(November 25, 1835 – August 11,
1919) was a Scottish-American businessman and major philanthropist.
Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland into a weaver's family. In
1848 his father, who had been a Chartist, emigrated to America, settling in
Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Young Carnegie started work at an early age as a bobbin
boy in a cotton mill, and a few years later was engaged as a telegraph clerk and
operator with the Atlantic and Ohio Company. He was noted as one of the first
operators to read telegraphic signals by sound. His ability as a worker was
noted by Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who employed him as a
secretary starting in 1853.
In 1859, when Scott became vice-president of the
company, he made Carnegie superintendent of the western division of the line. In
this post Carnegie was responsible for several improvements in the service. When
the American Civil War opened in 1861, he accompanied Scott, then Assistant
United States Secretary of War, to the front.
While in this position he met also George Pullman, inventor of the sleeping
car. Carnegie immediately recognized the great merit of the invention and
readily joined in the effort for its adoption. The first sources of the enormous
wealth he subsequently attained were his introduction of sleeping cars for
railways, and his purchase in 1864 of Storey Farm on Oil Creek, in Venango
County, Pennsylvania, which cost $40,000, and yielded in one year over
$1,000,000 in cash dividends, and where the oil wells secured a large profit.
Carnegie was subsequently associated with others in establishing a steel rolling
But all this was only a preliminary to the success attending his development
of the iron and steel industries at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Carnegie made his
fortune in the steel industry, controlling the most extensive integrated iron
and steel operations ever owned by an individual in the United States. His great
innovation was in the cheap and efficient mass production of steel rails for
In 1868, at age 33, he wrote in a letter to himself that he was "overwhelmed
by business cares" and that he would "resign business at thirty-five", but that
"during the ensuing two years I wish to spend the afternoons in receiving
instruction and in reading systematically."
Carnegie's empire would later embrace the J. Edgar Thomson Steel Works,
(named for John Edgar Thomson, Carnegie's former boss and president of the
Pennsylvania Railroad), Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Works, the Lucy Furnaces, the
Union Iron Mills, the Union Mill (Wilson, Walker & County), the Keystone Bridge
Works, the Hartman Steel Works, the Frick Coke Company and the Scotia ore mines.
Carnegie, through Keystone, supplied the steel for (and owned shares in) the
landmark Eads Bridge across the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, an
important proof-of-concept for steel technology and the opening of a new steel
In the late 1880s Carnegie Steel was the largest manufacturer of pig-iron,
steel-rails and coke in the world, with a capacity to produce approximately
2,000 tons of pig-metal a day. In 1888 he bought the rival Homestead Steel
Works, which included an extensive plant served by tributary coal and iron
fields, a railway 425 miles long, and a line of lake steamships. An
agglutination of the assets of him and his associates occurred in 1892 with the
launching of the Carnegie Steel Company.
As years went by, the various Carnegie companies represented in this industry
prospered to such an extent that in 1901, he sold his steel holdings to a group
of New York-based financiers led by J. Pierpont Morgan for $250 million. The
buyout, which was negotiated in secret by Charles M. Schwab (no relation to
Charles R. Schwab, the brokerage house founder), was the largest such industrial
takeover in the United States at the time. The holdings were incorporated in the
United States Steel Corporation, a trust organized by J. P. Morgan, and Carnegie
himself retired from business. He was bought out at a figure equivalent to a
capital of approximately $480 million, which at the time was the largest
personal commercial transaction to date.
Besides steel, Carnegie's companies were involved in other areas of the
railroad industry. His company Pittsburgh Locomotive and Car Works was noted for
its building of large steam locomotives at the turn of the 20th century. His
associates and partners included Henry Clay Frick and F. T. F. Lovejoy.
He also owned 18 English newspapers, which he controlled in the interests of
At the height of his career, he was the second richest person in the world,
behind only John D. Rockefeller.
In an era in which financial capital was consolidated in New York City,
Carnegie famously stayed aloof from the city, preferring to live near his
factories in western Pennsylvania and at Skibo Castle, Scotland, which he bought
and refurbished. However, he also built (in 1901) and resided in a townhouse on
New York City's Fifth Avenue that later came to house Cooper-Hewitt's National
Carnegie married Louise Whitfield in 1887 and had one daughter, Margaret, who
was born in 1897. His brother, Thomas M. Carnegie, was also born in Dunfermline,
Scotland, on October 2, 1843. He was associated with Andrew in his business
enterprises, but died in Homewood, Pennsylvania, on October 19, 1886.
