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TIME Magazine, October 3, 1949, p. 11 (cover story):|
NATIONAL AFFAIRS: PENNSYLVANIA: Mr. Mellon's Patch
...World of Magarac & Mestrovic. In Pennsylvania's steel country, men tell of Hungarian Joe Magarac, who could lift a locomotive with his finger, and his rival, Slav Steve Mestrovic, who could twist 500-lb. bars of iron with his bare hands; they boiled their eggs in a Bessemer converter and combed their hair with traveling cranes. Magarac and Mestrovic belonged to legend, to Pittsburgh, and to an industrial development that had its counterparts but never its equal anywhere in the world.
It had forged the weapons and the axles and the cooking pots which had opened western America. It had made the steel girders of history's greatest surge of industrialism and the tools of a nation's factories. It boasted that it was the world's No. 1 producer of aluminum, tinplate, refractories, plumbing fixtures, lifting jacks, air brakes. It had armed a nation in two world wars.
It had also produced a rigidly stratified society, filthy air, bloody strikes...
Pittsburgh in the 20th Century was a noisy, grimy giant sprawled across a coal seam, gobbling up ore from Mesabi and spewing out molten steel. It squatted, black and ugly, on the hills between the Allegheny and the Monongahela, trailing mill towns up & down its river valleys. It dug the coal and fed it into fiery furnaces, and strewed the mountainous offal of its furnaces across its landscape.
Smoke from its stacks and its chimney pots, ash from its blast furnaces hung over its head in a never-dissapated cloud. Smoke curled even from the gashes in its hillsides, where fire burned internally along the coal seams...
It gobbled up people the way it gobbled up iron ore—people with the names of Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Yugoslavia. Some 1,000,000 of them lived and worked in the city's whole industrial complex, some 700,000 lived within the city's limits.
They rode up & down the cliff in ancient funiculars (the "Inclines"), jammed the buses and trolley cars which filled the cobblestone, alley-like streets. The luckier and better-paid lived in nearby suburbs. Most of the wealthy had fled to the distant suburbs of Sewickley Heights, Fox Chapel, or to Rolling Rock, 50 miles to the east in the mountains near the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
World of Frick & Mellon. In the 20th Century as in the 19th, Pittsburgh was ruled by money and steel, and by people bearing the names of Frick, Carnegie, Mellon. These were men who had made the city great...
But Frick, Carnegie and the Mellons had left a city... in which was concentrated all the evils and ailments and shocks and problems of the nation's industrial age.
The Golden Strand. That destiny had been fixed since the day a British soldier from Fort Pitt loaded a canoe with black coal from Mt. Washington and paddled off happily to build a fire in his barracks. The fort became a village and a forge, a town of sawmills, tan yards, lime kilns, brick kilns. Coal brought iron, and Pittsburgh opened its first blast furnace in 1790. It supplied shot and shell for Jackson's cannon at New Orleans and iron for the Civil War.
By 1870 railroads had threaded through its gullies, Henry Bessemer's newfangled converters were vomiting out molten steel. The city's face was already black with its industry—the grime from which it has never since been free.
But grime meant money. Men's ingenuity knew no limits, and the supply of fresh laborers from the villages of Europe was seemingly as inexhastible as the great coal fields under the Alleghenies. Pittsburgh grew and kept on growing.
And through all that growth and most of the city's history, like a golden strand, ran the name of Mellon.
The strand began in the middle of the 19th century when Thomas Mellon left his father's farm at nearby Poverty Point and on Smithfield Street hung out his shingle as a lawyer. He knew all the laws on foreclosures and he traded in other men's recklessness. In 1870 he had founded T. Mellon & Sons and had gone into private banking. Into this enterprise went two of his shrewdest sons— Andrew William and Richard Beatty.
The time was ripe for shrewd men.
The Moneymakers. Henry Clay Frick came to T. Mellon & Sons for a loan one day. Thomas' son Andrew eyed him up & down. That day began an association which was to last for 42 years. Nothing and no one was too big for H. C. Frick. He armed his agents with coke forks, kitchen knives and flintlocks and subdued his rebellious labor. He turned on the great Andrew Carnegie himself and fought a battle for power which ended in the mergers that became U.S. Steel Corp.
The Mellons fought the battle from their bank. The Mellons were never engineers, chemists, inventors, or even builders. They were moneymen. They manipulated the wealth required for the projection of other men's ambitions and dreams. They bought up real estate, financed railroads. They underwrote the development of the miraculous new light and silvery aluminum. With nephew William Larimer, son of Thomas' second son James, Andy and "R.B." financed the gigantic Spindletop gusher in Texas.
