The Keystone Works have always been my pet as being the parent of all the other works. But they had not been long in existence before the advantage of wrought- over cast-iron became manifest. Accordingly, to insure uniform quality, and also to make certain shapes which were not then to be obtained, we determined to embark in the manufacture of iron. My brother and I became interested with Thomas N. Miller, Henry Phipps, and Andrew Kloman in a small iron mill. Miller was the first to embark with Kloman and he brought Phipps in, lending him eight hundred dollars to buy a one-sixth interest, in November, 1861.
I must not fail to record that Mr. Miller was the pioneer of our iron manufacturing projects. We were all indebted to Tom, who still lives (July 20, 1911) and sheds upon us the sweetness and light of a most lovable nature, a friend who grows more precious as the years roll by. He has softened by age, and even his outbursts against theology as antagonistic to true religion are in his fine old age much less alarming. We are all prone to grow philosophic in age, and perhaps this is well. [In re-reading this – July 19, 1912 – in our retreat upon the high moors at Aultnagar, I drop a tear for my bosom friend, dear Tom Miller, who died in Pittsburgh last winter. Mrs. Carnegie and I attended his funeral. Henceforth life lacks something, lacks much – my first partner in early years, my dearest friend in old age. May I go where he is, wherever that may be.]
Andrew Kloman had a small steel-hammer in Allegheny City. As a superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad I had found that he made the best axles. He was a great mechanic – one who had discovered, what was then unknown in Pittsburgh, that whatever was worth doing with machinery was worth doing well. His German mind made him thorough. What he constructed cost enormously, but when once started it did the work it was intended to do from year’s end to year’s end. In those early days it was a question with axles generally whether they would run any specified time or break. There was no analysis of material, no scientific treatment of it.
How much this German created! He was the first man to introduce the cold saw that cut cold iron the exact lengths. He invented upsetting machines to make bridge links, and also built the first „universal” mill in America. All these were erected at our works. When Captain Eads could not obtain the couplings for the St. Louis Bridge arches (the contractors failing to make them) and matters were at a standstill, Kloman told us that he could make them and why the others had failed. He succeeded in making them. Up to that date they were the largest semicircles that had ever been rolled. Our confidence in Mr. Kloman may be judged from the fact that when he said he could make them we unhesitatingly contracted to furnish them.
I have already spoken of the intimacy between our family and that of the Phippses. In the early days my chief companion was the elder brother, John. Henry was several years my junior, but had not failed to attract my attention as a bright, clever lad. One day he asked his brother John to lend him a quarter of a dollar. John saw that he had important use for it and handed him the shining quarter without inquiry. Next morning an advertisement appeared in the „Pittsburgh Dispatch”:
„A willing boy wishes work.”
This was the use the energetic and willing Harry had made of his quarter, probably the first quarter he had ever spent at one time in his life. A response came from the well-known firm of Dilworth and Bidwell. They asked the „willing boy” to call. Harry went and obtained a position as errand boy, and as was then the custom, his first duty every morning was to sweep the office. He went to his parents and obtained their consent, and in this way the young lad launched himself upon the sea of business. There was no holding back a boy like that. It was the old story. He soon became indispensable to his employers, obtained a small interest in a collateral branch of their business; and then, ever on the alert, it was not many years before he attracted the attention of Mr. Miller, who made a small investment for him with Andrew Kloman. That finally resulted in the building of the iron mill in Twenty-Ninth Street. He had been a schoolmate and great crony of my brother Tom. As children they had played together, and throughout life, until my brother’s death in 1886, these two formed, as it were, a partnership within a partnership. They invariably held equal interests in the various firms with which they were connected. What one did the other did.
The errand boy is now one of the richest men in the United States and has begun to prove that he knows how to expend his surplus. Years ago he gave beautiful conservatories to the public parks of Allegheny and Pittsburgh. That he specified „that these should be open upon Sunday” shows that he is a man of his time. This clause in the gift created much excitement. Ministers denounced him from the pulpit and assemblies of the church passed resolutions declaring against the desecration of the Lord’s Day. But the people rose, en masse, against this narrow-minded contention and the Council of the city accepted the gift with acclamation. The sound common sense of my partner was well expressed when he said in reply to a remonstrance by ministers:
„It is all very well for you, gentlemen, who work one day in the week and are masters of your time the other six during which you can view the beauties of Nature – all very well for you – but I think it shameful that you should endeavor to shut out from the toiling masses all that is calculated to entertain and instruct them during the only day which you well know they have at their disposal.”
