Best known for: Becoming wealthy from the steel business, giving his wealth to charities
Nickname: Patron Saint of Libraries
Andrew Carnegie by Theodore C. Marceau
Where did Andrew Carnegie grow up?
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland. His father was a weaver who made linen for a living and his mother worked repairing shoes. His family was fairly poor. They lived in a typical weaver cottage in Scotland which was basically a single room where the family cooked, ate, and slept. When famine swept the land in the 1840's, the family decided to move to America.
Immigrating to the United States
In 1848, Andrew immigrated to Allegheny, Pennsylvania in the United States. He was thirteen years old. Since his family needed the money, he immediately went to work in a cotton factory as a bobbin boy. He made $1.20 for working a 70 hour week on his first job.
Andrew wasn't able to attend school, but he was an intelligent and hard working boy. During his free time he read books loaned to him from one of the local citizen's private library. Andrew never forgot how important these books were to his education and would later donate significant funds to the building of public libraries.
Andrew always worked hard and did a good job. He soon got a job as a telegraph messenger. This was a much better and more enjoyable job. Andrew got to run all around town delivering messages. He also studied Morse Code and practiced with the telegraph equipment whenever he got the chance. In 1851, he was promoted to telegraph operator.
Working for the Railroads
In 1853, Carnegie went to work for the railroads. He worked his way up and eventually became superintendent. It was while working for the railroads that Carnegie learned about business and investing. This experience would pay off down the road.
Investing and Success
As Carnegie made more money, he wanted to invest his money rather than spend it. He invested in various businesses like iron, bridges, and oil. Many of his investments were successful and he also made a lot of business connections with important and powerful men.
In 1865, Carnegie established his first company called the Keystone Bridge Company. He began to put most of his efforts into ironworks. Using his connections with the railroad companies, he was able to build bridges and sell railroad ties made by his company. He expanded his business over the next several years, building factories throughout the region.
Wealth in Steel
Carnegie decided to invest in steel. He knew that steel was stronger than iron and would last longer. Steel would make more durable bridges, railroads, buildings, and ships. He also learned of a new steel making process called the Bessemer process that enabled steel to be made quicker and cheaper than before. He formed the Carnegie Steel Company. He built a number of large steel factories and soon had a large percentage of the world steel market.
In 1901, Carnegie formed U.S. Steel with the banker J. P. Morgan. This became the largest corporation in the world. Carnegie had gone from a poor Scottish immigrant to one of the richest men in the world.
Carnegie believed in working hard and taking calculated risks. He also invested in vertical markets. This means that he didn't just buy the ingredients for steel and then make it in his factories. He also owned other aspects of the steel industry including coal mines to fuel the steel furnaces, trains and ships to transport his steel, and iron ore operations.
Andrew Carnegie felt that being rich was just the first part of his life. Now that he was rich, he decided that he should spend the rest of his life giving away his money to needy causes. One of his favorite causes was libraries. His funding contributed to over 1,600 libraries being built around the United States and the world. He also gave money to help with education and funded the building of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Other projects included purchasing thousands of church organs, building Carnegie Hall in New York City, and forming the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Carnegie died of pneumonia on August 11, 1919 in Lenox, Massachusetts. He left the majority of what remained of his wealth to charity.
Interesting Facts about Andrew Carnegie
During the Civil War, Carnegie was in charge of the Union army's railroads and telegraph lines.
He once said that "You cannot push any one up a ladder unless he be willing to climb a little himself."
It is estimated that, accounting for inflation, Carnegie was the second richest person in the history of the world. The richest was John D. Rockefeller.
He felt so strongly about giving his money away that he wrote in his book The Gospel of Wealth that "The man who dies thus rich, dies disgraced."
He once offered to give the Philippines $20 million in order for the country to buy its independence.