|Munhall's story spans nearly two centuries, beginning the late 1700s with early settlers and the formation for a community. It progresses to the massive investment in the late 1800s by a handful of industrialists. Decades of both prosperity and decline. Homestead's legacy provides us with important lessons about the fortunes of industrial development and organized labor in America.|
Amity Homestead was the name given by John McClure to a quaint country seat which he built in the bend of the Monongahela a mile or so below Braddock's Crossing, and ten miles from Pittsburgh in Mifflin Township. John passed the picturesque place on to his son John, and through him to his grandson Abdiel.
At one time, the area of Homestead generally bounded by Ann Street to the West and McClure Street to the East, the riverfront to the North and East 12th Avenue made up the estate of the McClure family. The huge McClure home stood approximately between East 9th Avenue and East 10th Avenue, with a large lawn fronting Eighth Avenue. The easterly property boundary at McClure Street as the dividing line between Homestead Borough and what was then Mifflin Township, and now Munhall Borough.
In the 1850s, the McClure family, hoping to raise person funds, organized a land title company with other early landowners and began to subdivide their sizeable property holdings. Today, this recorded plan of lots bears the McClure family name. About 1890, a typical lot of 50 feet by 100 feet in this neighborhood would have cost approximately $2,500, and one of these homes are estimated to have cost between $5,000 and $20,000 to build.
The City of Pittsburgh was looking for property to erect its new Poor Farm in 1850 and bought 150 acres from Abdiel McClure.
In 1872, Abdiel sold 113 acres to a banking and insurance company and a town was forthwith laid out and called Homestead. The first sale of lots was made to all the old-time accompaniments of a brass band and free junketing; and the Pittsburgh, Virginia and Charleston Railroad building across the empty lots the following year, the town took a good start and bade fair soon to grow as big as the older places in the region. But the panic of 1873 came and gave it a setback from with it was long in recovering. In 1879 there were less than six hundred inhabitants in the place. Munhall was incorporated as a borough in 1901.
Steel Industry Starts in Homestead
In 1879, Kloman decided to build a mill of their own. They bought a small tract of land adjoining the City Poor Farm at Homestead, and commenced the erection of a building 684 feet long by 85 feet wide to contain a 21 inch mill, two Universal mills, a 16 inch bar train and a muck train. At the same time the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company bought some 40 to 50 acres of land adjoining the Kloman's and commenced then erection of a converting works and blooming mills, these two concerns were designed to work together, Kloman taking the surplus product and the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company working it into structural shapes.
The first steel for this plant was made on March 19, 1881, and the first rail on August 9, 1881. Before the mill was quite completed, however, Kloman died. The Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company at once purchased Kloman's unfinished mill. By September 1881, they were turning out 200 tons of rails daily.
The Carnegies looked on with surprise and alarm. Up to this time, they ad been the only makes of rail in the Pittsburgh district. Here was competition at their very door!
In June 1882, the Amalgamated Association Workers went on strike against the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company. About this time, the price of steel was rapidly falling and, alarmed by the imminent call for more capital, some of the Homestead stockholders hastened to get out of the company. They went to the Carnegies and offered them control of the mill in October of 1883. The Homestead Mills became property of the Carnegie Group, at this time, the best-equipped plants of its size in the country.
The old Pittsburgh City Poor Farm had out-grown itself and the City of Pittsburgh sold some 148 acres to the Carnegie Land Company in 1891. A new facility was built for the City of Pittsburgh known as Marshalea was occupied in 1894.
The Carnegie Land Company, a subsidiary of Carnegie Steel, purchased properties in the area from the McClure, Hayes and Munhall families to expand the Homestead Works and to sell lots for the construction of homes to its workers.
The Munhall Brothers laid out a plan of lots, sold lots to mill employees, and constructed houses for rental or purchase by employees in "Munhall Hollow" (present day Ravine Street).
In 1901, the scene was set for the incorporation of Munhall Borough, which was named for John Munhall. It embraces a section know popularly as "East Homestead", Munhall Station and the steel properties which were by that time in the control of United States Steel Corporation.
The City Farm Plan of lots stretched from the riverfront in a pie-shape, up the hill from McClure Street to the West and to Martha Street to the East. It ended at a point at what is now the vicinity of 17th Avenue.
A section of this large tract of land, the area in the vicinity of the Carnegie Library, was developed as the elite area of Homestead and Munhall from the 1890s to about 1920.
While in New York City, Andrew Carnegie met the designer of Central Park, Fredrick Law Olmstead. He hired Olmstead to come to visit Homestead and lay out a plan of homes around his proposed new library.
Carnegie believed in the future and made plans for many of his projects in this manner. Olmstead laid out broad streets with space for parking and still provided for two lane vehicular traffic. Olmstead believed in providing "green space" that was often forgotten about in fast growing city areas of that time. Utilities for the planned homes were through the rear of the properties. In this manner, all homes were visually correct or pleasing to the eye.
The large grouping of huge company built homes included the residence for the Superintendent of the Homestead Steel Works and for each manager of the major steel works departments. Open Hearths, Rolling Mills, Bessemer Department, Blast Furnaces, Production Planning, etcetera. The home was made part of the Manager's employment package. The mill supplied the electricity and natural gas services to these homes as well as the Library, until the late 1940s. Visitors will note that the area's homes are substantial construction, the large lot sizes, the tree-lined streets, and the small Park Square Commons Area. There is a marked difference in this neighborhood compared to the nearby Homestead, just a block away; where older, frame homes and small closer set lots predominate.
