Charles Michael Schwab was an American steel magnate who took Bethlehem Steel to heights of success making it the second largest steel manufacturer in the United States. He chose to praise instead of criticize his workers. His belief of making the most out of even the littlest of things made him one of the most powerful men of the country.
Charles was born on 18th February 1862 in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania to a middle class blanket manufacturer. He grew up in Loretto, PA which he always referred to as his hometown. Charles started studying at Saint Francis College but left early to find work in Pittsburgh. He landed a job at Edgar Thompson Steel Works owned by the steel tycoon of the time Andrew Carnegie. Starting off as a stake driver, Charles gradually started going up the ranks. By 1880s, he got the post of assistant manager and seven years later he was manager. After a few years there was a rift between the management and the labor and the strikes were becoming a serious problem. Andrew Carnegie asked Charles to solve the problem who not only resolved the issue brilliantly but also greatly increased efficiency of the Homestead steel plant. Charles M. Schwab rose to power in the years that followed and finally became the president of the company in 1897.
In 1901, Charles sold the company to some New York based financiers and formed a new company named USS Corporation however left it only two years later due to some clashes. He joined Bethlehem Shipbuilding and Steel Company and decided to devote all his time and efforts to this relatively smaller enterprise. Through his innovative ideas and motivational management style, Charles was able to make Bethlehem Steel one of the most commanding steel manufacturers in the United States. During the World War I he made deals with the US army supplying them with steel for military purposes which reaped the company huge benefits. Although this labeled him and his company as the ‘merchants of death’, these charges were later retracted by the courts. Charles was the president of the American Iron and Steel Institute from 1927 to 1932 which made him the giant of the American steel industry.
Schwab eventually became a very wealthy man. He built an enormous private house on the Upper West Side. Worth 7 million dollars at that time, the mansion was not the only retreat for Schwab. He also owned an exotic summer estate consisting of 44 rooms. His rather notorious lifestyle that involved high risk gambling and many extramarital affairs brought the ‘Great Depression’ upon him even before it actually started. He had already spent most of his money when the stock market crashed in 1929, leaving him completely bankrupt. He could not afford his lavish lifestyle so he moved in a small apartment. Near the end of his life Schwab was practically worthless and his holdings in Bethlehem Steel were almost nothing. The man who had once been an entrepreneurial example died, flat broke with a debt of more than 300,000 dollars, on 18th October 1939 and was buried in his hometown Loretto.