These same ministers have recently been quarreling in their convention at Pittsburgh upon the subject of instrumental music in churches. But while they are debating whether it is right to have organs in churches, intelligent people are opening museums, conservatories, and libraries upon the Sabbath; and unless the pulpit soon learns how to meet the real wants of the people in this life (where alone men’s duties lie) much better than it is doing at present, these rival claimants for popular favor may soon empty their churches.
Unfortunately Kloman and Phipps soon differed with Miller about the business and forced him out. Being convinced that Miller was unfairly treated, I united with him in building new works. These were the Cyclops Mills of 1864. After they were set running it became possible, and therefore advisable, to unite the old and the new works, and the Union Iron Mills were formed by their consolidation in 1867. I did not believe that Mr. Miller’s reluctance to associate again with his former partners, Phipps and Kloman, could not be overcome, because they would not control the Union Works. Mr. Miller, my brother, and I would hold the controlling interest. But Mr. Miller proved obdurate and begged me to buy his interest, which I reluctantly did after all efforts had failed to induce him to let bygones be bygones. He was Irish, and the Irish blood when aroused is uncontrollable. Mr. Miller has since regretted (to me) his refusal of my earnest request, which would have enabled the pioneer of all of us to reap what was only his rightful reward – millionairedom for himself and his followers.
We were young in manufacturing then and obtained for the Cyclops Mills what was considered at the time an enormous extent of land – seven acres. For some years we offered to lease a portion of the ground to others. It soon became a question whether we could continue the manufacture of iron within so small an area. Mr. Kloman succeeded in making iron beams and for many years our mill was far in advance of any other in that respect. We began at the new mill by making all shapes which were required, and especially such as no other concern would undertake, depending upon an increasing demand in our growing country for things that were only rarely needed at first. What others could not or would not do we would attempt, and this was a rule of our business which was strictly adhered to. Also we would make nothing except of excellent quality. We always accommodated our customers, even although at some expense to ourselves, and in cases of dispute we gave the other party the benefit of the doubt and settled. These were our rules. We had no lawsuits.
As I became acquainted with the manufacture of iron I was greatly surprised to find that the cost of each of the various processes was unknown. Inquiries made of the leading manufacturers of Pittsburgh proved this. It was a lump business, and until stock was taken and the books balanced at the end of the year, the manufacturers were in total ignorance of results. I heard of men who thought their business at the end of the year would show a loss and had found a profit, and vice-versa. I felt as if we were moles burrowing in the dark, and this to me was intolerable. I insisted upon such a system of weighing and accounting being introduced throughout our works as would enable us to know what our cost was for each process and especially what each man was doing, who saved material, who wasted it, and who produced the best results.
To arrive at this was a much more difficult task than one would imagine. Every manager in the mills was naturally against the new system. Years were required before an accurate system was obtained, but eventually, by the aid of many clerks and the introduction of weighing scales at various points in the mill, we began to know not only what every department was doing, but what each one of the many men working at the furnaces was doing, and thus to compare one with another. One of the chief sources of success in manufacturing is the introduction and strict maintenance of a perfect system of accounting so that responsibility for money or materials can be brought home to every man. Owners who, in the office, would not trust a clerk with five dollars without having a check upon him, were supplying tons of material daily to men in the mills without exacting an account of their stewardship by weighing what each returned in the finished form.
The Siemens Gas Furnace had been used to some extent in Great Britain for heating steel and iron, but it was supposed to be too expensive. I well remember the criticisms made by older heads among the Pittsburgh manufacturers about the extravagant expenditure we were making upon these new-fangled furnaces. But in the heating of great masses of material, almost half the waste could sometimes be saved by using the new furnaces. The expenditure would have been justified, even if it had been doubled. Yet it was many years before we were followed in this new departure; and in some of those years the margin of profit was so small that the most of it was made up from the savings derived from the adoption of the improved furnaces.
