Assassination Attempts: Henry Clay Frick chairman of Carnegie Steel Part 1

About the assassination of Henry Clay Frick, chairman of Carnegie Steel Company, enemy of unions and workers, history of the attempt.

The Victim: HENRY CLAY FRICK, chairman and strongman of the Carnegie Steel Company. Frick was an archenemy of both working people and labor unions. His company owned large coke ovens where unions were prohibited and workers lived under atrocious conditions. He was brought in by his partner Andrew Carnegie to handle the explosive conflicts that were developing at the company's largest mills in Homestead, Pa., near Pittsburgh. Upon the expiration of the prevailing contract, Frick refused flatly to recognize the union, threatening to close the mills and discharge all employees, who would then have to apply for work individually. He made good his threat. "Not a strike, but a lockout," announced Frick. The workers demanded the right to bargain collectively, and public sentiments flared up against the arbitrary manipulations of Frick. Emma Goldman described the subsequent events:

Frick had fortified the Homestead mills, built a high fence around them. Then, in the dead of night, a barge packed with strikebreakers, under protection of heavily armed Pinkerton thugs, quietly stole up the Monongahela River. The steel-men had heard of Frick's move. They stationed themselves along the shore, determined to drive back Frick's hirelings. When the barge got within range, the Pinkertons had opened fire, without warning, killing a number of Homestead men on the shore, among them a little boy, and wounding scores of others.

It was these actions on Frick's part that resulted in the attempt on his life by the young Russian-born anarchist-intellectual Alexander Berkman.

The Date: July 23, 1892.

The Event: Berkman, an extremely gentle and sensitive man, was outraged by these murders and the exploitation of the Homestead workers. He felt moved to assassinate the industrial tyrant as a preliminary step toward the liberation of his beloved comrades. He expected to die for his act. On July 23, Berkman arrived in Homestead and managed to enter Frick's office. He described the action in his memoirs:

For an instant the sunlight, streaming through the windows, dazzles me. I discern 2 men at the further end of the long table. . . . "Fr---," I begin. The look of terror on his face strikes me speechless. It is the dread of the conscious presence of death. "He understands," it flashes through my mind. With a quick motion I draw the revolver. As I raise the weapon I see Frick clutch with both hands the arm of the chair, and attempt to rise. I aim at his head. "Perhaps he wears armor," I reflect. With a look of horror he quickly averts his face, as I pull the trigger. There is a flash, and the high-ceilinged room reverberates as with the booming of cannon. I hear a sharp, piercing cry, and see Frick on his knees, his head against the arm of the chair. I feel calm and possessed, intent upon every movement of the man. He is lying head and shoulders under the large armchair, without sound or motion. "Dead?" I wonder. I must make sure. About 25' separate us. I take a few steps toward him, when suddenly the other man, whose presence I had quite forgotten, leaps upon me. I struggle to loosen his hold. He looks slender and small. I would not hurt him: I have no business with him. . . .

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