Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie
BirthplaceDunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Business magnate, Philanthropist

Carnegie, Andrew

(kärnĕg`ē, kär`nəgē), 1835–1919, American industrialist and philanthropist, b. Dunfermline, Scotland. His father, a weaver, found it increasingly difficult to get work in Scottish factories and in 1848 brought his family to Allegheny (now Pittsburgh), Pa. Andrew first worked in a cotton mill as a bobbin boy, then advanced himself as a telegrapher, and became (1859) a superintendent for the Pennsylvania RR. He resigned (1865) his railroad position to give personal attention to the investments he had made (1864) in iron manufactures.

By 1873, Carnegie had recognized America's need for steel and, concentrating on steel production, he began his acquisition of firms, which were later consolidated into the Carnegie Steel Company. His success was due in part to efficient business methods, to his able lieutenants, and to close alliances with railroads. Another factor was his partnership with Henry C. FrickFrick, Henry Clay,
1849–1919, American industrialist, b. Westmoreland co., Pa. He worked on his father's farm, was a store clerk, and did bookkeeping before he and several associates organized (1871) Frick & Company to operate coke ovens in the Connellsville coal
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. Carnegie, concentrating on production rather than stock-market manipulations, further expanded his plants and consolidated his hold in the depression of 1893–97. By 1900, the Carnegie Steel Company was producing one quarter of all the steel in the United States and controlled iron mines, coke ovens, ore ships, and railroads. It was in these circumstances that the U.S. Steel Corp. was formed to buy Carnegie out. He had long been willing to sell—at his own price—and in 1901 he transferred possession for $250 million in bonds and retired from business.

Carnegie's essay "The Gospel of Wealth" (1889) set forth his idea that rich men are "trustees" of their wealth and should administer it for the good of the public. His benefactions (totaling about $350 million) included Carnegie Hall (1892) in New York City, the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1902), the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission (1904), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1905), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1910), and over 2,800 libraries. After 1887, Carnegie lived a large part of each year in Scotland on his great estate on Dornoch Firth.


See his autobiography (1920, repr. 1963); biographies by B. J. Hendrick (2 vol., 1932, repr. 1989), A. F. Harlow (1953), J. F. Wall (1970), and D. Nasaw (2006); study on Carnegie libraries by A. A. Van Slyck (1996).

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Carnegie, Andrew (1835–1919)

steel magnate who believed the rich should administer wealth—for public benefit. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 83]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Carnegie, Andrew

(1835–1919) iron/steel manufacturer, philanthropist; born in Dunfermline, Scotland. Although he had only a primary-school education, he grew up in a family that valued ideas and books as well as progressive social and economic reforms. His father was a handloom weaver and he brought his family to the U.S.A. in 1848 where they joined relatives in Allegheny (now Pittsburgh), Pa. Young Andrew quickly moved from bobbin boy in a factory to a telegraph operator (and was one of the first to learn to read messages "by ear"); he then became an assistant to Thomas Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad (1853–65); during the Civil War he was not in military service but he helped improve the Federal army's telegraph communications. He left the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1865 to concentrate on his own businesses, first the Keystone Bridge Company, then making iron and steel. Everything he took up made him wealthier, and the secrets of his success seemed to be that he surrounded himself with intelligent men, invested heavily in new equipment, and managed to keep majority ownership in his companies so that he did not have to answer to stockholders. As he prospered, he broadened his interests, traveling abroad and deliberately seeking to exchange views with leading individuals in Great Britain as well as America; he would count Matthew Arnold and Mark Twain, William Gladstone and Theodore Roosevelt among his friends; he wrote several books, including Triumphant Democracy (1886), setting forth his optimistic views about the role of capitalism and democracy; he built a great estate in Scotland where he often entertained prominent people. Although progressive in some respects, he was essentially a benevolent dictator; he had little patience with the burgeoning labor movement, and the blackest mark on his career was the Homestead strike of 1892, when he allowed his assistant, Henry Clay Frick, to take steps that led to violence. (Carnegie himself was in Scotland during the strike.) By 1889 his Carnegie Steel Company had become one of the world's largest; when he sold his business to J. P. Morgan in 1901 for some $260 million profit for himself, he was one of the richest men in the world and could devote himself to his philanthropies. He had started donating money as a young entrepreneur; in 1889 he published an article, "Wealth," in which he argued that the wealthy were obligated to distribute their fortunes to improve the world. He had begun by helping communities build libraries and helping churches buy organs; he established pension funds for teachers, eventually setting up the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1905) to support this as well as other programs; he helped support various scientific undertakings, eventually establishing the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1902) to support such; he set up the Carnegie Hero Funds (1904) to recognize individuals who had performed heroic acts; he donated to many institutions of higher learning in Scotland as well as in America and set up the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (and its sister school, Margaret Morrison); he set up the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1910 and helped build the international court of justice at the Hague. It is estimated that he eventually gave away $350 million, but his money failed to buy what he most wanted, world peace, and he died before the U.S.A. rejected the League of Nations he had long dreamed of establishing.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.