The Man Who Made the Movies by Vanda Krefft by Vanda Krefft - Read Online

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DEDICATION

To the late Angela Fox Dunn, the keeper of the flame

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Prologue: The Biggest Deal in Motion Picture History

Part I: Beginnings, 1879–1903

Chapter 1: Promises

Chapter 2: Destiny

Chapter 3: Eva

Chapter 4: The Dark Side of the Dream

Part II: The Greatest Adventure, 1904–1925

Chapter 5: 700 Broadway

Chapter 6: Necessary Expenses

Chapter 7: The Next Napoleon of the Theatre

Chapter 8: The Wizard of Menlo Park

Chapter 9: Madness and Murder

Chapter 10: Justice

Chapter 11: Independence

Chapter 12: William Fox Presents

Chapter 13: A Daughter of the Gods (1916)

Chapter 14: The Greatest Showman on Earth

Chapter 15: Mirror of the Movies

Chapter 16: All His Secret Ambition

Chapter 17: The Finest in Entertainment the World Over

Chapter 18: The Making of Me

Chapter 19: The End of Theda

Chapter 20: Exodus

Chapter 21: Everything Changes

Chapter 22: A Visit from Royalty

Chapter 23: Eclipse

Chapter 24: Humanity Is Everything

Chapter 25: The Iron Horse (1924)

Part III: The One Great Independent, 1925–1929

Chapter 26: Renewal

Chapter 27: The Wonder-Thing

Chapter 28: Talking Pictures

Chapter 29: All for Fox Films

Chapter 30: The Roxy

Chapter 31: Sunrise (1927)

Chapter 32: The Triumph of Movietone

Chapter 33: The One Great Independent

Chapter 34: Storm Signals

Chapter 35: Lone Master of the Movies

Chapter 36: Big Money

Chapter 37: Trouble

Chapter 38: Fate

Chapter 39: Recovery

Chapter 40: Disaster: October 1929

Chapter 41: Siege

Chapter 42: War

Chapter 43: We Want You, Mr. Fox

Chapter 44: Defeat

Chapter 45: The End of the Dream

Part IV: Despair, 1930–1943

Chapter 46: Sorrow and Rage

Chapter 47: The Meter Reader and the Banker

Chapter 48: Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox

Chapter 49: Nobody

Chapter 50: Alone

Chapter 51: Revenge

Chapter 52: Confession

Chapter 53: Prison

Part V: Acceptance, 1943–1952

Chapter 54: Exile

Chapter 55: Fade to Black

Acknowledgments

Bibliography

Notes

Index

Photograph Section

About the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

PROLOGUE

The Biggest Deal in Motion Picture History

In the sunny, unusually warm early afternoon of Sunday, March 3, 1929, despite the competing call of preparations for Herbert Hoover’s inauguration the following day in Washington, DC, reporters from major newspapers and entertainment trade publications made their way over to the Roxy Theatre at Fiftieth Street and Seventh Avenue. Known as the Cathedral of the Motion Picture, the $12 million Roxy was the world’s largest and most spectacular movie theater, with 5,920 seats and staggeringly lavish appointments.

Past the half-block-long ochre-and-slate-colored Spanish Baroque façade, under the marquee that blazed nightly with the power of 4,500 bulbs, the reporters filed in through the entrance to the Roxy’s ticket vestibule. A little farther beyond lay the outer court of the Roxy’s splendid fantasy world: a five-story lobby rotunda bordered by green marble columns and ornamented with wine-colored hanging draperies, gold leaf wall decoration, deep pile carpeting, and a one-and-a-half-ton crystal chandelier. Farther still was the palatial theater itself, with its 110-piece symphony orchestra pit, three massive organ consoles, and ornate proscenium arch. Along with a movie, the Roxy’s bill of fare included symphony orchestra performances, dance recitals, newsreels, and live theater vignettes.

Today, however, the big story would not take place on the Roxy’s stage or screen. Up the executive elevator the reporters rode, past the fully equipped nurses’ station and above the basement electrical plant capable of generating enough power for a city of twenty-five thousand. Exiting at the fifth floor, they headed for the private screening room to wait for William Fox, founder of Fox Film and Fox Theatres and owner of the Roxy. Some reporters flopped into the easy chairs scattered around the room. Others lounged against the grand piano, which was piled high with hats and coats. A table held light refreshments.

Was it really true?

Three days earlier, on Thursday, February 28, 1929, Film Daily had run a front-page article headlined Fox Buys Loew’s, M-G-M. The text began, The biggest deal in motion picture history has been closed. According to Film Daily, in an agreement finalized the previous Monday, Fox, whose Fox Film was Hollywood’s third-largest movie studio, had secretly acquired a controlling interest in Loew’s, Inc., a 175-house national theater chain that was also the parent company of M-G-M, Hollywood’s second-most-successful studio. With the American movie industry growing explosively—1928 revenues had doubled those of 1926—Loew’s was a red-hot property. The company had total assets of $109 million and annual profits of $8.6 million, and it owned some of the country’s most prestigious theaters. Almost all of Loew’s venues were Class-A, high-capacity, first-run houses, and not one was a shooting gallery, as cheap penny arcades were known. M-G-M, which Loew’s owned entirely, ranked second only to Paramount in assets and boasted stars Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton, John Gilbert, Lionel Barrymore, Lon Chaney, William Haines, and Norma Shearer. Moreover, because deceased company founder Marcus Loew had been exceptionally well liked and admired for his integrity, the company enjoyed tremendous goodwill within the industry.

Since Loew’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1927, a large block of the family’s stock had been up for sale. If Fox really had bought Loew’s, Fox Film would instantly vault into first place, knocking aside Paramount, and Fox Theatres would expand to include about eight hundred U.S. houses, surpassing Paramount-Publix as the largest movie theater circuit in the country.

I have no interest in acquiring the chain. I don’t want to buy it, Fox had hotly insisted ever since rumors of his interest in Loew’s surfaced several months before.* Yet, in the wake of the Film Daily report, the Fox organization had fallen silent, refusing to either confirm or deny the sale. Other publications, including the New York Times, repeated the rumor of a probable takeover.

