Industrial Genius: The Working Life of Charles Michael Schwab

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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 Through extensive research and use of previously unpublished archival documentation, Warren offers a new perspective on the life of a monumental figure—a true visionary—in the industrial history of America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating portrait . . . Warren effectively cuts through the historical mythology surrounding Schwab's larger-than-life persona to reveal a man ruthlessly devoted to efficiency and technological innovation."
—Technology and Culture

"Warren, one of the best historians of the American steel industry, has used newly available papers to craft the fullest, most balanced account of Schwab's professional life to date, while offering new details of how Bethlehem Steel became the great business enterprise it was for the first seventy-five years of the twentieth century."
— PA Magazine of History and Biography


”Kenneth Warren is revolutionizing scholarship on the American steel industry.”

—The Journal of American History

“In his marvelous business biography of Charles Schwab, Kenneth Warren demonstrates yet again his talents as a historian of industrial America. Warren's portrait of Schwab is beautifully written, superbly documented, and filled with insights. It is the perfect complement to his earlier and equally superb biography of Henry Frick.”
—David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822961994
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth Warren is Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford. He is the author of numerous books, including Big Steel: The First Century of the United States Steel Corporation 1901-2001, and Wealth, Waste and Alienation: Growth and Decline in the Connellsville Coke Industry.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Industrial Thesis

    I picked up Industrial Genius: The Working Life of Charles Michael Schwab by Kenneth Warren after having read Crisis in Bethlehem by John Strohmeyer because the historian in me wanted to learn more about the man that "founded" Bethlehem Steel. I use quotations because between the two books one can quickly ascertain that Schwab neither founded US Steel nor Bethlehem but actually took over operations of the later after it had been in operations.

    In any case, one can assume that based on his current place of work, in Oxford, that Warren is English. Unfortunately, his words do not move smoothly on the page and when combined with his quotes from various historical figures whether from Schwab himself or Carnegie, for example, their own tones are less modern and more Shakespearean in texture. Simply meaning that if I was reading Shakespeare and had to read this type of dialogue/monologue then great but combined with Warren's own English and then the plodding overwhelming use of data the book itself starts to drown.

    There are moments, however brief, where the biographer picks up steam but the speed is just as quickly doused when more data comes streaming forth. Alas, Warren rather quickly jumps from Schwab's final days at Bethlehem with Grace taking control to his ultimate death almost as if nothing else of importance happened in-between and leaving a plethora of questions left unanswered such as: how, exactly, did he lose all his wealth, what were those supposed bad business decisions, what was the relationship like with Grace, with the city of Bethlehem, whatever happened to the child he alleged conceived with the nurse of his sister-in-law that never again was mentioned from the very first chapters of the book.

    While this book sure fits the purpose of a straightforward thesis it lacks no apparent argument other then what one can assume is to prove Schwab's worth as a captain of industry but as a good read and to prove the later Warren falls dreadfully short.

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