April 27, 2014

The Frick in Manhattan

This mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City was once someone's home, and while many now come for the art collection, the house and its family are just as interesting. It is The Frick Collection and the family is that of Henry Clay Frick (1849 - 1919) from Pittsburgh.

The Frick Collection is known for its Old Master paintings and sculpture and was assembled by the industrialist, Henry Frick, and housed in  his former residence just across from Central Park. It is one of New York's few remaining Gilded Age mansions and it provides a place for Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya and Whistler, among others.

Frick was an American industrialist, financier and patron of the arts. He founded a coke company in Pittsburgh and played a major role in the formation of US Steel Company. He also financed both the Pennsylvania and the Reading railroad companies (of Monopoly fame). Frick was aligned with another industrialist baron, the Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie (of PBS fame it would seem).

The story is complicated of course and at the risk of over simplifying, it is that of the lockout that led to Frick employing hundreds of Pinkerton agents (hired thugs) to displace a band of union members from their Homestead Steel strike in 1892. That strike resulted after the company recorded a profit increase of about sixty percent and refused to increase the pay of their workers. The Pinkertons attacked the union members and at least ten workers were killed with another seventy, or more, injured.

In the end thousands of state police were called in to set things right, with Frick continuing to refuse to meet with union leaders and threatening to have union families evicted from their homes. Ultimately scabs were brought in and in time the union was defeated. At the time Frick was depicted as "the most hated man in America" and he certainly was reviled among the working class.

Still, the mansion and the collection are impressive indeed.

Photos by Jeem.  Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.