Then, one day after the Film Daily article, on Friday, March 1, 1929, Fox Film’s publicity chief sent a ten-word telegram to the editors of all the major daily newspapers, show business trade publications, and press associations: William Fox will make an important announcement Sunday 2 p.m. That in itself was news. Fox hadn’t held a press conference in years. Unlike his peers (showboat personalities, most of them), he shunned the public stage. He hated to be interviewed and couldn’t stand to see his picture in the paper. Only his accomplishments, his wonderful movies and his beautiful theaters, deserved attention.

Despite the persistence of the rumors, many considered the deal highly unlikely. Warner Bros. was the front-runner to get Loew’s. The Warners’ bankers, Goldman Sachs, were reportedly preparing to organize a $200 million holding company to facilitate the acquisition of Loew’s, and by late February, the Warners had purchased a significant block of Loew’s stock at $100 a share from General Motors founder William C. Durant. Anticipating success, many Warner Bros. employees and outside speculators bought heavily into Warner stock.

Still, there was no counting Fox out. Raised in appalling poverty on the Lower East Side, with only a third-grade education, fifty-year-old Fox had transformed $1,666 saved from garment industry sweatshop jobs into an international movie production, distribution, and exhibition empire valued at $120 million. Since his start in 1904 as a small theater owner, he had labored feverishly to transform the raffish, nickel-a-ticket entertainment business into a respected art form and a major industry.

All this Fox had done with single-handed control over his two companies, Fox Film and Fox Theatres, and with remarkably little reliance on the Wall Street financial establishment, which during the 1920s had come to control industrial expansion in America. All the other major studio heads had, on their boards of directors, bankers to whom they were compelled to defer. Fox had relatives, friends, and employees. What he said went. The lone eagle, the press nicknamed him.

In his sixth floor Roxy Theatre office, with its thick carpets and several phones on the desk, the little fox, as he preferred to think of himself, waited before the press conference. At five foot seven, with a receding hairline, prominent nose, sadly sloping eyes, and thickset torso, Fox was physically unprepossessing, the sort of person one might pass countless times on the street without really noticing him. Had he not owned the company, he might have been hired for one of his movies to play a mourner in a funeral scene or to fill out a crowd as an overall-clad, lunch box–carrying laborer. Today, because it was a Sunday, he was casually dressed, wearing a cashmere sweater instead of his usual custom-tailored suit jacket.

Keeping him company in his office was his second-in-command, Winfield Winnie Sheehan, general manager and head of production at Fox Film. A ruddy-faced bulldog type who started his career as a newspaper reporter and then gained prominence as the private secretary to New York City police commissioner Rhinelander Waldo, Sheehan had a gregarious, bon vivant personality. Fox liked him and trusted him. They had known each other for about twenty years. Sheehan was the first person Fox hired when he went into film production, and because, at that time, neither of them knew anything about it, they had learned the business together. Sheehan had turned out to be remarkably clever and effective, if not universally admired.

Fox’s mood was somber. The timing was wrong, all wrong. He had been forced into holding this press conference, and if handled awkwardly, it could have disastrous consequences.

It was true that Fox had bought the Loew family’s 400,000 shares of Loew’s, Inc., and true that he considered the stock to represent a controlling interest in the company even though it amounted to less than one-third of the total 1,334,453 outstanding shares. All the other shares were so widely dispersed that it was highly unlikely any effective coalition could ever be formed against him. It was equally unlikely that anyone would want to form a coalition against him. Fox had always made money for his stockholders.

However, he could not safely reveal any details of the transaction to the press. A takeover of Loew’s still required approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, which would have to decide whether combining the second- and third-largest motion picture companies would unreasonably reduce competition in the industry. Fox thought he had settled the matter weeks earlier. Before buying the Loew family’s stock, he had traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to meet with William Wild Bill Donovan, the assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust. At that time, Donovan was widely expected to become Hoover’s new U.S. attorney general. Donovan assured Fox that he would not object to the Loew’s stock purchase.

But now Donovan was not going to become attorney general. On February 27, four days before Fox’s press conference, the New York Times reported that Hoover had abruptly switched his choice to the Justice Department’s second-ranked official, Solicitor General William D. Mitchell. Mitchell had no obligation to retain any of his predecessor’s staff or to honor any informal assurances given by them. Fox was frantically trying to assess Mitchell’s views. On this very day, March 3, 1929, a Fox Movietone newsreel crew was in Washington, DC, recording a statement of philosophy by Mitchell. How much would Mitchell want to make his own mark? Fox would have to proceed very cautiously. If he were to come across today as bragging, Mitchell might rear up and oppose the Loew’s deal.

And if Mitchell decided against him, Fox would be ruined. Toward the stock’s $50 million purchase price, he had secretly borrowed $27 million—$15 million from AT&T and $12 million from the Halsey, Stuart banking firm. Both loans would fall due by April 1, 1930. Fox had planned to refinance the debt by merging the Fox companies with Loew’s and selling stock in the new behemoth corporation. If there were no merger, there could be no stock sale. Yet Fox had nowhere else to go for the money. He didn’t have $27 million on hand, and the Fox companies couldn’t earn that much in a year. Neither could he simply sell the Loew’s shares to get his money back. On the open market, the shares were worth only about $33.6 million. Fox had paid a high premium ($125 per share compared to a market price of $84) to get such a large block of stock all at once. He also wouldn’t be able to sell the Loew’s shares to any other large studio. If he weren’t able to get government approval for the deal, then neither would anyone else.

And if the acquisition failed, then Fox Film and Fox Theatres would fail, and his life’s work, the driving purpose of his existence, would end.

Not for nothing had Fox once been a stage performer and not for nothing had he already overcome many tremendous challenges. He had started his working life earning eight dollars for a sixty-hour week of manual labor in the garment industry, and people called him a nut when he decided to enter the movie business. So far, he had surmounted every obstacle and defeated every adversary. At heart, he was an optimist. One of his early ads read, There’s a remedy for every ill. Today, too, he could triumph.

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., four more men walked quietly into the Roxy’s projection room and settled into the easy chairs. No one took much notice. They looked ordinary, not much different from the group already gathered there. The newcomers were fellow scribes, apparently, probably delayed by some last-minute piece of newsroom business.*

I am William Fox, one of the four newcomers began quietly. This gentleman is Winfield Sheehan.

Conversation immediately hushed. Fox had the sort of electrifying energy that changed everything—the compelling force that made people do what he wanted, according to one acquaintance.

