George Baer


Biography of George Baer

George Frederick Baer (September 26, 1842 – April 26, 1914) was an American lawyer who was the President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and spokesman for the owners during the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902.

George Baer was born in Lavansville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and attended first Somerset Institute then Somerset Academy for a High School Education. At the age of thirteen, Baer dropped out of school and became a "printer's devil" at a local type shop. Baer attended Franklin and Marshall College for several years, beginning at age fifteen, before raising a company of volunteers for the Union Army during the American Civil War. In the 133rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, Baer served as a Captain at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.

Following the Civil War, Baer became a lawyer and served as the owner of "The Democrat," a local newspaper. In 1901, Baer was installed by J. P. Morgan as the President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad after the retirement of his predecessor, Joseph Smith Harris. The following year, in 1902, the largest united strike of the United Mine Workers took place. Baer refused to put down the strike or speak to the strikers, citing Social Darwinist ideas. Baer's attitude was released into the papers and became an example of arrogance and superiority. Finally, President Theodore Roosevelt intervened and settled the strike in favor of the striking workers. He was used as an example by the papers of the day, and it was this incident that put yet another nail in the coffin for the social darwinists.

Baer was, to our ears, blunt in the enunciation of his beliefs. His statements on workers and labor relations became rallying cries for the unions. Most famously he wrote in a letter, later leaked to the press, "The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for -- not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men of property to whom God has given control of the property rights of the country, and upon the successful management of which so much depends." In closing statements on behalf of the coal managers to the government's Anthracite Coal Commission he stated, on the subject of working conditions, "These men don't suffer. Why, hell, half of them don't even speak English."

Baer was also named the president of Franklin and Marshall College in 1894 and retained the post until he died in 1914. He was married to Emily Kimmel and had five daughters.

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