Les Standiford managed to create a composition where history can be read as easily and thrilling as a good novel. A captivating double biography of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick is merged with the history of the Foundation of American Industry and the ruthless steelworkers’ uprising that turned two founders of American manufacturing into enraged and desperate rivals.
Les Standiford made an effort of introducing a classic love-hate history drama to a young generation. Although the author has a habit of moralizing where it is unnecessary, this manifest for American industrial history is both pertinent and captivating. This well-written story is considered to be intelligently balanced and appears as a treasured admonition of compelling dates of the records of the country.
The story begins at its pungent completion when Andrew Carnegie is lying on his deathbed and asking for one last encounter with his former partner and now arch enemy Henry Frick. Perhaps, Carnegie desires to ease his mind and clear his conscience after two decades of rivalry and clashes; however, Flick’s only response is “Tell him that I’ll meet him in hell” (Standiford 125).
This inscription on a gravestone is more than appropriate, as ‘Meet You in Hell’ is a typical story of two partners who impersonate two entirely opposite sides of American capitalism.
The character of Andy Standiford immediately tempts to think of the grandeur and hazards of steel manufacturing, which was the tempestuous primary business of the end of 19th century. The relations between ‘the world’s richest man’ and the cold blooded king of the coke empire remind the reader that uphill maneuverability and imperialism are inevitably intersected with anticipation.
Carnegie and Frick had an amazingly efficient partnership that was built on social Darwinism, constant presentation of innovative levels of productivity, and accurate control of the finances of their industries. As a result, the enterprise of Carnegie and Frick almost instantly became predominant in the steel retail throughout the world.
Nevertheless, this brilliant assistance was with a sinister side, which was uncovered during the merciless settlement of the Homestead Steel Strike. Carnegie gave Frick a permission to use anything in his power in order to crush the rebellion; thus authorizing the releasing of almost three hundred agents. These actions caused the most malignant confrontation between authorities and workforce in the records of the United States.
The convoluted story of two partners is narrated in the manner of an experienced author, as Standiford has written about ten fictional and three nonfictional books. Moreover, he conducted more than accurate investigation; however, the book contains several rather significant errors.
For example, according to the author, the birthplace of the initial detonative heating system in the United States Saugus is located in Michigan, but in the real world it is situated in Massachusetts. Furthermore, Standiford claimed that the opening of Carnegie Hall was presented in 1892, but, in fact, it was opened in 1891.
The author relies on the work of Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther while explaining the usage of the modern currency in the books. Standiford claims that transferring the value of the Carnegie’s industry into modern dollars help the reader to understand the role and place of the company in the American industrial history.
‘Meet You in Hell,’ as any other books, has its strengths and weaknesses, the latter being less than the first. Nowadays young generation lives through an era where it could be troublesome to discern the affluence, prestige, and domination possessed by people like Carnegie, Rockefeller, etc.
The 1800s is a period in American history that was more tenacious and resilient than any other. By writing this book, Les Standiford allows to not only take a look at the realities of the time but to plunge into the showdown between two American foundry fathers in pleasant and literary manner. To me, this is the main strength and significance of ‘Meet You in Hell’.
On the other hand, the first part of the book can seem to be a bit challenging and hard to follow. The author makes an effort in simplifying the complex functioning of excessive economic affairs of steel empire; however, the subject itself is rather convoluted for an average reader. Moreover, despite an abundant number of details, the book lacks a depiction of the other side of the coin: the famine, hardship, and decay of the men who literary built the empire with their own hands.
The relevance of the book can hardly be overestimated, as it is one of the few historical documents that depicts the tragedy of an era, reveals different sides of the relations between powerful magnates and is pleasurable to perceive. All this mentioned above makes ‘Meet You in Hell’ accessible not only for connoisseurs of American industrial history but for an average reader. Furthermore, the book is able to perform as an excellent introduction to this specific subject, the discussion of the Homestead Steel Strike and its reasons or technological history of the United States in general.
Standiford, Les. Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America, New York, New York: Broadway Books, 2005. Print.