Thomas Mellon faded into senility and Andy [Andrew William Mellon] and R.B. [Richard Beatty Mellon] ran the show. Andy—shy, diffident, frail, and pale-eyed, fingering his thin cigars; R.B.—hearty, affable, horsy, married to Jennie King, a lively lady who wore a red wig—two brothers quite unlike in most respects but exactly alike in their acquisitiveness and the accuracy of their financial calculations.
They formed the Union Transfer and Trust Co. in order to integrate their expanding corporate interests (coal, aluminum, steel, glass, insurance, realty, street railways). Out of the Union Trust grew the Mellon National Bank. And out of it all came the wealth of the Mellons. In 1933, the affable R.B. died; in 1937, Andy.
King Enthroned. The heir apparent was Richard King Mellon, nephew of Andy, son of R.B., who was born in grandfather's turreted mansion in 1899. He grew up with an interest in electric trains and went to school with the medium rich at Pittsburgh's Shadyside Academy.
He went to Princeton for a year, spent World War I as a private of infantry in a training camp, returned briefly to Princeton and then took a business course at Carnegie Tech. He was not keen about business. He preferred fishing, yachting, hunting and riding to hounds on his father's estate at Rolling Rock. But his father, R.B., had other ideas. Young R. K. Mellon started as a bank messenger. At 28 he became vice president of Mellon National Bank.
Andrew Mellon's son Paul, to his father's bitter disappointment, had declined the career of a financial tycoon. Paul chose to go to Virginia, raise horses, read books and administer philanthropies. In 1934, with a strong sense of duty, R. K. Mellon took over the family throne.
...A friendly, subdued man, who nevertheless seemed to take his power and authority for granted, R. K. Mellon settled down conscientiously to a business routine—not letting it interfere too much, however, with his hunting, fishing, and riding. A determined batchelor until he was 36, he met his wife-to-be at a horse show.
She was New York Banker Seward Prosser's daughter, Constance, sportswoman and horsewoman. After a fashionable wedding in St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Englewood, N.J., they went to live in his medium-size, sandstone house (including a large trophy room) at Rolling Rock. They adopted four children: Richard, now 10; Cassandra, 9; Constance, 8; Seward Prosser, 7.
Mellon sat at the head of the family board*, which could measure its wealth by the wealth of top U.S. industries: Gulf Oil, Koppers, Aluminum Co. of America, the Mellon Bank and the General Reinsurance Co., which have total assets of more than $3.3 billion, and in which the Mellons have absolute or dominant control; First Boston Corp., Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Co., Westinhouse Air Brake Co., Pennsylvania Railroad, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., in all of which the Mellons have large interests.
But Mellon also had time to think about what was happening to the city which the family had helped to build.
He served in World War II at a desk job in Washington. Home again as a brigadier general in the Army Reserve, Mellon took off his uniform and thought even harder. On the night he and Mrs. Mellon returned to Pittsburgh the city was engulfed in black smog so thick that from the William Penn Hotel they could not see the lights of the Mellon National Bank, half a block away.
...R. K. Mellon took up his ideas with his colleagues around the Duquesne Club: such men as Pickleman H. J. ("Jack") Heinz II, Edgar Kaufmann of Kaufmann Department Store, U.S. Steel's Ben Fairless, Alcoa's Roy Hunt. Some of them products of a new age, all of them had a conception of the responsibilities of wealth that was far different from the views of the old masters of Pittsburgh...
Not only was Pittsburgh becoming the most unlivable city in the U.S.; Pittsburgh's domination of the steel world was literally at stake... Chicago, with less steelmaking capacity, had actually outproduced it in 1949.
...R. K. Mellon and his associates formed the Allegheny Conference on Community Development... they enlisted David Lawrence, Pittsburgh's Democratic mayor, as a bridge to the Democrats and to Pittsburgh labor...
Through the state legislature, Mellon, Lawrence and friends jammed a parcel of bills for countywide smoke control, sewage disposal, better highways, higher taxes. Pittsburgh only gradually became aware of what was happening. But in three years much did.
...The air had been fairly well cleared of smoke—Pittsburghers were sharply aware of that. There was 39% more sunlight: a white shirt could be worn decently a whole day. Locomotives were allowed by law to give off nothing worse than No. 2 smoke (not as white as No. 1, but not nearly as black as No. 4). Householders were forced to burn smokeless fuel...
But probably the most significant project under way was the hole outside of R. K. Mellon's office. On the first eight floors of the 39-story skyscraper the Mellon National Bank will have its quarters. On the next 30 floors will be the offices of U.S. Steel. On the 39th floor will be the offices of Big Steel's President Ben Fairless—and R. K. Mellon. Probably no single office floor in the U.S. would support such a weight of industrial power and influence...
* The other members: Mrs. Alan Scaife; cousin Paul and Paul's sister, Mrs. Alisa Bruce; and their elderly cousin, William Larimer Mellon.