Fox introduced the two other men in his group, Mr. Nicholas Schenck and Mr. Bernstein. Schenck was the president of Loew’s, Inc. David Bernstein, considered a financial genius, was Loew’s vice president. Both men had been with Loew’s since its beginning and had been close, trusted friends of Marcus Loew.

As pencils and pens hovered over notepads, Fox detoured into reminiscence. He never tired of telling this story. All my savings were in it, he explained, recalling his purchase twenty-five years earlier of his first theater, a 146-seater, at 700 Broadway in Brooklyn. The second night I stood outside and wondered how to get customers. We weren’t doing a thing. Anybody could see I was downhearted. After he hired a circus performer to do tricks on the sidewalk, Fox noted, everything changed. Inside a week we had the place packed and were using police reserves.

A few moments later, he snapped back to the present, asking that copies of his one-page, six-paragraph typed press release be passed around the room. Its language was subdued. Fox Theatres Corporation has purchased a substantial block of the common stock of Loew’s Incorporated, the statement began. The officials and executives of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio in California will continue in authority and the production personnel and activities will be unchanged. Likewise, none of the policies or personnel of M-G-M’s parent company, Loew’s, would change. Neither of the terms takeover or merger was used. The rationale for the stock purchase, according to the press release, was simply to help Fox Theatres bring a vastly improved quality of screen entertainment to audiences worldwide.

Instantly, a barrage of questions assaulted Fox and his executive phalanx. They simply repeated information from the press release.

The reporters closed their notepads and rushed out to file their stories.

Now head of a $300 million empire with projected annual earnings of $15–$20 million, William Fox had just become the most powerful person in the worldwide motion picture industry. Expressing the majority opinion, the trade journal Exhibitors Herald-World applauded Fox’s vision, energy, and consummate courage, and gushed that the industry was lucky to have a leader who has the future of motion pictures close at heart.

In less than a year, Fox’s life would turn upside down and his once-masterful stroke in acquiring the Loew’s shares would be excoriated as the height of reckless folly—a greedy, self-destructive grab for power. Subsequent events, mired in the chaos and panic of the Great Depression, would destroy Fox’s motion picture career. Then film history buried him. If character is fate, then fate is character: All along he must have been the sort of person who deserved what eventually happened to him. He wasn’t worth remembering.

That simplification ignores enormous portions of the truth and cheats Fox of the complexity of his character and historical circumstances. In fact, he brilliantly transcended his times and also blindly fell victim to them. Yet what happened later does not change what went before. For all his pivotal contributions to the art, technology, and business of the movies, widely celebrated in his day, Fox was the greatest of all the studio founders. A fighter and a dreamer who relied on clear-eyed vision and an indomitable will, he did more than anyone else to make the movies what they are today.

PART I

BEGINNINGS

1879–1903

CHAPTER 1

Promises

In many ways, the father’s failures were father to the man. Publicly, William Fox always spoke tolerantly and even with amusement about Michael Fox. Privately, he detested him. At his father’s funeral at New York’s Mount Hebron Cemetery in January 1936, Fox spat on the casket and muttered, You son of a bitch. Then fifty-seven and long a multimillionaire, he could not forget, nor would he choose to forgive, what he always viewed as the unnecessary deprivations of his childhood. His fierce, unrelenting ambition to succeed reflected not only an enchanted passion for the movies, but also an elemental desire not to repeat his father’s apathetic indolence and capricious irresponsibility, a fervent wish not to be Michael.

A photo of Michael, probably from the late 1920s, shows him sitting stiffly on a horse, wearing a suit with a white shirt and a bow tie, smiling slightly as if he were doing his best to play the part assigned to him. He looks sad and awkward, a somewhat ridiculous figure aware of his own ridiculousness.

Michael Fox never felt at home in America.

Born in Hungary in 1856, he uprooted his wife and firstborn infant son in 1879 to pursue dreams that quickly turned to dust. The Fuchses—the family name was changed to Fox at New York’s Castle Garden immigration station—were not lacking, luckless peasants with everything to gain and nothing to lose by leaving their homeland. They lived in the agricultural town of Tolcsva,* some 124 miles northeast of Budapest in the thriving Tokaj wine region, then the most densely populated part of Hungary. An area of gently rolling hills with rich alluvial soil and a microclimate especially suited to viticulture, Tokaj had for two centuries produced some of the world’s finest wines. The climate was pleasant, offering warm summers and long, sunny autumns, and the population was a peaceable, diverse mix of immigrants from Poland, Germany, Slovakia, and Greece. Unlike traditional fortified western European settlements, Tolcsva was a field town, with agricultural plots interspersed among its shops, churches, and offices.

According to Fox, Michael operated a general merchandise store in the town, which was one of the more important centers of Tokaj. Fox did have a tendency to invent a cheerful past when he believed that no records existed, and to regard facts as trifling obstacles that could easily be trampled in the rush toward an entertaining story. Nonetheless, his claim about his father’s occupation is plausible. Although the Fuchses were Jewish and although, elsewhere in eastern Europe, anti-Semitism had exiled Jews to remote, squalid shtetls and severely restricted employment, Hungary offered exceptionally fair treatment. The 1782 Edict of Tolerance issued by Emperor Joseph II of Austria (which had ruled Hungary since the late seventeenth century) allowed Jewish children to attend public, formerly Christian-only schools, opened new professions to Jews, and ended humiliating clothing distinctions. While anti-Semitism was not extinct, by the latter half of the nineteenth century, Hungarian Jews had achieved a swift, and, to all appearances, successful assimilation and equalization, with a social position infinitely more favorable, infinitely less impaired by discrimination than that of Jews in nearby nations. Jews were especially active in commerce, and Michael’s father, Jacob, had been a money broker. Michael, the second-eldest son among ten children, likewise preferred town life. According to family stories, as a young man he affected dandyish airs, wearing his hat cocked to one side and strutting with a walking stick.

Fox claimed that back in the old country, his father developed a sideline business as a dentist, specializing in painless tooth extraction. According to Fox, who claimed to have seen his father’s dentistry instruments when he was five or six, The patient would sit in the chair and strip himself to the waist. Just at the crucial moment, someone would touch the patient with a red hot iron on the back and that would be so painful that at the time of extraction, the patient felt no pain from the tooth.

