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The Steel Bar: Pittsburgh Lawyers and the Making of America
THE GILDED AGE, 1866-1902
By the 1870s, Pittsburgh had become a leading American center of industry and technology, and its "Robber Baron" entrepreneurs needed vast amounts of capital to build their empires. Pittsburgh lawyers became the stewards of America's first great corporations, including Carnegie Steel and Westinghouse, and became the peers of the tycoons as they worked side-by-side with them to develop the culture and decorum of the corporate form in the United States.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh endured violent labor battles, such as the Railroad Riots of 1877 and the Homestead Strike of 1892, which prompted the development of labor law, albeit in a climate in which many aspects of union activity were criminalized. Billy Brennen, Pittsburgh’s first labor advocate and a Democratic Party leader for many years, got his start as a pull-up boy in the J&L Iron Works. In the Johnstown Flood, the Homestead Strike, the great lawsuit between Carnegie and Frick, and the creation of U.S. Steel, we see two pivotal American tragedies and two major American business events from the point of view of Pittsburgh lawyers, as they move their chess pieces around America's greatest industrial metropolis.
The Gilded Age was also the era in which the bar began to expand to permit the admission of women and African-Americans, although their struggles for recognition continued later into the next century, as African-Americans found themselves practicing in a segregated bar, and women had little success in developing a clientele or convincing law firms that they could handle more than secretarial work.
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