US Steel: first billion-dollar company

James Pierpont Morgan, Charles Schwab and Andrew Carnegie. These were three of the four founding partners of U.S. Steel (Elbert H Gary was the fourth), which at the time of its launch was the largest enterprise ever. Gary and Morgan organized the merger of Carnegie’s steel manufacturing business with their existing holdings, creating a corporation that made two-thirds of all American steel in its very first year.

On this day, February 25, in 1901, U.S. Steel was incorporated. Its market capitalization was estimated at $1.4 billion dollars; it was the world’s first billion-dollar company.

Because of its size, the corporation frequently clashed with the federal government. Just ten years after its founding, the same federal government that successfully broke up an oil monopoly held by Standard Oil, lost a case against U.S. Steel. In the 1950s, President Harry Truman attempted to seize the company’s steel mills, but was thwarted by the Supreme Court. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy compelled the company to roll back their price increases, which he considered to be causing dangerous levels of inflation.