Charles Michael Schwab (February 18, 1862 – September 18, 1939) was an American steel magnate. Under his leadership, Bethlehem Steel became the second-largest steel maker in the United States, and one of the most important heavy manufacturers in the world.
Schwab began his career as an engineer in Andrew Carnegie's steelworks, starting as a stake-driver in the engineering corps of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works and Furnaces in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
He was promoted to general superintendent of the Homestead Works in 1887
Then promoted to general superintendent of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works in 1890.
In 1897, at only 35 years of age, he became president of the Carnegie Steel Company.
Schwab left USS in 1903 to run the Bethlehem Shipbuilding and Steel Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
In 1908, Bethlehem Steel began making the beam, which revolutionized building construction and contributed to the age of the skyscraper. Its success helped make Bethlehem Steel the second-largest steel company in the world. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was incorporated, virtually as a company town, by uniting four previous villages.
In 1910, Schwab broke the Bethlehem Steel strike by calling out the newly formed Pennsylvania State Police. Schwab successfully kept labor unions out of Bethlehem Steel throughout his tenure (although Bethlehem Steel unionized in 1941, two years after his death).
In 1911, Bethlehem Steel formed a company soccer team known as Bethlehem Steel F.C. In 1914 Schwab took the team professional. Until its demise in 1930, the team won eight league championships, six American Cups and five National Challenge Cups. It was considered among the greatest soccer teams in U.S. history. The company disbanded the team as a result of financial losses incurred during the internecine 1928–1929 "Soccer Wars" between American Soccer League and United States Football Association and the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.
Schwab died later that year on September 18, 1939, of heart disease at his apartment on Park Avenue in New York City. His funeral was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral and about 2,000 people were estimated to line the streets of the procession.Al Smith, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Charles Evans Hughes were in attendance at his funeral. He was originally interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York, but his remains were moved on April 29, 1940, to a private mausoleum at the Saint Michael Catholic Church Cemetery in Loretto.
When Schwab became very wealthy, he moved to New York City's Upper West Side, which at the time was considered the "wrong" side of Central Park, where he built "Riverside", the most ambitious private house ever built in New York. The $7 million 75-room house, designed by French architect Maurice Hebert, combined details from three French chateaux on a full city block. After Schwab's death, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia turned down a proposal to make Riverside the official mayoral residence, deeming it too grandiose. It was eventually razed and replaced by an apartment block.
Schwab became notorious for his "fast lane" lifestyle including opulent parties, high-stakes gambling, and a string of extramarital affairs producing at least one child out of wedlock. The affairs and the out-of-wedlock child soured his relationship with his wife. He became an international celebrity when he "broke the bank" at Monte Carlo, and traveled in a $100,000 private rail car named "Loretto". Even before the Great Depression, he had already spent most of his fortune, estimated at between $25 million and $40 million. Adjusted for inflation in the first decade of the 21st century, that equates to between $500 million and $800 million.