Having started over 60 companies, George Westinghouse (1846-1914) is nothing short of an extraordinary businessman.
However, Westinghouse wasn't perfect. He took too much risk with credit and naively believed bankers had his interests and values in mind. After the financial crisis of 1907, Westinghouse would eventually lose control of his prized company, the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company.
But what Westinghouse didn't lose was the respect and admiration of his employees. Unlike the robber barons of the time, Westinghouse never had to contend with worker strikes because his workers were well paid, worked in safe plants, had weekends off, among other benefits. During the earlier financial crisis of 1890, his employees even proposed to cut their pay in half. After he died, his employees fully funded a memorial costing $3.5 million in today's dollars.
To learn more about Westinghouse, I highly advise you to read George Westinghouse: Powering the World, a brand new biography published this year by Dr. William Huber.
Westinghouse wasn't only admired at work by men like Nikola Tesla and his 60,000 employees; he was also admired at home by his wife of 47 years, Marguerite Erskine Walker Westinghouse. Like charity, success starts at home. A happy wife is a happy life. I have more clichés but I think you got the gist.
Modern leaders speak of work-life balance. Well, here is a man who lived well over 100 years ago who was a master of that balance. It would benefit many of us to learn how he lived his life.
Previously, I shared with you a handwritten letter from Westinghouse. I later learned from the Detre Library & Archives, who safekeeps Westinghouse documents, there is only one other surviving handwritten letter to a recipient outside of his family (it was to a lawyer in 1874). It is believed that Westinghouse, a private person, had many of his personal letters destroyed before he died. Luckily, the ones that were saved were the best ones: the letters to his wife Marguerite.
It was normal for George to correspond with Marguerite every day when he traveled. And if the communication wasn't by telephone, it was by telegram or handwritten letters.
The common themes of the handwritten letters were descriptions of his work, but it would always come around to him missing her and wanting to be with her. There was a sentence that summed it up well: it would be a "success" to him if he could finish up his work on time to finally be with her again.
Below are seven snippets of what I read. But be forewarned: they are incredibly sweet. The love and respect he had for Marguerite are evident. They can only come from a devoted husband and a doting father, which makes the already great George Westinghouse even greater.