Carnegie was one of over 50 wealthy members of the South Fork Fishing and
Hunting Club, which operated an exclusive and secretive retreat at a mountain
lake near South Fork, Pennsylvania. Other prominent members included Andrew
Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, Philander Knox, and Robert Pitcairn.
In 1879, the club had purchased an old dam and abandoned reservoir. They
created Lake Conemaugh, which was about two miles (3 km) long, approximately one
mile (1.6 km) wide, and 60 feet (18 m) deep near the dam. The lake had a
perimeter of 7 miles (11 km) and could hold 20 million tons of water. When the
water was "up" in the spring, the lake covered over 400 acres (1.6 km²). The
South Fork Dam was 72 feet (22 m) high and 931 feet (284 m) long. Between 1881
when the club was opened and 1889 this dam frequently sprang leaks and was
patched, mostly with mud and straw. Passers-by sometimes commented about the
likelihood of a failure, but no action was taken. The flawed dam held the waters
of Lake Conemaugh back until disaster struck on May 31, 1889.
After several days of unprecedented rainfall, the dam gave way. A torrent of
water raced downstream, destroying several towns. When it reached Johnstown,
over 2,200 people were killed, and there was $17 million in damage. The disaster
became known as the Johnstown Flood.
In the years following this tragic event, many people blamed the members of
the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club for the tragedy, as they had originally
bought and repaired the dam to turn the area into a holiday retreat in the
mountains. However, they failed to properly maintain the dam, and as a result,
heavy rainfall on the eve of the disaster meant that the structure was not
strong enough to hold the excess water. Despite the evidence to suggest that
they were very much to blame, they were never held legally responsible for the
disaster. In keeping with the times, the courts viewed the dam's failure as an
Act of God, and no legal compensation was paid to the survivors of the flood.
Individual members of the club did contribute substantially to the relief
efforts. Along with about half of the club members, Henry Clay Frick donated
thousands of dollars to the relief effort in Johnstown. After the flood, Andrew
Carnegie, one of the club's better known members, built the town a new library.
In return, he was received with a hero's welcome.
Andrew Carnegie spent his last years as a philanthropist. By the time he died
in Lenox, Massachusetts, Carnegie had given away $350,695,653. At his death, the
last $30,000,000 was likewise given away to foundations, charities and to
He is interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
The Homestead Strike was a bloody labour confrontation lasting one-hundred and
forty-three days in 1892, one of the most serious in the history of the United
States. The conflict was situated around Carnegie Steel's main Homestead,
Pennsylvania plant, and grew out of disputation between the National Amalgamated
Association of Iron and Steel Workers of the United States and the Carnegie
Carnegie, who had cultivated a pro-labor image in his dealings with company
mill workers, departed the country for a trip to his Scottish homeland before
the unrest peaked. In doing so, Carnegie left mediation of the dispute in the
hands of his associate and partner Henry Clay Frick. Frick was well known in
industrialist circles as maintaining staunch anti-union sensibilities.
The company had attempted to cut the wages of the skilled steel workers; when
the workers refused the pay cut, management locked the union out (therefore, the
confrontation was actually a "lockout" by management and not a "strike" by
Frick brought in thousands of strike-breakers to work the steel mills and
Pinkerton agents to safeguard them.
The arrival (on the 6th of July) of a force of three hundred Pinkerton
detectives from New York City and Chicago resulted in a fight in which about ten
men were killed. To restore order, Pennsylvania Governor Robert Pattison
discharged two brigades of the state militia to the strike site. Then,
purportedly in response to the fight between the striking workers and the
Pinkertons, anarchist Alexander Berkman attempted to murder Henry Clay Frick
with a gun provided by Emma Goldman. However, Frick was only wounded and the
violent assault turned public opinion away from the striking workers. Afterwards
the company successfully resumed operations with non-unionized immigrant
employees in place of the Homestead plant workers, and Carnegie returned
From 1901 forward public attention was turned from the shrewd business
capacity which had enabled him to accumulate such a fortune to the
public-spirited way in which he devoted himself to utilizing it on philanthropic
objects. His views on social subjects, and the responsibilities which great
wealth involved, were already known from a book entitled Triumphant Democracy
(1886), and in his Gospel of Wealth (1900). He acquired Skibo Castle, in
Sutherland, Scotland, and made his home partly there and partly in New York;
then devoted his life to the work of providing the capital for purposes of
public interest, and social and educational advancement.
