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Henry Clay Frick, 1849-1919

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 19 December 1849
Place of Birth: West Overton, PA
Place of Death: New York


Henry Clay Frick was a wealthy industrialist and art collector.


Frick was the son of John Wilson Frick and Elizabeth Overholt, and grandson of Abraham Overholt, the owner of the prosperous Overholt Whiskey distillery. He married Adelaide Howard Childs of Pittsburgh on 15 December 1881. They had four children, Childs Frick (b. 1883), Martha Howard Frick (b. 1885), Helen Clay Frick (b. 1888) and Henry Clay Frick, Jr. (b. 1892). A founding member of the Frick Coke Company in 1871, in 1880 he bought out his partners and renamed the company H. C. Frick & Company. A subsequent merger with the Carnegie Steel Company in 1881 brought much prosperity and at this time Frick purchased the family estate Clayton, in Pittsburgh. However, the partnership came to an end with the Homestead Steel Strike in 1892 when Frick set armed Pinkerton agents against strikers. Frick was hated for his anti-union policies and in 1892 there was an assassination attempt by Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. He helped to found the United States Steel Corporation in 1901 and later became its director. In 1904 he built Eagle Rock, a summer estate at Prides Crossing in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Frick's immense wealth enabled him to form an internationally renowned collection of old master paintings from the Renaissance to the late 19th century, drawings (Pisanello, Altdorfer, Rubens, Claude, Rembrandt, Greuze, Gainsborough, Goya, Ingres, Corot and Whistler), prints (Dürer, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Meryon and Whistler), Italian Renaissance sculpture, small bronzes, Chinese porcelain, silver, oriental carpets and 18th-century French furniture. Among his Whistler prints were the twelve etchings from the First Venice Set. To house his impressive collection Frick built a huge mansion on Fifth Avenue and 70th Street, New York, begun in 1913, which he bequeathed as a public museum, now known as The Frick Collection. He was a close friend of another major collector and museum founder Andrew Mellon.


American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, vol. 8, p. 475; Sanger, Martha Frick Symington, Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait, New York, 1998; Sanger, Martha Frick Symington, The Henry Clay Frick Houses: Architecture, Interiors, Landscapes in the Golden Era, New York, 2001; Standiford, Les, Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Bitter Partnership that Transformed America, New York, 2005; Strother, French, 'Frick, The Silent: Successor to Mr. Carnegie, Possible Successor to Mr. Harriman', The World's Work: A History of Our Time, vol. 14, May 1907, pp. 8749-8826; (accessed August 2009); (accessed August 2009); (accessed August 2009).