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United States Steel - The Origin Of X

( Originally Published 1939 )

IF any character could have stepped out alive from the pages of Horatio Alger's books, and developed far in expectation of the author's wildest dreams, that character would have been An-drew Carnegie.

Born in Scotland, in 1835, he immigrated to America at the age of thirteen and settled in Alleghany City, Pennsylvania. Carnegie's family was extremely poor, and he at once started work in a cotton mill as a bobbin boy. But he was destined for greater things in life, and five years later, at the age of 18, he had developed into a full-fledged telegraph operator. His next step was that of secretary to T. A. Scott, President of the Pennsylvania Rail-road, and so efficiently did he develop that in 1859 Scott made him the superintendent of the western division. When the Civil War broke out, Carnegie accompanied Scott, who was then Secretary of War, to the front.

During his railroad career, Carnegie introduced many innovations and pioneering features. He introduced sleeping cars, as they were then called. Eventually, however, his ambitions called him from railroading. He was fascinated by the new oil industry, which was rapidly developing, and he purchased the old "Storey" farm in Pennsylvania, from which much oil was taken.

The new oil industry was using huge quantities of iron and steel, and, ever on the alert for opportunities, we find Carnegie surveying the field. He started the Keystone Bridge Works and later built the Edgar Thompson Steel Mills. He then bought out the Homestead Steel Works, and, with this new acquisition, he found himself in control of an extensive plant, which was served by tributary coal and iron fields, a railroad 425 miles long, and a line of lake steamships.

He was joined in these enterprises by Henry Phipps, a boyhood friend, Charles M. Schwab and Henry C. Frick. Schwab had formerly been a stage coach driver, but at the age of eighteen he had given up his job and started with one of the Carnegie plants as a common day laborer. He advanced rapidly to Carnegie's ablest and first lieutenant.

Despite the depression of 1892-93, which was marked by the bloody Homestead strike, the various Carnegie Companies, under the personal leadership of Carnegie, and aided by favourable legislation, grew and prospered. In 1901 they were incorporated into the United States Steel Corporation, that famous ticker symbol "X", which is regarded as the most dominant market barometer on the Exchange.

"How's Steel?" is possibly the first question amateur and professional alike ask when inquiring the condition of the market. And well they might ask, for "X", possibly more than any other listed stock, might truly be said to be symbolic of the country's condition. Thousands of traders throughout the country, eagerly watch the financial news and ticker tape, for anything which might reflect the rise or fall of Steel's operating capacity.

So attractive had this great industry become, with its iron and coal mines, vast plants of every description, a thousand miles of railroad, and huge steamships, that Rockefeller began to turn envious eyes towards it. Negotiations were entered into, and Carnegie offered to sell for one hundred million dollars. Rockefeller refused, stating the price was ridiculous.

The Morgan interests next tried to get control. Carnegie advanced the price, and they also refused. However, they attempted to force the issue, and started out to compete with Steel. This raised the ire of the wily old Scotchman, and he, in turn, started out to compete with the Morgan interests. Surveyors were put to work to run parallel railroads with those controlled by Morgan, and, from confidential sources, Morgan learned he intended to go through with it.

Steel was too powerful to buck, and negotiations were again started. This time Carnegie really advanced the price. He asked four hundred and seventy-two millions of dollars for his interest, nearly three hundred and seventy-five million dollars more than he had offered to sell to Rockefeller five years before.

This time his offer was accepted, and the many varied Carnegie interests were consolidated into one huge enterprise. Thus was born the great United States Steel Corporation, "X", and America's first billion-dollar enterprise.

Carnegie, before his death, dispensed the majority of his large fortune in creating a large number of philanthropic institutions, of which libraries, throughout the nation, are the most notable.

Like many other great American enterprises, which found their birth in humble beginnings, United States Steel furnishes employment for tens of thousands of people. To a multitude of others, who had the courage of their convictions, and bought its stock at $10.00 a share, and less, the famous "X", down through the years, has added wealth and affluence.

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