The Autobiography of John Fritz: a review

Bessemer steel process pioneer John Fritz describes some of the crucial events in his life. These include every change of employer, the erection of the first three-high rail mill (much more dramatic than I’d imagined), and the early history of the Bethlehem Steel. There’s considerable technical information in some chapters, and more discussion than I’d anticipated about office politics.

His work at the Cambria and Bethlehem mills is historically important, and there’s stuff here of interest to industrial and even economic historians. And there are perhaps-helpful sketches of many leading figures in the early steel industry.

Strange, though, is his total omission of courting his wife; after he leaves the family farm, the only family member mentioned by name is his brother George, who often worked beside him in the mills. His family is briefly mentioned when he moves from place to place, but we only learn Elizabeth’s name in the testimonial section of the book.

Which reminds me: At the end of the book are more than 100 pages of testimonials. Most people could skip those without losing any value.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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