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Who is Andrew Carnegie?

Andrew Carnegie, a titan of the Gilded Age, rose from humble beginnings to become a steel magnate and one of history's wealthiest men. His legacy, however, is dual-edged: a ruthless businessman turned philanthropist, who redefined charitable giving. His story raises a profound question: can one's later good deeds redeem a lifetime of cutthroat practices? Discover how Carnegie's life challenges this moral quandary.
Kathy Hawkins
Kathy Hawkins

Andrew Carnegie is one of the most successful business tycoons of the 1800s, and one of the most notable philanthropists of all time. He was the founder and owner of the Carnegie Steel Company, which helped him become one of the richest men in the world during the 19th century.

Born in Scotland in 1835, Andrew Carnegie moved with his family to the United States as a teenager. They settled in the town of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, which is now incorporated into Pittsburgh as the North Side neighborhood. Andrew Carnegie's first employment was as a telegraph messenger, for the rate of $2.50 US Dollars (USD) a week. While working at this job, he proved himself to be very capable and hard-working, and also developed a love for theater, particularly the plays of Shakespeare. He was often required to deliver telegraphs to a theater in town, and he would plan his arrivals so that he could watch the plays performed there.

Andrew Carnegie is forever linked with the city of Pittsburgh.
Andrew Carnegie is forever linked with the city of Pittsburgh.

In 1853, Andrew Carnegie got a job working for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, where he quickly made his way up through the ranks to become Superintendent of the Pittsburgh division. At this point, Andrew Carnegie began to invest some of his income into railroad-related industries, which proved to be very lucrative, particularly during the years of the Civil War.

Andrew Carnegie became one of the richest men of the 19th century.
Andrew Carnegie became one of the richest men of the 19th century.

At the end of the Civil War, Andrew Carnegie decided to transition from the railroad industry into the steel industry. In Pittsburgh, he formed two steel-related companies: the Keystone Bridge Works and the Union Ironworks. Andrew Carnegie's association with the steel industry made him one of the richest people in the world. He purchased a large number of steel mills, ore mines, and related companies throughout the United States; soon, thanks to Carnegie's companies, the United States was producing more steel than the United Kingdom was.

In 1901, Andrew Carnegie made the decision to unify his many steel industry holdings into one single company. The merger was organized by well-known banker J.P. Morgan, and resulted in the formation of United States Steel Corporation (USS), which had a market value of more than $1 billion USD. At that time, USS was the highest valued company ever.

After creating the USS company, Andrew Carnegie retired from active involvement in the steel industry, and turned his interests to philanthropy and charity work. One of Andrew Carnegie's most famous philanthropic donations was the establishment of public libraries in English-speaking countries all over the world, which are known as Carnegie Libraries. Andrew Carnegie also donated $2 million USD for the establishment of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology, which is now called Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a range of other notable buildings including New York City's Carnegie Hall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Andrew Carnegie and why is he significant in history?

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist who led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He is significant for being one of the richest Americans ever, and for his role in the development of the Gilded Age, a period of rapid economic growth. Carnegie is also renowned for his philanthropy, having donated more than $350 million to various causes, such as libraries, education, and peace efforts, which would be equivalent to billions today. His legacy includes the establishment of Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Foundation.

How did Andrew Carnegie build his fortune?

Andrew Carnegie built his fortune primarily through the steel industry. After working in a series of jobs that included telegraphy and railroads, he invested in various ventures, including ironworks and railroads. His key business, Carnegie Steel Company, founded in the 1870s, revolutionized steel production through the adoption of the Bessemer process and other innovations, significantly lowering costs and outcompeting rivals. He eventually sold his company to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million, which formed the basis of U.S. Steel.

What is Andrew Carnegie's philosophy on wealth and philanthropy?

Andrew Carnegie's philosophy on wealth and philanthropy is encapsulated in his essay "The Gospel of Wealth," where he argued that the rich have a moral obligation to distribute their wealth in ways that promote the welfare and happiness of the common man. He believed that the wealthy should live without extravagance, provide moderately for their dependents, and consider the surplus revenues as trust funds to be administered for the benefit of the community. This philosophy guided his extensive philanthropic activities.

What institutions did Andrew Carnegie fund and establish?

Andrew Carnegie funded and established a wide array of institutions, many of which are still influential today. He is perhaps best known for creating Carnegie Hall in New York City and over 2,500 Carnegie libraries worldwide. He also founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Carnegie Mellon University. Additionally, he established the Carnegie Hero Fund to recognize acts of civilian heroism and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland to aid students and universities.

How did Andrew Carnegie's early life influence his later achievements?

Andrew Carnegie's early life had a profound influence on his later achievements. Born into poverty in Scotland in 1835, his family immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. His experiences as a young working-class immigrant instilled in him the values of hard work, thrift, and self-improvement. These principles, combined with his natural business acumen, helped him to capitalize on America's industrial boom. His humble beginnings also influenced his philanthropic views, as he sought to create opportunities for others to improve their circumstances.

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Discussion Comments

anon149097

the facts on the site made me get a 97 in history.

anon84449

This article helped me with the research I needed to do and, unlike the others I have read, this one was straight and to the point about who he was.

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    • Andrew Carnegie is forever linked with the city of Pittsburgh.
      By: Gino Santa Maria
      Andrew Carnegie is forever linked with the city of Pittsburgh.
    • Andrew Carnegie became one of the richest men of the 19th century.
      By: Popova Olga
      Andrew Carnegie became one of the richest men of the 19th century.