Living in this neighborhood, the home buyers in Park Square and the City Farm Plan were required by the Carnegie Land Company restrictions to construct only homes, which cost at least $3,000. The lots in the Library Estates sold from $3,500 to $5,000 each (1900 money). Types of homes that were to be built were Venetian, Brownstone, Mansen or Queen Anne. The also agreed to company-stipulated building setbacks requiring at least a 25-foot setback from the street. Buyers also agreed never to sell "vinous, spirituous, malt or any other kind of intoxicating liquors on the properties." Finally, the deed restrictions protect the homebuilders in this area. From what you may wonder? From complaints or suits about smoke, heat, noise, blast, concussion, dust, glare, explosion or any impacts from the nearby Homestead Steel Works. The company was obviously determined to go about its business and protect its investment at all cost!
Andrew Carnegie, the son of a handloom weaver, was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on 25th November, 1835. The family had a long radical tradition and his father, William Carnegie, was an active Chartist. His material grandfather, Thomas Morrison, had worked with William Cobbett during his campaign for social reform.
The economic depression of 1848 convinced the Carnegie family to emigrate to the United States where they joined a Scottish colony at Allegheny near Pittsburgh. Andrew began work at 12 in a local cotton factory but continued his education by attending night school.
At 14 Carnegie became a messenger boy in the local Pittsburgh Telegraph Office. His abilities were noticed by Thomas A. Scott, the superintendent of the western division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He made Carnegie his secretary. During the Civil War Scott was appointed assistant secretary of war and Carnegie went to Washington to work as his right-hand man. Carnegie's work included organizing the military telegraph system.
After the war Carnegie succeeded Scott as superintendent of the western division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Carnegie shrewdly invested in several promising ventures including the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company and several small iron mills and factories. The most important of these was Keystone Bridge, a company which he owned a one-fifth share.
Carnegie made regular visits to Britain where he observed the rapid developments in the iron industry. He was especially impressed by the converter invented by Henry Bessemer. Carnegie realised that steel would now replace iron for the manufacture of heavy goods.
In 1870 Carnegie erected his first blast furnace where he used the ideas being developed by Bessemer in England. Others followed and by 1874 he opened his steel furnace at Braddock. He took several partners, including Henry Frick, but he insisted in retaining the majority holding in his various ventures.
Carnegie took a keen interest in social and political issues and wrote a series of books including Round the World (1881), An American Four-in-Hand in Britain (1883) and Triumphant Democracy (1886), where he compared the egalitarianism of America with the class-based inequalities of Britain and other European countries. He praised America's educational system arguing that: "Of all its boasts, of all its triumphs, this is at once its proudest and its best."
In June, 1889, the North American Review published an article by Carnegie on what he called the "Gospel of Wealth". In the article Carnegie argued that it was the duty of rich men and women to use their wealth to benefit the welfare of the community. He wrote that a "man who dies rich dies disgraced".
In 1889 Carnegie decided to allow Henry Frick to become chairman of the Carnegie Companywhile he moved to New York to deal with the growing importance of research and development. Carnegie also spent six months of the year in Scotland with his family.
When Frick took control the firm consisted of various mills and furnaces in the Pittsburgh area. Frick was concerned that there was no centralized management structure and so in 1892 all productive units were integrated to form the Carnegie Steel Company. Valued at $25 million it was now the largest steel company in the world.
In an effort to increase profits, Henry Frick decided to lower the piecework wage rate of his employees. In 1892 the Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers Union called out its members at the Carnegie's Homestead plant. Frick now took the controversial decision to employ 300 strikebreakers from outside the area. The men were brought in on armed barges down the Monongahela River. The strikers were waiting for them and a day long battle took place. Ten men were killed and 60 wounded before the governor obtained order by placing Homestead under martial law.
Carnegie, who was in Scotland during the strike, was furious with Frick as he had instructed him not to use strikebreakers. In public Carnegie did not criticize Frick and as a result had to take responsibility for what had happened. He later wrote: "I was the controlling owner. That was sufficient to make my name a by-word for years".
The Carnegie Steel Company continued to expand and between 1889 & 1899, production of steel rose from 332,111 to 2,663,412 tons. Profits increased from $2 million to $40 million. There was growing conflict between Carnegie and Henry Frick. This came to a head in 1899 and Carnegie bought out Frick for $15 million.
In 1901 Frick joined with J. Pierpont Morgan to purchase the Carnegie Company for $500,000,000 and established the U.S. Steel Corporation that was valued at $1.4 billion. Carnegie himself now had a personal fortune of $225,000,000.
Carnegie set up a trust fund "for the improvement of mankind." This included the building of 3,000 public libraries (380 in Britain), the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Carnegie Institution of Washington for research into the natural and physical sciences. Carnegie also established the Endowment for International Peace in an effort to prevent future wars.
By the time Andrew Carnegie died, he had given away $350,000,000. A further $125 million was placed with the Carnegie Corporation to carry on his good works.
Carnegie died in Lenox, Massachusetts on August 11, 1919. He is interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.