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Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland to a working class family. His father was a skilled weaver but about the time Andrew was 12 years old, his father became unemployed with the advent of steam powered looms. So the family immigrated to America the next year and settled in Allegheny near Pittsburgh, PA. It is here that the young Andrew would begin his journey to wealth, starting as a bobbin boy in a local cotton mill at $1.20 per week.

Over a period of 5 years and a few different jobs and promotions later, he started work as a telegrapher for the Pennsylvania Railroad at $20 per month. This did not last long however as he became the right hand man of Tom Scott, who was in charge of the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. A hardworking 24 year old Andrew Carnegie soon became the superintendent of the division.
A great revelation came when he invested the sum of $500 and found that he could make money on dividends without working hard for it. Soon after the Civil War, he resigned his job and became an entreprenuer, starting his own company. It was called the Columbia Oil Company and he invested in Pennsylvania oil wells and drilling units. He sold his shares in that venture to start a company that built steel bridges for the railroad. (All the bridges were high maintainence wooden structures at the time.) Becoming rich, he invested more heavily, making nice profits and started an iron company.

This grew into an iron and steel company since Andrew could forsee that steel was the future. Soon steel railroad ties were being produced and after a few years the Carnegie Steel Company incorporated in 1892. Trouble with labor unions ensued and Carnegie's public opinion was tarnished. Some of the men were working 12 hour days, 7 days a week. This lead to the infamous Homestead strike. Further problems occurred due to the depression of the era from 1893 to 1896. Carnegie handled all the problems, negotiated a deal with John D. Rockefeller for high quality iron ore at cheap prices, and acquired some railroads to connect his steel mills for shipments by rail. By 1900 it was a $40 million per year business.

Finally, the time came when Andrew Carnegie decided to retire. In 1901 he sold the business to J.P. Morgan for $480,000,000. Before he retired however, he wrote The Gospel of Wealth in which he put forth the idea that any wealth accumulated beyond one's personal or family needs should be given back to the community. So he set up various trusts and established free public libraries. He started the Carnegie Corporation in New York through which he built 2,509 libraries throughout the world. The corporation also promoted adult education and education in the fine arts. Over $350 million was given to charity during his lifetime. On August 11, 1919, Andrew Carnegie died in Lenox, Massachusetts.

For information about the Carnegie Corporation, visit their website:

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