Henry Clay Frick

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In Moloch's mythology, Henry Clay Frick doubles as both the God of Coal and the God of Storm. He was atrocious and hard to understand. We will try to, anyway.

His name suffers a paradoxical schizophrenia in current times. He is still remembered as one of the most hated, most ruthless Americans to make so many millions. And yet, he purged his soul by purchasing and restoring fantastic pieces of art. The Frick collection is the city's most worldly of attractions.

The God of Coal

Henry Clay Frick

Frick was born in West Overton, Pennsylvania, in 1849. His grandfather owned a prosperous whiskey distillery and used to control the whole village. He was despotic as he was cold. He raised Frick in his image -- and, as if to spur his misanthropy, didn't leave him a single dollar in his will. So Frick started working at a laundry. In 1873, when the stocks were low, he bought plenty of shares of coal mines. A couple of years later, he was rich.

So rich, in fact, that he could afford his own lake. Well, not exactly -- he and other partners created an artificial lake in a small village called Johnstown. It was meant to be of exclusive use of its owners. A lake for the rich, if you will. In any case, it was next to a dam which the Government had abandoned because it was notably ancient and unsafe. Frick and his friends kept it that way.

So on May 30, 1889, the inevitable happened. After several days of nonstop rain, the dam gave way and the millionaires' pond fell over Johnstown. About 10,000 people died. Amongst them, a woman in childbirth. Her corpse was found later with that of the baby's hanging from it. Frick saved his neck by paying a small fine for negligence.

The God of Storm

He would pay another fine a few years later, in 1892. That was the time he hired an army of Pinkerton hitmen to kick all of his workers out of his own coke factories. He planned to re-hire them at a lower salary and with zero rights. The Pinkerton people killed dozens of men who tried to fight for their rights. It was like the definitive evidence that in America, private wealth sometimes goes before justice.

Frick didn't even heave the heart to die when an anarchist shot him. The attacker was Alexander Berkman, a young man in cahoots with Emma Goldman. Seeking propaganda for the deed, he shot Frick twice in his office. Then, just to be sure, he stabbed him. But Henry Clay Frick would have none of that. He survived and put Berkman in jail.

He also survived to build himself the most exclusive mansion in Manhattan. He filled it with the most impressive art collection in the world. He liked Vermeer (Was it because he was delicate and so refined?) and Rembrandt. The impressive Frick collection (a feast for the eyes viewable on 1 East and 70th Street) exists thanks solely to scoundrel.

Dung and flowers.

New York.