Charles M. Schwab Biography

(American Steel Magnate & Businessman)

Birthday: February 18, 1862 (Aquarius)

Born In: Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, United States

Charles Michael Schwab was a steel magnate and entrepreneur under whose leadership Bethlehem Steel became one of America’s giant steel producers. Over the course of his brilliant career in the steel industry, he served as president of both the Carnegie Steel Company and United States Steel Corporation at different points in time. The son of a woolen worker and blanket manufacturer, he had a modest upbringing. He studied at Saint Francis University and began his career working in a steelworks company owned by Andrew Carnegie. He was an ambitious and hardworking man who steadily rose in stature in the steel industry. He was phenomenally successful by his mid-30s and became president of the Carnegie Steel Company at the young age of 35. He eventually went on to join Bethlehem Steel Company and helped make the company the second-largest steel company in the world. His organization thrived during World War I, as he monopolized the contracts to supply certain kinds of munitions to the Allies. He was considered a cutthroat businessman and a controversial person. He led an opulent lifestyle squandering away his wealth. He suffered heavy losses in his last years and was heavily in debt at the time of his death.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Charles Michael Schwab

Died At Age: 77


Spouse/Ex-: Emma Eurana Dinkey ​ ​ (m. 1883–1939)​

father: John Anthony Schwab

mother: Pauline Schwab (née Farabaugh)

Born Country: United States

Steel American Men

Died on: October 18, 1939

place of death: New York, New York, United States

Notable Alumni: Saint Francis University

Cause of Death: Heart Disease

U.S. State: Pennsylvania

More Facts

education: Saint Francis University

awards: 1928 - Bessemer Gold Medal for

Childhood & Early Life

Charles Michael Schwab was born in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 18, 1862. His father, John Anthony Schwab, was a woolen worker and blanket manufacturer. He also owned a livery stable. His mother’s name was Pauline (née Farabaugh). All of his grandparents were German immigrants. His family was Catholic.

Even though his family was not rich, they lived a comfortable life. Young Charles was raised in Loretto and went to Saint Francis University. He graduated in 1877. Unlike his easy-going father, who was content with their comfortable life, the young boy was ambitious and harbored big dreams.

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Charles M. Schwab started working as a grocery clerk. He left the job to take up an engineering position at Edgar Thomson Steel Works, a company owned by industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

He proved to be a skilled employee and received numerous promotions in quick succession, becoming the assistant manager of the plant when he was just 19.

The superintendent of the plant Schwab was working in was killed in an accident in 1887, and he took over his responsibilities, becoming the superintendent of the plant. A few years later, in 1890, he was made the general superintendent of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works.

Charles M. Schwab, besides being intelligent and hardworking, also had a way with people. He had great communication skills and could get along with most people across different age groups. Andrew Carnegie was much impressed by the young man’s potential and made him the president of the Carnegie Steel Company in 1897.

In 1901, he played a major role in negotiating the sale of Carnegie Steel to a syndicate led by financier J. Pierpont Morgan. As the United States Steel Corporation came into existence following the buyout, Schwab was made the first president of the company.

Charles M. Schwab and Morgan had many spats in the ensuing months and Schwab finally quit the United States Steel Corporation in 1903. He then turned his attention to Bethlehem Shipbuilding and Steel Company, a smaller organization in which he already had a controlling interest.

In 1904, he merged Bethlehem with the United States Shipbuilding Company and created Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The company initially specialized in making steel girders for skyscrapers and found resounding success with the launch of the H-beam, which revolutionized the construction of skyscrapers. 

Bethlehem Steel touched great heights of success under Schwab’s leadership and became the second-largest steel company in the world. During World War I, the company supplied war materials to the Allied powers and further grew its profits.

Bethlehem Steel launched a company soccer team known as Bethlehem Steel 1911. The team went professional in 1914 and won several league championships, American Cups, and National Challenge Cups until it was dissolved in 1930. During its existence, it was considered one of the greatest soccer teams in US history.

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Charles M. Schwab was appointed the director-general of the Emergency Fleet Corporation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918. He was charged with the task of expediting America’s shipbuilding capabilities.

From 1927 to 1932, he served as the president of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Bethlehem Steel was hard hit by the Great Depression and the ensuing stock market crash in 1929. In the next few years, the company suffered huge losses, running into millions of dollars. Schwab’s lavish lifestyle continued even in the aftermath of the Great Depression, and he was technically bankrupt when he died.

Major Work

Charles Schwab is best known for taking over Bethlehem Steel, a small enterprise, and turning it into one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world for much of the 20th century. The company survived Schwab and continued to operate until its final dissolution in 2003.

Family & Personal Life

Charles M. Schwab met a girl named Emma Eurania “Rana” Dinkey in 1880. She was a couple of years older than him and wasn’t Catholic, but this did not stop him from courting her. They got married in 1883 despite his mother’s disapproval. They did not have any children.

Despite remaining married to Emma for 55 years, Schwab was involved in numerous extra-marital affairs. He had at least one child out of wedlock.

He lived an opulent lifestyle and had an extravagant house built in New York. Popular French architect Maurice Hebert was commissioned to design the $7 million 75-room house. He also owned a 44-room summer estate with a golf course on 1,000 acres in Pennsylvania. He had a private rail car named “Loretto” valued at $100,000.

His vast fortunes dwindled as a result of his careless spending, and he was hit hard by the Great Depression. He had to greatly downsize his lifestyle in his last years.

His wife died on January 12, 1939. A few months later, Charles M. Schwab died on September 18, 1939. He was suffering from heart disease. He was over $300,000 in debt at the time of his death.

See the events in life of Charles M. Schwab in Chronological Order

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