Andrew Carnegie, in order to control a business so vital to steelmaking, acquired heavy interests in Frick's organization. Frick, in turn, was given large holdings in the Carnegie company, and because of his managerial ability, he was made (1889) chairman of the steel company. He played a key role in the organization (1892) of the Carnegie Steel Company, and as its acting head Frick engineered a large expansion of the company by buying out competing companies and acquiring many holdings in railroad securities and in Lake Superior iron ore lands. Frick, frequently over Carnegie's protest, dealt in strong-handed fashion with the company's workers, and his adamant stand resulted in a pitched battle in the strike (1892) at Homestead, Pa.—one of the bitterest strikes in U.S. history (see Homestead strike). He was largely responsible for the antiunion policy that characterized the steel industry for many decades.
Disputes between Frick and Carnegie led to a struggle between them for control, and in 1899 Frick resigned. He became a director of the U.S. Steel Corp. and turned to other interests, chiefly railroads. His mansion in New York City, together with his art collection and endowment of $15 million, was willed to the public as a museum. Princeton and the city of Pittsburgh also benefited from his philanthropies.
See biography by G. B. M. Harvey (1928).
He attended St. Paul's School. In 1942 he graduated from Princeton University and then from the medical school in 1944 at Columbia. After World War II he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Frick practiced medicine in New York, and later became a professor of clinical obstetrics at Columbia and an oncologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. During the 1960s he voluntarily served two tours of duty in a field hospital during the Vietnam War.
Frick was a trustee and board president of New York's Frick Collection and chairman of his aunt's Helen Clay Frick Foundation. In this later capacity he directed the restoration, according to his aunt's wishes, of the Frick family's Pittsburgh estate, Clayton. He also was a trustee of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History.
He died at age 87 on February 9, 2007 at his Alpine, New Jersey home.