In 1877, twenty-one-year-old Michael married sixteen-year-old Anna Fried, a good-humored girl with deep-set blue eyes, a round, doll-like face, and a pale, delicate complexion. Anna’s family had a ninety-nine-year lease on a piece of farmland in Tolcsva. Probably the Frieds (who, like the Fuchses, were German-speaking Jews) did not oversee a major expanse: more than half Hungary’s landowning population held less than five jochs each (about 5.35 acres). Still, by having anything at all, the Frieds were comparatively fortunate. In an overwhelmingly agrarian society—as late as 1910, only 22 percent of Hungary’s population lived in urban areas—some 1.5 million people had no land at all.

Although Anna would turn out to be the mainstay for her children, hardworking and long suffering through many miseries, as a young woman, she dreamed of romance. Known for her red leather boots and the bunches of ribbons she braided through her auburn hair, Anna managed to visit Budapest twice before her marriage. There, she dined in a restaurant, saw a play, and had a tintype portrait made of herself. On one trip, she fell in love with a Gentile. Showing more courage than wisdom, she told her father. He responded by striking her for the first time in his life and then hiring the local matchmaker to find her a suitable Jewish husband. The search produced Michael, whom Anna had no choice but to accept.

In addition to the roughly equal financial status of their families, Michael and Anna would have enjoyed a cultural advantage because they both spoke German as their first language. Hungary had three main languages, and delineations of social status often followed the divisions of speech. German was the language of power, the language of the ruling Austrian House of Habsburg and that of Hungary’s nobility and its small bourgeoisie. German was also the language of economic strength. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Germany served as Europe’s tent pole economy, supporting the prosperity of the rest of the continent. German was the language of official documents, the arts, and scholarship. Hungary’s second language, Latin, belonged to the church and, more broadly, to spiritual life, as most Hungarians were Roman Catholics. Last, the ragged stepchild of the group, was Hungarian, which was spoken by the great masses of peasants.

As often happened among Orthodox Jews of that era, Michael Fuchs and Anna Fried met only once before their wedding. On that occasion, Michael called on the Frieds carrying a huge basket of fruit. The couple did not instantly take to one another. They were too different and each one too strong willed to change easily. Michael was a restless dreamer who always believed, wherever he was and whatever his circumstances, that life had to be better somewhere else. Anna was a realist who loved her home and her family: wherever she was, there she became rooted. She loved the Hungarian culture. As a young girl, she spent hours listening to the stories of the gypsies who camped on the perimeter of her family’s land. These ancient tales she energetically told and retold throughout her life. Fox would recall, Through some of these overly sentimental stories you could almost hear the plaintive cry of gypsy violins! If Michael was the wind, Anna was the earth.

Despite the couple’s lack of passion for each other, Anna quickly settled down to the business of keeping a kosher household and starting a family. The birth of their first child, Wilhelm (a name he would never use), on January 1, 1879, appears to have precipitated a crisis for the twenty-two-year-old father. Suddenly, Michael decided to try to find his brother who had moved to the United States ten years before and who, after eight years, had stopped writing home.

Perhaps, in yearning to leave, Michael feared his new responsibilities and acted on instinct. Perhaps he wondered how his son would see him as the boy grew up. Michael was proud and wanted to project authority. Hungary, however, offered no hope for individual advancement. Centuries of baleful history made sure of that.

The national heritage was one of doomed, lonely struggle in a hostile world. Ever since its founding around 896 by Arpad the Conqueror, Hungary had tried and failed to align itself with the progressive traditions of western Europe. In the thirteenth century, a Mongol invasion killed off the House of Arpad dynasty and decimated the Hungarian population. Hungary rebuilt itself, only to get trounced again, in 1526, at the Battle of Mohács, where Turkish leader Suleiman I the Magnificent slaughtered fifteen thousand Hungarian troops and began one hundred and fifty years of rule by the Ottoman Empire. When the empire collapsed in the late seventeenth century, the Austrian House of Habsburg took over. Hungarian nationalists tried to assert independence via a revolution launched in March 1848, but fifteen months later, Russian troops, invited by the Austrians, swept in and helped crush the upstarts. The compromise of 1867 established the partnership of Austria-Hungary, but still fell short of the goal of national self-determination.

This ruinous struggle with belligerent foreign powers prevented Hungary from evolving toward democracy and industrialization along the course of its neighbors and promoted a huge gap between the aristocracy and the commoner. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Hungarian nobles clung so tightly to the feudal system that the country might as well have been living in the Middle Ages. Among a population of 12.9 million, some 540,000 nobles held all the political power because only they could hold office. Nobles also controlled almost all the national wealth, owning four-fifths of Hungary’s land, yet paying no taxes—that latter privilege fell to the lower classes, resulting in an upside-down situation where those least able to do so had to carry the entire financial burden of running the state.

Commoners such as Michael Fuchs had no chance to get ahead. Buying land was next to impossible. To protect their holdings, Hungarian nobles had adopted a system of entailed land known generally as mortmain, or dead hand, which meant that some twenty-five million acres of large estates could not be sold but had to remain under the control of individuals, families, trusts, or religious or state organizations. Neither could one prosper greatly as a merchant. Because of mortmain, land could not be pledged as security for the loans necessary to undertake modernization and achieve greater agricultural efficiency. Although wheat was the country’s main crop, and although peasants worked in the field from blind darkness to blind darkness, by 1880, exports had dwindled to a standstill. Even factoring in transportation costs, other European countries found it cheaper to buy wheat from overseas than from Hungary. Control by dead hand choked industrial development as well. In 1840, although Hungary constituted 55 percent of the Austrian monarchy’s land, it provided only 7 percent of the industrial output. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, when Michael Fuchs was a young man contemplating his future, his homeland seemed to be sinking under the weight of its pernicious past.

Improvement was highly unlikely. So thought the leading mid-nineteenth-century Hungarian intellectuals whose work influenced the outlook of Michael’s generation. On Easter Sunday in 1860, four years after Michael’s birth, the beloved nationalist hero Count István Széchenyi suffered a mental breakdown and fatally shot himself. Watching the revolution begin to go bad in the summer of 1848, Széchenyi had written in his diary, I can read the stars: blood and blood everywhere. Brother kills brother, nationalities massacre each other implacably and insanely . . . Roaming troops devastate everything we had built. Another revered figure of the 1848 revolution, poet Sandor Petofi, despaired, We are the most forsaken of all peoples on this earth.

