Meet You in Hell
Here is history that reads like fiction: the riveting story of two founding fathers of American industry—Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick—and the bloody steelworkers’ strike that transformed their fabled partnership into a furious rivalry. Author Les Standiford begins at the bitter end, when the dying Carnegie proposes a final meeting after two decades of separation, probably to ease his conscience. Frick’s reply: “Tell him that I’ll meet him in hell.”
It is a fitting epitaph. Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, a time when Horatio Alger preached the gospel of upward mobility and expansionism went hand in hand with optimism, Meet You in Hell is a classic tale of two men who embodied the best and worst of American capitalism. Standiford conjures up the majesty and danger of steel manufacturing, the rough-and-tumble of late-nineteenth-century big business, and the fraught relationship of “the world’s richest man” and the ruthless coke magnate to whom he entrusted his companies. Enamored of Social Darwinism, the emerging school of thought that applied the notion of survival of the fittest to human society, both Carnegie and Frick would introduce revolutionary new efficiencies and meticulous cost control to their enterprises, and would quickly come to dominate the world steel market.
But their partnership had a dark side, revealed most starkly by their brutal handling of the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. When Frick, acting on Carnegie’s orders to do whatever was necessary, unleashed three hundred Pinkerton detectives, the result was the deadliest clash between management and labor in U.S. history. WHILE BLOOD FLOWED, FRICK SMOKED ran one newspaper headline. The public was outraged. An anarchist tried to assassinate Frick. Even today, the names Carnegie and Frick cannot be uttered in some union-friendly communities.
Resplendent with tales of backroom chicanery, bankruptcy, philanthropy, and personal idiosyncrasy, Meet You in Hell is a fitting successor to Les Standiford’s masterly Last Train to Paradise. Artfully weaving the relationship of these titans through the larger story of a young nation’s economic rise, Standiford has created an extraordinary work of popular history.
From the Hardcover edition.
“A muscular, enthralling read that takes you back to a time when two titans of industry, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, clashed in a battle of wills and egos that had seismic ramifications not only for themselves but for anyone living in the United States, then and now. . . . So engaging I found myself wishing only that it were longer.” —Dennis Lehane, author of Shutter Island and Mystic River
“This superbly researched and beautifully written account of the expression of business genius a century ago illumines both the sociopathy and the generosity that then as now characterize the dynamics of capitalism.” —Robert A. G. Monks, principal of Lens Governance Advisors and coauthor of Corporate Governance
“Les Standiford’s novelistic genius brings alive the familiar story of Carnegie and Frick with clarity and verve and a fresh eye. . . . The most dazzling aspect of this dazzling book is the author’s clear and engaging depictions of the intricacies of the business world of another century.” —James W. Hall, author of Forests of the Night
From the Hardcover edition.
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