Our strict system of accounting enabled us to detect the great waste possible in heating large masses of iron. This improvement revealed to us a valuable man in a clerk, William Borntraeger, a distant relative of Mr. Kloman, who came from Germany. He surprised us one day by presenting a detailed statement showing results for a period, which seemed incredible. All the needed labor in preparing this statement he had performed at night unasked and unknown to us. The form adapted was uniquely original. Needless to say, William soon became superintendent of the works and later a partner, and the poor German lad died a millionaire. He well deserved his fortune.
It was in 1862 that the great oil wells of Pennsylvania attracted attention. My friend Mr. William Coleman, whose daughter became, at a later date, my sister-in-law, was deeply interested in the discovery, and nothing would do but that I should take a trip with him to the oil regions. It was a most interesting excursion. There had been a rush to the oil fields and the influx was so great that it was impossible for all to obtain shelter. This, however, to the class of men who flocked thither, was but a slight drawback. A few hours sufficed to knock up a shanty, and it was surprising in how short a time they were able to surround themselves with many of the comforts of life. They were men above the average, men who had saved considerable sums and were able to venture something in the search for fortune.
What surprised me was the good humor which prevailed everywhere. It was a vast picnic, full of amusing incidents. Everybody was in high glee; fortunes were supposedly within reach; everything was booming. On the tops of the derricks floated flags on which strange mottoes were displayed. I remember looking down toward the river and seeing two men working their treadles boring for oil upon the banks of the stream, and inscribed upon their flag was „Hell or China.” They were going down, no matter how far.
The adaptability of the American was never better displayed than in this region. Order was soon evolved out of chaos. When we visited the place not long after we were serenaded by a brass band the players of which were made up of the new inhabitants along the creek. It would be safe to wager that a thousand Americans in a new land would organize themselves, establish schools, churches, newspapers, and brass bands – in short, provide themselves with all the appliances of civilization – and go ahead developing their country before an equal number of British would have discovered who among them was the highest in hereditary rank and had the best claims to leadership owing to his grandfather. There is but one rule among Americans – the tools to those who can use them.
To-day Oil Creek is a town of many thousand inhabitants, as is also Titusville at the other end of the creek. The district which began by furnishing a few barrels of oil every season, gathered with blankets from the surface of the creek by the Seneca Indians, has now several towns and refineries, with millions of dollars of capital. In those early days all the arrangements were of the crudest character. When the oil was obtained it was run into flat-bottomed boats which leaked badly. Water ran into the boats and the oil overflowed into the river. The creek was dammed at various places, and upon a stipulated day and hour the dams were opened and upon the flood the oil boats floated to the Allegheny River, and thence to Pittsburgh.
In this way not only the creek, but the Allegheny River, became literally covered with oil. The loss involved in transportation to Pittsburgh was estimated at fully a third of the total quantity, and before the oil boats started it is safe to say that another third was lost by leakage. The oil gathered by the Indians in the early days was bottled in Pittsburgh and sold at high prices as medicine – a dollar for a small vial. It had general reputation as a sure cure for rheumatic tendencies. As it became plentiful and cheap its virtues vanished. What fools we mortals be!
The most celebrated wells were upon the Storey farm. Upon these we obtained an option of purchase for forty thousand dollars. We bought them. Mr. Coleman, ever ready at suggestion, proposed to make a lake of oil by excavating a pool sufficient to hold a hundred thousand barrels (the waste to be made good every day by running streams of oil into it), and to hold it for the not far distant day when, as we then expected, the oil supply would cease. This was promptly acted upon, but after losing many thousands of barrels waiting for the expected day (which has not yet arrived) we abandoned the reserve. Coleman predicted that when the supply stopped, oil would bring ten dollars a barrel and therefore we would have a million dollars worth in the lake. We did not think then of Nature’s storehouse below which still keeps on yielding many thousands of barrels per day without apparent exhaustion.
This forty-thousand-dollar investment proved for us the best of all so far. The revenues from it came at the most opportune time. The building of the new mill in Pittsburgh required not only all the capital we could gather, but the use of our credit, which I consider, looking backward, was remarkably good for young men.
[Footnote 28: The wells on the Storey farm paid in one year a million dollars in cash and dividends, and the farm itself eventually became worth, on a stock basis, five million dollars.]