In the 1850s the exodus began. Between 1871 and 1913, an estimated 1.9 million Hungarians, including entire villages, would transplant themselves to America. Adventurous young men, Michael’s aforementioned brother among them, saved their money to buy passage and then wrote letters home about plentiful factory jobs, decent wages, social equality, ample food, and lack of surveillance by the government. Many also sent back money, gold pieces sometimes. America fever began to burn contagiously among this energetic but beleaguered population.

When his brother stopped writing, Michael may have imagined that he was too busy, too successful, too rich to bother anymore with his Old Country family. What one brother had obtained, surely another could, too.

Michael and Anna began to save, and when they had enough money for one third-class fare to the United States, Anna bought a ticket for Michael. The couple stayed up all night talking, planning, and studying a map.

Michael sailed for New York in the spring of 1879, and that September, eighteen-year-old Anna and nine-month-old Wilhelm followed. The journey was undoubtedly terrifying and would have begun with a wagon or train trip to a port city, probably Hamburg, Germany, from which most Hungarians left for America before 1890. Possibly Michael never expected his young wife to leave her beloved homeland. Sentimental ties to the past and suspicion of change permeated Hungarian culture. Michael had left Anna the general store; she decided to sell it in order to come to America after he made it clear he would not return. If Michael had hoped to start over by himself in the New World, he underestimated Anna’s devotion to her family. Michael was not only her husband but also the father of her child, and to Anna that meant they all belonged together.

Whatever he had promised, whatever he had believed himself capable of accomplishing, Michael had in fact little to offer his young family in New York. Collecting his wife and child, he took them back along the path of so many other newly arrived immigrants to settle into tenement housing on the Lower East Side, which was then a frightful accretion of poverty, dirt, disease, and crime. Between 1800 and 1880, the year after the Fox family’s arrival, the city’s population exploded from 60,515 to 1.2 million, making New York the first U.S. city with more than a million residents. To accommodate the flood of newcomers, most of them impoverished and uneducated, landlords and real estate agents had chopped up once-fashionable houses into smaller and smaller quarters in order to pack in as many tenants as possible. In what had previously been back gardens, rickety wooden buildings went up. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Lower East Side had become, according to journalist and social activist Jacob Riis, the most densely populated district in all the world, China not excluded . . . packed at the rate of 290,000 to the square mile. Most tenement apartments consisted of a few tiny rooms, with the kitchen doubling as the living room. Sanitation facilities, if they existed at all, were poor and grossly overburdened; enforcement of minimal health and safety regulations lapsed due to inadequate funding and widespread city government corruption.

The first home that William Fox remembered was a dark, almost airless four-room rear apartment on Stanton Street between Columbia and Sheriff in the Jewish quarter. The building had no indoor plumbing, so family members had to carry water up in buckets from a pump in the yard; nearby was the fetid East River, reeking of garbage. As bad as the Lower East Side was in general, Jewtown, as it was called, was worse. Crowding reached unimaginable proportions here. Riis saw a small two-room apartment that somehow accommodated a couple, twelve children, and six boarders. On these unpaved, litter-strewn streets, buildings were taller—six or seven stories compared to the average of five elsewhere—so that the poorest of the poor had an even more exhausting climb up narrow, foul-smelling stairways to get home. Jewtown alleys were packed with dirty children, mothers scrubbing laundry on washboards, and tramps looking for a place to flop. In doorways and on dark corners, prostitutes trolled for business.

Michael found work as a machinist. His lack of experience was no obstacle because in the post–Civil War blaze of industrialization, American factories were desperate for laborers. He never stayed long in any job or exerted much effort to work consistently. Once, in a burst of entrepreneurial energy while unemployed, he began manufacturing stove-blackening polish in the family’s apartment. Will (as his mother called him), then seven, was deputized to sell five-cent cans of polish door to door. The business folded after two years when, during the Great Blizzard of March 1888,* steep snowdrifts prevented the boy from traveling his sales route. After that, Michael’s ambition died. According to Fox, his father’s annual income never exceeded a thousand dollars, and he never cared about being out of work. Fox recalled, When I came home and told him that the butcher and baker had refused to trust us any more during the period he was out of work, he was sure that tomorrow would be all right, or that the butcher and baker would most likely change their minds.

What Fox interpreted as his father’s blithe indifference was more likely thinly disguised despair. Michael must have sensed a bitter irony in the bargain he had made. Having given up his business and his network of family support in Hungary, having traveled so far, enduring so much chaotic strangeness, he had only sunk lower in comfort and status. He lived amid filth and squalor; the sunshine and open spaces of his childhood had been replaced by a gritty, gray, cacophonous landscape. And although in Hungary Jews had long been integrated as a small, stable minority of the population, here in the United States, and especially in New York, their recent sudden influx often provoked contempt and suspicion from the Protestant majority. Yet, Michael could not afford to go back to his native land. It had taken all the money he had to bring his family here, and his earnings were meager. As for the brother who had preceded him, the only relative they had in the United States, Michael never found him or even learned what had happened to him. Fox said, I remember my father searching for him until I was about sixteen years of age, and then he gave it up.

The weight of his homeland’s history, all those centuries of defeat, bore down on Michael with crushing hopelessness. He had failed to improve his lot. Wasn’t that always the way? We are the most forsaken of all peoples . . . Perhaps Michael had pulled his family as far forward as he had the strength to. The Eastern European is far more attached to the past than the Western European, journalist and historian Emil Lengyel has written. Those who came to America from Hungary are creatures of the past. Their children may be redeemed, but their own natures are fixed in inexorable casts. Hungary’s Arpad the Conqueror and the Mohács disaster have molded their lives, even though their historical knowledge is slim.

Resigned to failure, Michael retreated to coffeehouses frequented by other Hungarian immigrants. There, reminiscing with other displaced souls, he could reclaim his former prestige. According to family rumors, he began a series of extramarital affairs.

In Fox’s eyes, his father was not only ineffectual, but also distant and disinterested. All I remember of those early years is my father slurping up Mama’s chicken soup at the dinner table. There was no talking allowed at meals unless my father said something, which he rarely did.

