The richest man in the world, in his time, was Andrew Carnegie. His story of success was truly one of rags to riches. After coming to the U.S. from Scotland as part of a working-class family, he moved from job to job, eventually becoming more influential and gaining a large sum of money. Soon he was using his wealth to contribute to many public services, such as libraries and schools. Andrew Carnegie's life and actions have left a long-standing legacy and have contributed greatly to the American way of life, particularly toward education.
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25th, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland. His father was a hand loom weaver and Chartist. Carnegie believed in the importance of birthplace. “I was supremely so in my birthplace. Where one is born is very important, for different surroundings and traditions appeal to and stimulate different latent tendencies in the child.1”
Scotland's depression in 1848 caused the family to move to the United States. Here, they became part of a Scottish colony near Pittsburgh, in a town called Allegheny. Andrew was 12 years old at the time and worked in a cotton factory, going to school at night.
He became a messenger boy at age 14 for the Pittsburgh Telegraph Office , where the superintendent of the western division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Thomas A. Scott, noticed him and made him his secretary. Andrew later worked in Washington as Scott's assistant, who was the assistant secretary of war. Here, he organized the telegraph system for the military during the Civil War. He then took Scott's old superintendent job and made a series of investments.
Carnegie visited Britain often and took note of the rise of the iron industry. He was impressed by Henry Bessemer's converter and soon came to the conclusion that steel would overtake iron as the prominent building material of heavy items.
It was not long before Andrew had built his own blast furnace, inspired by Bessemer and his ideas. This was in 1870, and in Braddock in 1874, he had open his steel furnace. Henry Frick was one of his many partners, although he always wanted to stay in control of his ventures.
Carnegie was also interested in political and social issues, writing a few books including Round the World in 1881, An American Four-in-Hand in Britain in 1883, and Triumphant Democracy in 1886. He was also a big fan of the educational system in the United States. In June of 1889, an article was published in the North American Review by Andrew about what he referred to as the “Gospel of Wealth”. In it, he stated that rich people have a duty to use their wealth towards benefiting the community. In his words, “A man who dies rich dies disgraced.2”
In the same year, he made Henry Frick chairman of the Carnegie Company and then moved to New York to do some research. He also spent six months with his family in Scotland.
In 1892, Frick realized there was no centralized management for the company and decided to combine everything to form the Carnegie Steel Company. It was worth $25 million and was the largest steel company in the world. Frick became greedy and wanted to increase profits, so he lowered employee wages. Workers began to strike, so Frick hired 300 strikebreakers to resolve the situation. There was a battle that lasted a day and 60 men were wounded. 10 men were even killed before the governor put an end to the fighting. Carnegie became very angry with Frick, as he had specifically told him to not use strikebreakers. He did not make their disagreement public and therefore took the heat for everything that happened.
From 1889 to 1899, the Carnegie Steel Company expanded as steel production went from 332,111 to 2,663,412 tons, with profits rising from $2 million to $40 million. During this time, Carnegie and Frick's relationship continued to worsen. Finally, in 1899 for $15 million, he bought out Frick.
Frick joined up with J. Pierpont Morgan in 1901 to buy the Carnegie...
Bibliography: Carnegie, Andrew. The Gospel of Wealth. Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1998.
Krass, Peter. Carnegie. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.
Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: The Penguin Press, 2006.
PBS Online, “Andrew Carnegie,” PBS Online/WGBH, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carnegie/peopleevents/pande01.html, Accessed 31 March 2008.
Wall, Joseph Frazier. Andrew Carnegie. Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989.
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