Having become interested in this oil venture, I made several excursions to the district and also, in 1864, to an oil field in Ohio where a great well had been struck which yielded a peculiar quality of oil well fitted for lubricating purposes. My journey thither with Mr. Coleman and Mr. David Ritchie was one of the strangest experiences I ever had. We left the railway line some hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh and plunged through a sparsely inhabited district to the waters of Duck Creek to see the monster well. We bought it before leaving.
It was upon our return that adventures began. The weather had been fine and the roads quite passable during our journey thither, but rain had set in during our stay. We started back in our wagon, but before going far fell into difficulties. The road had become a mass of soft, tenacious mud and our wagon labored fearfully. The rain fell in torrents, and it soon became evident that we were in for a night of it. Mr. Coleman lay at full length on one side of the wagon, and Mr. Ritchie on the other, and I, being then very thin, weighing not much more than a hundred pounds, was nicely sandwiched between the two portly gentlemen. Every now and then the wagon proceeded a few feet heaving up and down in the most outrageous manner, and finally sticking fast. In this fashion we passed the night. There was in front a seat across the wagon, under which we got our heads, and in spite of our condition the night was spent in uproarious merriment.
By the next night we succeeded in reaching a country town in the worst possible plight. We saw the little frame church of the town lighted and heard the bell ringing. We had just reached our tavern when a committee appeared stating that they had been waiting for us and that the congregation was assembled. It appears that a noted exhorter had been expected who had no doubt been delayed as we had been. I was taken for the absentee minister and asked how soon I would be ready to accompany them to the meeting-house. I was almost prepared with my companions to carry out the joke (we were in for fun), but I found I was too exhausted with fatigue to attempt it. I had never before come so near occupying a pulpit.
My investments now began to require so much of my personal attention that I resolved to leave the service of the railway company and devote myself exclusively to my own affairs. I had been honored a short time before this decision by being called by President Thomson to Philadelphia. He desired to promote me to the office of assistant general superintendent with headquarters at Altoona under Mr. Lewis. I declined, telling him that I had decided to give up the railroad service altogether, that I was determined to make a fortune and I saw no means of doing this honestly at any salary the railroad company could afford to give, and I would not do it by indirection. When I lay down at night I was going to get a verdict of approval from the highest of all tribunals, the judge within.
I repeated this in my parting letter to President Thomson, who warmly congratulated me upon it in his letter of reply. I resigned my position March 28, 1865, and received from the men on the railway a gold watch. This and Mr. Thomson’s letter I treasure among my most precious mementos.
The following letter was written to the men on the Division:
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY SUPERINTENDENT’S OFFICE, PITTSBURGH DIVISION PITTSBURGH, March 28, 1865
To the Officers and Employees of the Pittsburgh Division
I cannot allow my connection with you to cease without some expression of the deep regret felt at parting.
Twelve years of pleasant intercourse have served to inspire feelings of personal regard for those who have so faithfully labored with me in the service of the Company. The coming change is painful only as I reflect that in consequence thereof I am not to be in the future, as in the past, intimately associated with you and with many others in the various departments, who have through business intercourse, become my personal friends. I assure you although the official relations hitherto existing between us must soon close, I can never fail to feel and evince the liveliest interest in the welfare of such as have been identified with the Pittsburgh Division in times past, and who are, I trust, for many years to come to contribute to the success of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and share in its justly deserved prosperity.
Thanking you most sincerely for the uniform kindness shown toward me, for your zealous efforts made at all times to meet my wishes, and asking for my successor similar support at your hands, I bid you all farewell.
(Signed) ANDREW CARNEGIE
Thenceforth I never worked for a salary. A man must necessarily occupy a narrow field who is at the beck and call of others. Even if he becomes president of a great corporation he is hardly his own master, unless he holds control of the stock. The ablest presidents are hampered by boards of directors and shareholders, who can know but little of the business. But I am glad to say that among my best friends to-day are those with whom I labored in the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
In the year 1867, Mr. Phipps, Mr. J.W. Vandevort, and myself revisited Europe, traveling extensively through England and Scotland, and made the tour of the Continent. „Vandy” had become my closest companion. We had both been fired by reading Bayard Taylor’s „Views Afoot.” It was in the days of the oil excitement and shares were going up like rockets. One Sunday, lying in the grass, I said to „Vandy”:
„If you could make three thousand dollars would you spend it in a tour through Europe with me?”