The family’s misery multiplied. Anna lost seven of her thirteen children, including two born during her first five years in America, to childhood diseases. Typhus and smallpox ran rampant amid the Lower East Side tenements, invited by poverty and malnutrition and fed by Old Country fears about ruthless officials who would deport anyone who dared ask for assistance. At one point, Fox himself was hospitalized as a charity case. No details of that episode are known—no records remain from various New York Jewish hospitals and aid societies. Along with Fox, two boys and three girls survived in the family. To make up for her husband’s inadequacy as a provider, Anna began to take in work sewing slippers. Fox said, My mother did the worrying for the family.

Young Will watched until he had no more patience. This family needed a leader, he decided. If his father didn’t want the responsibility, then he would take it. In the summer of 1888, a few months after the Great Blizzard thwarted Michael’s stove-blackening business, nine-year-old Will began selling candy on the street. Lozengers, the sweets were called. They sold for a penny apiece and had a riddle inside each colorfully wrapped package. He started at the foot of nearby Third Street, where a newly built wharf attracted excursion boat travelers. The following year, when he found he could sell more than he could carry, he recruited a sales team of neighborhood boys to work on commission and transferred his enterprise to Central Park, a five-cent ride away, in order to work a better-heeled crowd. Arrested for peddling, Will was told by a magistrate to stay out of the park. He obeyed as long as the police were watching. His family, which by now included four-year-old Tina and toddler Bess, needed the money, and during the summertime, he could earn ten to twelve dollars a week. It cost him his childhood. He would later say, I do not remember anything about play because I never remember playing.

For the rest of his life, Fox would remain the financial caretaker for most of his birth family. He gave his siblings and in-laws jobs in his companies or arranged for other employers to hire them. He helped find them spouses, subsidized their household expenses, bought them clothing and jewelry and cars, and paid for their children’s education.

As much as the troubles of Fox’s childhood forged a rage for greatness and instilled the habits and attitudes of success, the past also literally deformed him. At age eight he fell off the back of an ice truck on which he had hitched a ride and broke his left arm in three places. Because his father could not afford a proper doctor, an unskilled local medic—a dentist, Fox said—removed his entire elbow joint. The treatment left Fox’s arm bent at the elbow and virtually useless for the rest of his life. He would take extraordinary pains to disguise his disfigurement. He learned to play one-armed golf and usually kept his left arm angled jauntily into his pants pocket; he had his suit jackets tailored with vertical pocket openings.

A dentist performed the surgery, Fox said. Had that dentist been his father? Given the family’s hobbled finances, Michael Fox may have decided to treat his son’s injury himself. That would help explain the lifelong humiliation Fox felt about his handicap and would illuminate the bitterness he revealed at his father’s funeral. Uncle Bill really hated his father, recalled Angela Fox Dunn, the daughter of Fox’s youngest sister, Malvina.

This the son could not forgive: Michael Fox had turned away from his obligations to his family and from the opportunities that America held out to him. With results both glorious and tragic, William Fox set out to prove to the world that he was different and to redeem his father’s abandoned promises.

CHAPTER 2

Destiny

William Fox bore none of the cultural burdens that hindered his father. Only an infant when he entered the United States, he had no memories of his Old World birthplace, and the language he learned on the street and in school was neither the German nor the Yiddish of his parents, but the coin of the realm, American English. More importantly, unlike Michael Fox, whose expectations had been shaped by recurrent national failure and shuttered opportunity, Fox grew up in one of the most vibrant, energetic, and hopeful periods in American history.

The Gilded Age, Mark Twain titled the 1873 novel he wrote with his neighbor Charles Dudley Warner, and the term has stuck to describe the lavish excesses of the closing decades of nineteenth-century America. Forceful historical currents converged to create a feverish obsession with material prosperity: the closing of the Western frontier, which historian Frederick Jackson Turner claimed was completed by 1890; the Industrial Revolution; the consolidation and expansion of the railroad system; and a massive influx of immigrants who provided a cheap labor force. Together these changes shifted the American spirit of adventure from a confrontation with the wilderness to the new task of global economic domination. Between 1860 and 1894, the United States rose from fourth to first place among industrial nations, and the value of goods manufactured annually in American factories increased from less than $2 billion in 1860 to more than $11 billion in 1899. Cities expanded while farming communities and small towns shrank as dreamers and opportunists rushed to seek their fortunes among the crowds. In 1860, some 83 percent of the U.S. population lived in communities with fewer than twenty-five hundred residents; by 1900, that proportion had dropped to only 60 percent. Swiftly and irreversibly, post–Civil War America shed its agrarian, modest income identity to become a commercial, increasingly urban, and astonishingly wealthy nation.

Gilded, not golden: Twain’s eye caught the moral hypocrisy of much of the glittering development. Rapacious acquisitiveness, with little regard for the depth or duration of negative consequences, drove the transformation. What is the chief end of man? Twain mused. To get rich. In what way? Dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.*

Greed invaded every field of enterprise. One of the most visible symbols of the newly emerging national culture and marketplace, the railroad system, had been built largely through ruthless financial manipulation. Between 1860 and 1890, U.S. railroad track mileage multiplied more than fivefold, from 31,000 to 167,000. Yet, the most successful of all the railroad entrepreneurs, Jay Gould, who by 1882 would own 15 percent of the national trackage, was driven not by a vision of the public good but by a merciless desire for personal magnification. Gould bought up western railroad lines, inflated the value of their stock, cashed out at the peak, and then reaped extra profit by short-selling as stock prices bolted back down to rational levels. One of the most sinister figures that ever flitted batlike across the vision of the American people, commented newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Gould was no anomaly: the business history of late nineteenth-century America reads like an encyclopedia of fraud and predation. As Ida M. Tarbell observed in her 1904 exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company, That is, ‘it’s business’ has to come to be a legitimate excuse for hard dealing, sly tricks, special privileges. It is a common enough thing to hear men arguing that the ordinary laws of morality do not apply in business.

The chaotic brawling for dollars buffeted the American economy to and fro, causing frequent financial panics that desolated many lives. The Panic of 1873 launched five and a half years of gloom known as the Long Depression. During that time, half of the nation’s railway companies went into receivership, some 54,000 U.S. businesses defaulted on more than $1.3 billion, and unemployment estimates reached as high as three million: The terms tramp and bum entered the American vernacular. A few years of relative stability intervened before the stock market crash of 1884 paralyzed banking investments and caused the failure of more than 10,000 companies nationwide. The worst was yet to come. The Panic of 1893 ranked as the country’s most serious economic crisis to date. Some 500 banks failed, as did a number of major railroads and another 15,000 companies. Although recovery began in 1896, the U.S. economy continued to seesaw uncertainly for the rest of the decade.

