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Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835 August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American businessman and major philanthropist.

Andrew Carnegie - Photo Portrait 1913

Source.

Andrew Carnegie in 1913

Early life

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland into a weaver's family. In 1848 his father, who had been a Chartist, emigrated to America, settled in Allegheny River, Pennsylvania. Young Carnegie started work at an early age as a reel boy in a textile factory and a number of years later was employed as a telegraph clerk and operator with the Atlantic and Ohio Company. He was one of the first operators to read telegraphic signals by sound. His talents as a employee were seen by a Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who took him on as a secretary 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 mill.

Industrialism

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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 railroad lines.

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 market.

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 radicalism.

At the height of his career, he was the second richest person in the world, behind only John D. Rockefeller.

Personal life

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 Design Museum.

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 km). 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 pensioners.

He is interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Homestead strike

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 Steel Company.

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 workers).

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 stateside.

Philanthropy

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."

Philosophy

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.

Writings

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).

Sources

  • 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.

Further reading

  • 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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