Heroes Behind The Steel Industries Of Pittsburgh!

Pittsburgh has come a long long way to become the top industrial city of America. There have been people, places, and even our rivers that helped da ‘Burgh to become the epic Steel City! The city has witnessed many massive outgrowths as well as dismal setbacks. However, what makes the yinzer spirit going is our ‘Men Of Steel’ attitude! Wondering how?

Although ‘Men Of Steel’ represents the highly talented and spiritful Pittsburgh Steelers, there is a strong backstory of resilience to the term as well. It’s about how we fought through the odds and embraced this unique culture of Pittsburgh through all these years. Our stories consist of struggling people who contributed to making this place an industrial hub for iron and steel.

Abandoned factories in PittsburghPhoto by B Kremer on Unsplash

But, there were also a few real heroes who visioned the city’s future. Acknowledging their roles and taking inspiration from their innovative minds is a reminder to ourselves. A reminder to be strong and creative so that attaining greater heights isn’t a tough end for Pittsburgh. So, today let’s explore these legendary figures whose visions made Pittsburgh thrive with its economy and industrial units!

1. Andrew Carnegie

A classy industrialist, Andrew Carnegie was a real asset of Pittsburgh. Despite not being a yinzer by birth, Carnegie escalated the city into its full swing as a steel producer. He was born to a middle-class family in Scotland in November 1835. His family came to our beautiful city seeking better jobs and more money.

His early days were usual. He was as hardworking and ambitious as any other man in those days in Pittsburgh. Good fortune let him thrive well when he got himself upgraded to the Pittsburgh division of the Pennsylvania Railroad Department. Slowly, he paved his successful path into business; especially, in the iron and coal industries. He opened up the first-ever steel company in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Steel Company. He tapped into the science of producing steel in bulk at cheaper costs, bringing more wages to the workers.

Andrew CarnegiePhoto from adamsmith.org

However, a few labor movements affected the smooth functioning of his company. A lot of issues were cleared out by another legend, Henry Clay Frick, the then manager of the company. But, by the 1900s, J.P. Morgan bought the company, owing to the creation of the largest corporation in the world.

The billionaire Carnegie further went into becoming a respectable philanthropist of Pittsburgh. His revolutionary efforts in scientific research and education are highly remarkable, with the wide range of institutions such as Carnegie Institution For Science, Carnegie Mellon University, and Carnegie Museums. Sadly, he died in August 1919 in Massachusetts.

2. Henry Clay Frick

Just Like Andrew Carnegie, we also had another brilliant man working beside Carnegie. And, it was none else than the manager of Carnegie Steel Company, Henry Clay Frick. Frick was born to a wealthy business family in Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania. With similar dreams to be a successful businessman, Frick kickstarted H.C. Frick & Company revolving around the coal mines of Pittsburgh.

However, the major breakthrough in his career was when he met Andrew Carnegie in New York City. The acquaintance grew into a business partnership, leading all the way to the position of a corporate manager. Unfortunately, minor disputes made things worse.

Henry Clay Frick

Photo from steelmuseum.org

Eventually, after J.P.Morgan acquired their firms into the US Steel Corporation, they had to split ways. But, Frick was appointed as the director of the corporation. This became the last professional role in business. Frick’s business activities were archived and talk tonnes about the industrial growth that Pittsburgh achieved during his times.

Like Carnegie, Frick too was heavily involved in philanthropy. He very well contributed to the construction of railroads in Pennsylvania. He also owned numerous lush green estates in the city, including the Frick Mansion. Upon his death in December 1919, all such properties were donated for public tourism activities. His extensive art collections are being exhibited in Frick Museum, one of the top attractions of Pittsburgh!

3. Andrew Mellon

Hailing from the wealthy Mellon family, Andrew Mellon was another businessman as well as a banker in Pittsburgh. His charismatic persona has helped the city deal with multiple financial and economic scenarios. History actually starts off right with his father, Thomas Mellon’s generation. Thomas left his legal practice to become a banker and establish the firm, T. Mellon & Sons in Pittsburgh.

Andrew MellonPhoto from inequality.org

Soon after receiving a top-notch level of education and insights, Andrew joined his father at the financial leads. His quick mind worked wonders, helping save the firm through the Panic of 1873. Gradually, he joined hands with Frick and established his ties with the major financial and industrial institutions of Pittsburgh. He traversed most of the smart paths in giving out loans and investing to make stellar profits for his firm and family legacy.

Mellon stepped out to the political scene too. He advocated for progressive taxation systems and reducing national debts. He was chosen as the Secretary Of Treasury in 1921. Although the onset of the Great Depression was a blow to his career, Andrew still put together efforts to bring back balance in the economy. His later life was filled with sad controversies and affairs, but he held onto providing donations for Carnegie Mellon University and the National Gallery of Art.

3. George Westinghouse

Even with major heroes in the iron and steel industry, Pittsburgh wasn’t yet done. It wanted skilled technicians and scientists who would run the race of technology besides economy and business. And, one among such tech-heads was George Westinghouse. He never went ahead, spreading a word about his contributions, standing more like an unsung hero. This was probably why he wasn’t much celebrated like Carnegie or Mellons.

While industrial success approached Pittsburgh with the advent of iron and steel sectors, the city being a strategic location did the magic to attract many companies towards the banks of the Golden Trio. Ever since the Civil War ended, the development of railroads boomed into businesses. To be precise, railroads and steel industries together raised the city into its current standards of living, technology, and economy. And, New York-born George Westinghouse led through this journey of the Steel City!

George Westinghouse

Photo from Wikipedia

After his early days of education, Westinghouse qualified himself as an engineer at the  Union Navy. His genius mind was quick-paced to win him over 20 patents for his discoveries & inventions. He excelled in creating useful railroad products soon. He came to Pittsburgh to explore the same by 1873. His efforts paved the way for the creation of Westinghouse Air Brake, a reliable solution to ease up railroad journeys in Pittsburgh. He aced unique expertise in addressing technological challenges, rightfully titled as the superior industrialist in the history of Pittsburgh.

Celebrate The Legacy: Men Of Steel From Pittsburgh

These are a few who have made Pittsburghese history. Histories need to be celebrated. Be it major downfalls or commemorative success, history makes us applaud and learn the efforts of our ancestors who helped to transform this smoke and soot-filled city into ‘Most Livable City in the World’. It also gives us the motivation to try more for our city and bring more goodness through economy, culture, and business. Let’s unite together for our beautiful city to commemorate our epic heroes and vibrant culture!


Buy the appealing ‘Men of Steel’ wall arts from Yinzershop and celebrate our ancestors for their efforts.

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