Amid the donnybrook, government shrugged. Often outpaced intellectually, and drawn mostly from the privileged classes—the millionaires’ club, the U.S. Senate was called—Gilded Age legislators and judges tended to stand by passively while industrialists hammered out profits from the working classes, the environment, and the more timorous among their competitors. Dishonesty compounded the problem of incompetence. Bribes and kickbacks circulated so freely during the late 1800s that some cynics believed the only honest politician was the one who stayed bought.

Although Congress did pass the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 to appease voter anxiety over the influence of big business, for the next dozen years the law had little effect because of lenient enforcement, narrow interpretation by judges, and slap-on-the-wrist penalties. Huge business trusts continued to appear. The American Tobacco Company, upon its creation in 1890 by five large manufacturers, controlled 90 percent of the U.S. cigarette business. In 1891 the American Sugar Refining Company arose to replace the now illegal Sugar Trust and by the next year had captured 95 percent of the national market. Between 1894 and 1901, hundreds more trusts were formed, with an aggregate capitalization of $4 billion. In theory, monopoly promoted efficiency and lower prices for the consumer. In practice, no one benefited more than the owners. Although before the 1830s the United States had only a few millionaires and most of those were landowners, by 1880 the nation counted at least two thousand millionaires. In 1916 the Final Report of the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations would conclude that much of this narrowly concentrated wealth had been largely the result either of the exploitation of American workers through the payment of low wages or [of] the exploitation of the American public through the exaction of high prices . . .

William Fox understood none of this. Instead, he saw the opulent surfaces and heard the beguiling myths of America as an open-handed, warmhearted meritocracy eager to reward all according to the value of their contribution. And nowhere was the lure to participate more enticing than on the streets of New York City.

During Fox’s childhood in the 1880s and 1890s, New York became the nation’s premier showplace of prosperity. Drawn by the concentration of the investment banking, legal, and advertising firms, corporations rushed to relocate their headquarters there. Rockefeller moved from Cleveland in 1884, building a ten-story headquarters for the Standard Oil Trust at 24–26 Broadway. About the same time, W. Duke and Sons Company, soon to become the mainstay of the American Tobacco Company, moved from Durham, North Carolina, to Manhattan and opened a huge factory at First Avenue and Thirty-Eighth Street. The Armour meatpacking business moved its headquarters from Chicago; Carnegie came from Pittsburgh. By the late 1890s, New York City had more than three hundred buildings with nine or more stories.

To accommodate the wealthy industrialists and their social aspirations, magnificent residential palaces materialized, many of them near Central Park, where Fox sold his penny candies. Stately, imposing edifices testified to a new kind of aristocracy, one based on entrepreneurial acumen rather than hereditary privilege. These houses have about them a species of conscious publicity; they have been put together and adorned in order to make a brave show—as if their owners were very well aware that people were watching them, commented Desmond and Croly in their 1903 book Stately Homes in America. Huge houses expressed the specious logic of the American parvenu: if royalty lived in palaces, then the inhabitants of palaces must be royalty.

Fox would have seen many marvels. On the west side of Fifth Avenue, stretching the entire block between Fifty-First and Fifty-Second Streets, was the enormous brownstone Triple Mansion of William Henry Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s favorite son, who had started construction in 1879, the year of the Fox family’s arrival in New York, and had kept seven hundred laborers working around the clock to complete the structure in only eighteen months. Opposite, on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Second Street, stood the home of William Henry’s son William Kissam Vanderbilt: a $3 million, Indiana limestone imitation of a sixteenth-century Loire Valley chateau, complete with fleurs-de-lis decoration, Gothic stained-glass windows, and a copper-crested blue-slate roof. Other notable residences of the era included Caroline Astor’s French Renaissance double mansion on the northeast corner of Fifth and Sixty-Fifth Street; Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s 137-room French Renaissance palace at 1 West Fifty-Seventh Street, and the nearby hotel-sized homes of sugar king Henry O. Havemeyer and railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. Two miles of millionaires, Munsey’s magazine labeled the stretch of Fifth Avenue from Murray Hill to Eightieth Street, more wealth than can be found in any other residential two miles of any city in the world.

Witnessing such ostentation, Fox developed an obsession with wealth that would last his whole lifetime. Money became for him not only the key to freedom, but also the primary way of measuring courage, character, commitment to relationships, and self-development. Fox’s niece Angela Fox Dunn commented, He didn’t want money for pleasure or for egotistical display. He wanted money because he believed it gave him control.

Eager to get ahead, Fox found school ploddingly dull. Math was the only subject at which he excelled because it was the only subject he believed he truly needed. At age ten, he dropped out of the third grade to take a job at a small clothing firm, D. Cohen and Sons at 25 Lispenard Street, about two miles from his family’s home on the Lower East Side. Anna Fox was horrified. She had given her eldest child the Hebrew name Melech, meaning king, and she’d hoped he would become a doctor or a lawyer.

To get the job at D. Cohen and Sons, Fox had to lie about his age because the state Factory Law of 1886 prohibited the employment of children under fourteen. Possibly he forged one or the other of his parents’ signatures on the certificate required to verify the date and place of the child worker’s birth. Given his parents’ estrangement from American culture, they might well have been unaware of the law. Additionally, dishonest notaries were so commonplace that Fox would have had little trouble finding one willing to certify a false date and a false signature in exchange for about twenty-five cents. Unable to oppose her son’s strong will, Anna extracted from him a promise to take night classes, which he would do until about age fourteen.

Fox’s impatience with formal education was typical for the era and easily rationalized because among the titans of industry, very few had anything resembling substantial classroom experience. Andrew Carnegie quit school at age thirteen to take a $1.20-a-week position as a cotton mill bobbin boy. Thomas Edison left school after only three months and was educated at home by his mother. Henry Ford dropped out at seventeen to become an apprentice at the Dry Dock Engine Works. John D. Rockefeller also didn’t finish high school, although he later completed a six-month business course at Cleveland’s Folsom Mercantile College in three months. Within this crowd, J. P. Morgan stood out as something of a scholar because he had studied for two years at the University of Gottingen in Germany.