In all his ideas he was dominated by an intense belief in the future and
influence of the English-speaking people, in their democratic government and
alliance for the purpose of peace and the abolition of war, and in the progress
of education on non-sectarian lines. He was a powerful supporter of the movement
for spelling reform, as a means of promoting the spread of the English language.
Among all of his many philanthropic efforts, the establishment of public
libraries in the United States, the United Kingdom, and in other
English-speaking countries, was especially prominent. Carnegie libraries, as
they were commonly called, sprang up on all sides. The first of which was opened
in 1883 in Dunfermline, Scotland. His method was to build and equip, but only on
condition that the local authority provided site and maintenance. To secure
local interest, in 1885 he gave $500,000 to Pittsburgh for a public library, and
in 1886, he gave $250,000 to Allegheny City for a music hall and library, and
$250,000 to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a free library. In total Carnegie funded
some 3,000 libraries, located in every U.S. state except Alaska, Delaware and
Rhode Island, as well as Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the
West Indies and Fiji.
He gave $2 million in 1901 to start the Carnegie Institute of Technology at
Pittsburgh, and the same amount in 1902 to found the Carnegie Institution at
Washington, D.C.. He would later contribute more to these and other schools. CIT
is now Carnegie Mellon University.
In Scotland he gave $2 million in 1901 to establish a trust for providing
funds for assisting education at the Scottish universities, a benefaction which
resulted in his being elected Lord Rector of University of St. Andrews. He was a
large benefactor of the Tuskegee Institute under Booker Washington for African
American education. He also established large pension funds in 1901 for his
former employees at Homestead, and in 1905 for American college professors. He
also funded the construction of 7,000 church organs.
Also, long before he sold out, in 1879, he erected commodious swimming-baths
for the use of the people of his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland. In the
following year gave $40,000 for the establishment of a free library in the same
city. In 1884, he gave $50,000 to Bellevue Hospital Medical College to found a
histological laboratory, now called the Carnegie Laboratory.
He owned Carnegie Hall in New York City from its construction in 1890 until
his widow sold it in 1924.
He also founded the Carnegie Hero Fund commissions in America (1904) and in
the United Kingdom (1908), for the recognition of deeds of heroism, and
contributed $500,000 in 1903 for the erection of a Peace Palace at The Hague,
and of $150,000 for a Pan-American Palace in Washington as a home for the
International Bureau of American Republics.
By the rough and ready standards of 19th century tycoons, Carnegie was not a
particularly ruthless man, but the contrast between his life and the lives of
many of his own workers and the poor in general was stark. "Maybe with the
giving away of his money," commented biographer Joseph Wall, "he would justify
what he had done to get that money."
Carnegie wrote The Gospel of Wealth, in which he stated his belief
that the rich should use their wealth to help enrich society.
The following is taken from one of Carnegie's memos to himself:
Man does not live by bread alone. I have known millionaires starving for lack
of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know
workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of
those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is
no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.
Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself.
Exalted beyond this, as it sometimes is, it remains Caliban still and still
plays the beast. My aspirations take a higher flight. Mine be it to have
contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the
spirit, to all that tends to bring into the lives of the toilers of Pittsburgh
sweetness and light. I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth.
Carnegie also believed that achievement of financial success could be reduced
to a simple formula which could be duplicated by the average person. In 1908, he
commissioned Napoleon Hill, then a newspaper reporter, to interview over 500
millionaires to find out the common threads of their success. Hill eventually
became his adviser and their work was published in 1928, after Carnegie's death,
in Hill's book The Law of Success.
Carnegie was a frequent contributor to periodicals on labor issues.
In addition to Triumphant Democracy (1886), Gospel of Wealth
(1900) and The Law of Success (1928), other publications by him were
An American Four-in-hand in Britain (1883), Round the World (1884),
The Empire of Business (1902), a Life of James Watt (1905) and
Problems of To-day (1908).
- This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclopedia
Britannica, which is in the public domain.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Appleton's
Cyclopaedia of American Biography.
- The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J.
P. Morgan Invented the American Super economy by Charles R. Morris
Publisher: Times Books 2005 ISBN: 0805075992
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