Andrew Carnegie’s Legacy
Considered by many to be the father of American philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie spent much of his adult life amassing a huge fortune by creating the Carnegie Steel Company. At age 65, he sold the company to J. P. Morgan for $480 million and devoted the rest of his life to giving nearly all of his money away.
Others before him had made substantial charitable contributions, but Carnegie was the first to state publicly the bold notion that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes, a philosophy which he wrote about in his essay “The Gospel of Wealth.” One of Carnegie’s lifelong interests was the establishment of free public libraries as a way of making education available to everyone.
There were only a few public libraries in the world when Carnegie began promising a library to almost any town that would provide a site and promise to maintain the building. He donated more than $56 million to build 2,509 libraries throughout the world, many of which are still serving their communities. By the time Carnegie died in 1919, he had given away more than $350 million, almost 90 percent of his entire wealth.