Pittsburgh has long been home to the Mellon family. Along with their branding across the city, the Mellon Family has contributed to many of the great industries and institutions that have made Pittsburgh famous. The wealthiest, most powerful Mellon, though, was Andrew W. Mellon.
Early in his life, he took an interest in financial workings. His father’s bank, T. Mellon & Sons, brought him in and he rapidly took over ownership of the bank. From there, he used the bank to back industrial projects in coal, aluminum, oil, and steel, allowing him to gain a massive amount of wealth. Today, Mellon Bank, ALCOA, and Carnegie Mellon University all owe their present states to him. Before the Great Depression, he was the third highest income tax payer in the United States.
One of the largest recipients of his philanthropy would be the University of Pittsburgh. He donated to them an entire academic department for Industrial Research (which is now part of Carnegie Mellon University) and the land for building the Cathedral of Learning. According to historian Robert C. Alberts, he donated $43 million to the University over his lifetime.
After his tenure at his bank, he handed control over to his brother, Richard B. Mellon, and began a career as the Secretary of the Treasury. His economic theory is similar to today’s supply side economics and/or “Trickle Down Economics.” Essentially, he argued that the common man was brought up or down with the fates of his industry, so by policies which favored industry, the workers would benefit. He favored lower taxes, lower national debt, and low business taxation. When the Great Depression hit, however, he was widely criticized for his draconian policies with respect to stimulus and bailouts. He left the Treasury in 1932 to become Ambassador to Great Britain and was replaced by Ogden C. Mills.
Today, his name still is seen all around Pittsburgh. From the BNY Mellon building Downtown to Mellon Arena, and of course, Carnegie Mellon University, it is hard to get away from him. While his policies may have been controversial, he was a strong believer in philanthropy and easing the conditions on the common man, even when his policies may have created conditions that were against that. Today, Andrew Mellon will continue to be remembered as one of the greatest businessmen in Pittsburgh history.
Andrew Mellon Biography:http://www.treasury.gov/about/history/Pages/awmellon.aspx
Alberts, Robert C. . Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787′”1987. University of Pittsburgh Press.