Meet Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie is considered one of the world's greatest philanthropists and also one of the wealthiest men who ever lived.

A Boy Leaves Scotland for the U.S.

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland on November 25, 1835. His father was a skilled weaver, but advances in mechanical looms were limiting the amount of work he could find and the family was becoming very poor. To escape poverty, the Carnegie family emigrated to the United States when Andrew was thirteen years old. They settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. 

An Industrious Youth

At the age of 13, Andrew got a job in a textile mill bringing bobbins to the workers at the looms. He was paid $1.20 per week. After a year, Andrew became a messenger for a local telegraph company. He eventually taught himself how to use the telegraph equipment to send and receive messages and was hired by the superintendent of the Pittsburgh division of the Pennsylvania Railroad as a private secretary and personal telegrapher. 

Carnegie's First Investment

While he was employed by the telegraph office, he caught the eye of Thomas A. Scott, the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who subsequently offered him a job. Scott also initiated Carnegie's first investment, alerting him to the sale of ten shares in the Adams Express Company. By mortgaging their house his mother, lent him $500 to buy the shares and the first stream of dividends came rolling in his direction. Andrew's story from then on is one of increased business success and power.

A Keen Eye for Opportunity

While associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Andrew developed a wide variety of other business interests. Theodore Woodruff of the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company approached Carnegie with his idea for sleeping cars on the railways and offered him a share in the project. Carnegie had to secure a bank loan to accept Woodruff's proposal, but it was a decision he would not regret. He ultimately bought the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company and introduced the first successful sleeping car on a U.S. railroad. 

The Steel Years

By the time he was 30, Andrew Carnegie's business interests included iron works, steamers on the Great Lakes, railroads and oil wells. He was subsequently involved with steel production.  Andrew Carnegie built and grew the Carnegie Steel Corporation, at that time the largest steel manufacturing company in the world. The success of the steel company made him one of the world's wealthiest men. Carnegie eventually sold his steel company to J.P. Morgan, a New York banker, for $480 million in 1901. From this time on Andrew Carnegie devoted himself to various philanthropic projects.

Promoting the Welfare of Others

Carnegie made many millions of dollars during his successful business career. The beliefs that made him leave the business world to become a philanthropist are outlined in a famous essay he wrote in 1889 called "The Gospel of Wealth." In this essay, he wrote that wealthy men should live without extravagance, provide moderately for their families, and consider the rest of their wealth as extra money that they should distribute to promote the welfare and happiness of other people. "The Gospel of Wealth" was read all over the world and Carnegie's intentions were praised.  In his lifetime he gave away more than $350 million or almost 90 percent of his fortune for what he considered to be the improvement of all mankind.

In 1886 he married Louise Whitfield, the daughter of a prosperous New York merchant.  Their only child, Margaret, was born in 1897. Andrew Carnegie died on August 11, 1919, in Shadowbrook, Massachusetts at the age of 83, as a result of bronchial pneumonia.