„Would a duck swim or an Irishman eat potatoes?” was his reply.
The sum was soon made in oil stock by the investment of a few hundred dollars which „Vandy” had saved. This was the beginning of our excursion. We asked my partner, Harry Phipps, who was by this time quite a capitalist, to join the party. We visited most of the capitals of Europe, and in all the enthusiasm of youth climbed every spire, slept on mountain-tops, and carried our luggage in knapsacks upon our backs. We ended our journey upon Vesuvius, where we resolved some day to go around the world.
This visit to Europe proved most instructive. Up to this time I had known nothing of painting or sculpture, but it was not long before I could classify the works of the great painters. One may not at the time justly appreciate the advantage he is receiving from examining the great masterpieces, but upon his return to America he will find himself unconsciously rejecting what before seemed truly beautiful, and judging productions which come before him by a new standard. That which is truly great has so impressed itself upon him that what is false or pretentious proves no longer attractive.
My visit to Europe also gave me my first great treat in music. The Handel Anniversary was then being celebrated at the Crystal Palace in London, and I had never up to that time, nor have I often since, felt the power and majesty of music in such high degree. What I heard at the Crystal Palace and what I subsequently heard on the Continent in the cathedrals, and at the opera, certainly enlarged my appreciation of music. At Rome the Pope’s choir and the celebrations in the churches at Christmas and Easter furnished, as it were, a grand climax to the whole.
These visits to Europe were also of great service in a commercial sense. One has to get out of the swirl of the great Republic to form a just estimate of the velocity with which it spins. I felt that a manufacturing concern like ours could scarcely develop fast enough for the wants of the American people, but abroad nothing seemed to be going forward. If we excepted a few of the capitals of Europe, everything on the Continent seemed to be almost at a standstill, while the Republic represented throughout its entire extent such a scene as there must have been at the Tower of Babel, as pictured in the story-books – hundreds rushing to and fro, each more active than his neighbor, and all engaged in constructing the mighty edifice.
It was Cousin „Dod” (Mr. George Lauder) to whom we were indebted for a new development in our mill operations – the first of its kind in America. He it was who took our Mr. Coleman to Wigan in England and explained the process of washing and coking the dross from coal mines. Mr. Coleman had constantly been telling us how grand it would be to utilize what was then being thrown away at our mines, and was indeed an expense to dispose of. Our Cousin „Dod” was a mechanical engineer, educated under Lord Kelvin at Glasgow University, and as he corroborated all that Mr. Coleman stated, in December, 1871, I undertook to advance the capital to build works along the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Contracts for ten years were made with the leading coal companies for their dross and with the railway companies for transportation, and Mr. Lauder, who came to Pittsburgh and superintended the whole operation for years, began the construction of the first coal-washing machinery in America. He made a success of it – he never failed to do that in any mining or mechanical operation he undertook – and he soon cleared the cost of the works. No wonder that at a later date my partners desired to embrace the coke works in our general firm and thus capture not only these, but Lauder also. „Dod” had won his spurs.
The ovens were extended from time to time until we had five hundred of them, washing nearly fifteen hundred tons of coal daily. I confess I never pass these coal ovens at Larimer’s Station without feeling that if he who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is a public benefactor and lays the race under obligation, those who produce superior coke from material that has been for all previous years thrown over the bank as worthless, have great cause for self-congratulation. It is fine to make something out of nothing; it is also something to be the first firm to do this upon our continent.
We had another valuable partner in a second cousin of mine, a son of Cousin Morrison of Dunfermline. Walking through the shops one day, the superintendent asked me if I knew I had a relative there who was proving an exceptional mechanic. I replied in the negative and asked that I might speak with him on our way around. We met. I asked his name.
„Morrison,” was the reply, „son of Robert” – my cousin Bob.
„Well, how did you come here?”
„I thought we could better ourselves,” he said.
„Who have you with you?”
„My wife,” was the reply.
„Why didn’t you come first to see your relative who might have been able to introduce you here?”
„Well, I didn’t feel I needed help if I only got a chance.”