Entering the garment industry, Fox simply pursued the most readily available opportunity. Following the Civil War, when the demand for uniforms led to the standardization of clothing sizes and efficient mass production, an increasingly urban population began to shun custom-tailored and home-sewn garments in favor of inexpensive, ready-made wearables. U.S. clothing manufacturing firms multiplied: between 1870 and 1900, capital investment increased from $54 to $169 million, and the value of goods produced rose from $162 to $437 million. New York City led the way. By 1890, Fox’s first year of full-time employment, the city produced some 44 percent of all ready-made clothes in the United States.

D. Cohen and Sons, where Fox would work until age fifteen, was a family-run clothing business housed in a small three-story building. Fox would recall his time at D. Cohen and Sons fondly, describing his boss and the boss’s two sons as three of the finest men I knew then and that I have ever met since that time. The father, Fox remembered, was especially kind, a tall, somewhat stooped man past sixty, who always went through the factory saying good morning to all his employees. They liked him, too. Within two years, Fox was promoted to foreman, overseeing twelve men and boys who cut linings on the third floor. Still, the job was physically punishing. Fox worked eleven hours a day from Monday through Friday and another five hours on Saturday, with only a half-hour lunch break each day. Because the building lacked an elevator, goods had to be hauled up a hatchway by a rope. To and from work, Fox spent an hour walking the two-mile distance. Moreover, the garment industry was a breeding ground for disease, especially respiratory ailments. Poor ventilation, flurries of cloth particles and dust, poisonous gases, and the steam from the pressing machines caused such a frequent incidence of tuberculosis that the condition became known as the tailor’s disease. For all this, Fox took home eight dollars a week.

Still, he was earning money, making progress. That sense of forward momentum accentuated Michael Fox’s failures in the eyes of his son. Fox said, I didn’t like the progress that my father had made. I didn’t think he had accomplished that which life affords.

Taking over as the family’s steady provider, Fox soon usurped his father’s decision-making authority. Fox’s earnings allowed his family to move to a six-room railroad apartment on Rivington Street, still on the Lower East Side and over a butter-and-egg store, but a much better type house, one with a water pump in the hallway rather than in the yard below. He insisted that his mother stop taking in work sewing slippers, and to further ease her burden, twice a week he scrubbed the stairs from his family’s floor to the landing below, as was each tenant’s responsibility. As the son increased, the father decreased. Fox recalled, The less he cared about working, the more I had my nose to the grindstone.

Accordingly, the family’s focus shifted. Fox’s mother, Anna, began to pin her hopes on her eldest son and encouraged him to save for his future. She took him to the Dry Dock Savings Bank to open his first savings account, which Fox sentimentally kept open even as a multimillionaire. Many times I would offer her a dollar or two extra which I had earned, but she would give it back with the suggestion that I save it, he said. If anyone were to redeem the family, he realized, it would have to be him.

Overwhelmed by his sense of responsibility, Fox turned to religion, a commitment that would grow quietly until it became the greatest part of my life. To the boy and then the man, the Bible provided direction, courage, inspiration, and renewal. Ironically, the person whom Fox blamed most for his childhood misery was also the person who provided this means of deliverance. Michael Fox was an Orthodox Jew who steadfastly insisted that his son study Hebrew and religious doctrine at a cheder run by an elderly man in his tenement house basement home. At first, Fox didn’t want to go: the lessons were a waste of time that he could use to make money.

Religion, however, was the one territory where Michael Fox refused to back down. The boy had to go, so the boy went. His disgruntlement increased when he met his teacher, the ironically named Goodman, a short, stocky, white-bearded tyrant who conducted classes in German and gave students a darn good rapping with his walking cane if they missed an answer. A lay Hebrew teacher rather than a rabbi, Goodman was a very stupid, ignorant man, Fox would remember, still bristling decades later at the thought of Goodman’s very severe and very brutal manner.

The power of the message transcended the circumstances of its transmission. A turning point occurred at Fox’s bar mitzvah, which, because his boss believed he was older, he had to feign illness to attend. The ceremony changed my viewpoint entirely, Fox said. Suddenly, he understood that he could no longer blame his father for the condition of his life. He alone was responsible for shaping his future, but faith would guide him. In his newfound enthusiasm, Fox began to see signs of divine intervention everywhere. Once, having persuaded a neighborhood butcher to give his family some meat on credit, he decided that only God could have impelled a grown man to trust a mere boy to pay him back.

To later generations, Fox’s explicit belief that God took an intimate personal interest in him may seem quaint or egotistical or possibly even deluded. In that time and place, it was hardly so unusual. Many prominent late-nineteenth-century figures linked material prosperity with divine favor. Famously, John D. Rockefeller Sr. announced, God gave me my money. Even Andrew Carnegie, who considered himself an agnostic, invoked religious language to explain his philosophy of moneymaking. In his 1889 essay The Gospel of Wealth, Carnegie asserted the sacredness of property as the foundation of civilization and declared that obedience to the true Gospel concerning Wealth would someday bring Peace on earth, among men Good-Will.

Belief in an unseen realm was essential for Fox. He needed God, at least the idea of God. He had no material advantages—no formal education, no money, no connections, no family members or a neighborhood mentor to instruct him in the ways of success. In a culture that increasingly celebrated surfaces, he was simply a small, shabby-looking boy with a crippled left arm. Faith welcomed his dreams and transformed his ambitions from foolish fantasy into inspired vision.

Faith also canceled the practical liability of Michael Fox. With an omnipotent divine father watching closely and always ready to instruct him, the young boy no longer needed to look to his sullen, soup-slurping earthly father. Paradoxically, Michael Fox’s one successful assertion of parental authority was also the act that made him completely irrelevant in his eldest son’s life.

Adolescence stirred Fox to political awareness. With protests rising on the Lower East Side in response to the area’s atrocious living and working conditions, he began to question capitalism and for three years became a socialist. This apostate period began in 1892. He was thirteen, and following his religious awakening, he began to think about the moral dimensions of action.

That summer, one of the bloodiest episodes in American labor history took place in Homestead, Pennsylvania, about eight miles south of Pittsburgh. The details were widely reported and hotly discussed in New York. At Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Works, contract negotiations had stalled with unionized iron, steel, and tin workers, who accounted for only about 750 to 800 of the total workforce of 3,800. Union leaders wanted to renew their contract on the existing terms. Carnegie, who felt that in the previous 1889 bargaining session the union had wrung unfair concessions, demanded pay cuts ranging from