpublished archival documentation, Warren offers a new perspective on the life of a monumental figure--a true visionary--in the industrial history of America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7114-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 Early Years to Homestead
    (pp. 1-27)

    A young German named Charles Schwab, who came from Baden-Baden, settled in Bedford County in south-central Pennsylvania in 1830. A few years later, he went northward into Cambria County, making his home in Loretto, a village on the heights of the Alleghenies. In 1857 he moved a few miles eastward to the Appalachian valley town of Williamsburg. There his eldest son, John, joined him as a weaver. When he was twenty-two John Schwab married Pauline Farabaugh, a former neighbor in Loretto. Their first child was born in February 1862 and was baptized Charles Michael. When the boy was twelve, his...

  2. 2 Manager and Executive
    (pp. 28-80)

    On Monday, 21 November 1892, the day on which the local lodges called off the Homestead strike, Frick wrote to Schwab, who had by then been in his new post for five weeks. His letter was in some ways a manifesto for the new Homestead; it set hard targets but ended with a solid endorsement of the man who would have to reach them. It dealt with labor, referred to Schwab’s senior staff, and outlined the company’s expectations and the general superintendent’s own position. Because of the recent electoral success of the Democrats on a reduced tariff platform, it was...

  3. 3 U.S. Steel
    (pp. 81-120)

    During the last few weeks of 1900 and the early weeks of the new year the idea for a great agglomeration of iron and steel making and finishing capacity to be given the grand but justifiable title “United States Steel Corporation” was sown, and it quickly germinated, grew, and took form. At the end of the first quarter of 1901 the organization appeared, a full-grown giant on the world stage, ready for work. Charles M. Schwab was intimately involved in the creation of this giant, playing three key roles: as an authority on the structure and prospects of the industry,...

  4. 4 Bethlehem Steel
    (pp. 121-156)

    Shortly before World War I Schwab said that, since he had no children, his best efforts and enthusiasm had been devoted to the task of “building a big business in Pennsylvania.” Over many years he had played a vital part in the rise of Carnegie Steel and thereby helped the trans-Appalachian district of the state to achieve national leadership in iron and steel production; in the new century his exceptional talents were applied to operations and expansion in the eastern parts of the state. In some respects, Bethlehem Steel seemed an unlikely candidate for the eminence he planned for it....

  5. 5 World War I
    (pp. 157-194)

    The steel industry reached record outputs in 1912 and even higher levels the following year. Bethlehem Steel did better than most companies. In 1913 national steel production increased 0.16 percent, U.S. Steel’s tonnage fell 1.45 percent, and Bethlehem’s went up 13.9 percent. On 1 April 1913, Schwab was in an upbeat mood when he addressed stockholders at the annual meeting: “Business is prosperous. The Company has plenty of orders. Everything is moving most satisfactorily and we are pleased with the outlook this year.” After such highs, 1914 was a disappointing year, and by April Schwab was much less ebullient than...

  6. 6 The Process of Retiring
    (pp. 195-242)

    When Arundel Cotter wrote his brief history of the United States Steel Corporation in 1921 he made some highly complimentary comments about Schwab: “There is something about him—fascination, personal magnetism, call it what you will—that captivates almost everyone with whom he comes into contact. His infectious laugh disarms hostility and criticism. His great ability compels admiration…. Schwab is the Peter Pan of American industry. His is the spirit of perennial youth.” As Cotter was recording his captivation, another man, Willis L. King, better placed to make a balanced judgment, was writing his own account of the great men...

  7. APPENDIX A: GUESTS AT THE 1900 DINNER IN HONOR OF CHARLES M. SCHWAB
    (pp. 243-246)
  8. APPENDIX B: STATISTICAL DATA
    (pp. 247-252)