There spoke the true Morrison, taught to depend on himself, and independent as Lucifer. Not long afterwards I heard of his promotion to the superintendency of our newly acquired works at Duquesne, and from that position he steadily marched upward. He is to-day a blooming, but still sensible, millionaire. We are all proud of Tom Morrison. [A note received from him yesterday invites Mrs. Carnegie and myself to be his guests during our coming visit of a few days at the annual celebration of the Carnegie Institute.]
I was always advising that our iron works should be extended and new developments made in connection with the manufacture of iron and steel, which I saw was only in its infancy. All apprehension of its future development was dispelled by the action of America with regard to the tariff upon foreign imports. It was clear to my mind that the Civil War had resulted in a fixed determination upon the part of the American people to build a nation within itself, independent of Europe in all things essential to its safety. America had been obliged to import all her steel of every form and most of the iron needed, Britain being the chief seller. The people demanded a home supply and Congress granted the manufacturers a tariff of twenty-eight per cent ad valorem on steel rails – the tariff then being equal to about twenty-eight dollars per ton. Rails were selling at about a hundred dollars per ton, and other rates in proportion.
Protection has played a great part in the development of manufacturing in the United States. Previous to the Civil War it was a party question, the South standing for free trade and regarding a tariff as favorable only to the North. The sympathy shown by the British Government for the Confederacy, culminating in the escape of the Alabama and other privateers to prey upon American commerce, aroused hostility against that Government, notwithstanding the majority of her common people favored the United States. The tariff became no longer a party question, but a national policy, approved by both parties. It had become a patriotic duty to develop vital resources. No less than ninety Northern Democrats in Congress, including the Speaker of the House, agreed upon that point.
Capital no longer hesitated to embark in manufacturing, confident as it was that the nation would protect it as long as necessary. Years after the war, demands for a reduction of the tariff arose and it was my lot to be drawn into the controversy. It was often charged that bribery of Congressmen by manufacturers was common. So far as I know there was no foundation for this. Certainly the manufacturers never raised any sums beyond those needed to maintain the Iron and Steel Association, a matter of a few thousand dollars per year. They did, however, subscribe freely to a campaign when the issue was Protection versus Free Trade.
The duties upon steel were successively reduced, with my cordial support, until the twenty-eight dollars duty on rails became only one fourth or seven dollars per ton. [To-day (1911) the duty is only about one half of that, and even that should go in the next revision.] The effort of President Cleveland to pass a more drastic new tariff was interesting. It cut too deep in many places and its passage would have injured more than one manufacture. I was called to Washington, and tried to modify and, as I believe, improve, the Wilson Bill. Senator Gorman, Democratic leader of the Senate, Governor Flower of New York, and a number of the ablest Democrats were as sound protectionists in moderation as I was. Several of these were disposed to oppose the Wilson Bill as being unnecessarily severe and certain to cripple some of our domestic industries. Senator Gorman said to me he wished as little as I did to injure any home producer, and he thought his colleagues had confidence in and would be guided by me as to iron and steel rates, provided that large reductions were made and that the Republican Senators would stand unitedly for a bill of that character. I remember his words, „I can afford to fight the President and beat him, but I can’t afford to fight him and be beaten.”
Governor Flower shared these views. There was little trouble in getting our party to agree to the large reductions I proposed. The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Bill was adopted. Meeting Senator Gorman later, he explained that he had to give way on cotton ties to secure several Southern Senators. Cotton ties had to be free. So tariff legislation goes.
I was not sufficiently prominent in manufacturing to take part in getting the tariff established immediately after the war, so it happened that my part has always been to favor reduction of duties, opposing extremes – the unreasonable protectionists who consider the higher the duties the better and declaim against any reduction, and the other extremists who denounce all duties and would adopt unrestrained free trade.
We could now (1907) abolish all duties upon steel and iron without injury, essential as these duties were at the beginning. Europe has not much surplus production, so that should prices rise exorbitantly here only a small amount could be drawn from there and this would instantly raise prices in Europe, so that our home manufacturers could not be seriously affected. Free trade would only tend to prevent exorbitant prices here for a time when the demand was excessive. Home iron and steel manufacturers have nothing to fear from free trade. [I recently (1910) stated this in evidence before the Tariff Commission at Washington.]