Homestead Strike

Homestead Strike

At what cost are you willing to go to achieve wealth?

Andrew Carnegie was a titan of industry, known for his industrialism days in the steel business. Immigrated to the USA from Scotland, his business skyrocketed when he joined in a supply partnership with Henry Frick. Their first venture together was an attack on a new mill upriver in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. It was a masterpiece of business deception.

Long story short (you can read the whole story here), one of Carnegie’s competitors was a mill just upriver. This mill was utilizing a new steel manufacturing technology and severely eating into Carnegie’s business.

When the Duquesne Works opened in 1889, it began to beat Carnegie at his own game—innovative technology that cut costs and threatened his markets. They could roll continuously from ingot to rail and avoid a reheating process, cutting steps in the manufacturing process, that was costly to Carnegie.

So Frick & Carnegie circulated a deceiving letter to all of the railroads warning them not to use the steel from the Duquesne Works because it lacked what he called "homogeneity." Now nobody in this Carnegie mill had any idea what this thing homogeneity was. None of the people in the railroads had any idea what the term homogeneity meant. But it sounded good. It sounded like this was something that was important. And so the railroads were scared off of buying this new kind of a steel process.

It was a farce, but it worked. Less than a year later, Carnegie had convinced everyone that the rails made at his competitor’s mill were faulty. He then bought the mill for a bargain price and proceeded to use the same technology they had banned because of lack of “homogeneity”! And profits soared.

Yet not long after that, the steelworkers went on strike. It was one of the bloodiest strikes and battles of this era (Homestead Strike). It cost Carnegie’s business dearly in time, money, and lost lives.

Carnegie may have put his competitor out of business, but the way in which he treated his workers, their working conditions, and ultimately their livelihoods were in shambles.

You can always make money, and a lot of it. But treating people with dignity, honesty, and integrity are far greater character traits to acquire than all the riches in the world.

As an old Shona proverb says, "Be on good terms with those you leave, because it is night where you are going.”

(photo via wikipedia)