Andrew Carnegie was the
son of William Carnegie and Margaret Morrison, and was born on the 25th
November, 1837, in the town of Dumfermline, Scotland. His father was a
master-weaver, and as the owner of four damask looms and the employer of
apprentices, was looked upon as a prosperous man by his townfolk. Mr.
Carnegie received an early education at the Dumfermline Parish School,
but when eleven years of age the business of hand weaving was destroyed
by the advent of steam power looms, and the family found themselves
reduced to comparative poverty, with little or no work. It was then
resolved to emigrate to Pittsburgh, U. S., where relations had already
achieved some success, and in 1848 William Carnegie and his wife, with
their sons, Andrew and Thomas, embarked at Broomielaw, Glasgow, in the
eight-hundred-ton sailing vessel Wiscasset.
On the arrival of the
family in Pittsburgh, William Carnegie obtained work in a cotton
factory, and Andrew Carnegie, at the age of twelve years, was employed
as a bobbin-boy at a dollar and twenty cents a week. His next work was
the task of firing the boiler and running the steam-engine in a small
factory. At fourteen he became a telegraph boy at the salary of three
dollars a week, and promptly began to learn the systems of telegraphy.
So zealously did he apply himself to this work that at sixteen he was
promoted to the position of operator at a salary of three hundred
dollars a year.
A few years later, at the
invitation of Mr. Thomas A. Scott, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh
Division of the Pennsylvania Road, he entered the service of the
corporation. An opportunity then presented itself for him to acquire ten
shares of Adams Express Co. stock at a value of sixty dollars each, and
Mr. Scott loaned him $100 and the remaining $500 was raised by obtaining
a mortgage on the family homestead. This was the first investment made
by Andrew Carnegie, and practically the foundation of his fortune.
He soon became private
secretary to Mr. Scott, and during the Civil War, at Washington,
rendered great service in the line of transportation of troops and
military stores. He returned to Pittsburgh in 1862 and finally became
superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Becoming interested in the Woodruff Sleeping Car Co., he acquired stock
therein, and later was one of the purchasers of the Storey Farm on Oil
Creek, where the oil well later was quoted at a value of $5,000,000 on
the Stock Exchange, and in one year paid dividends amounting to
Mr. Carnegie, however,
was not long interested in the oil fields, but realizing the vast
advantage of steel and iron railway bridges over the then wooden
structure, he formed the Keystone Bridge Works and built the great
bridge over the Ohio River, with its three-hundred-foot span. Mr.
Carnegie’s share in the initial capital was $1,250, which he obtained
from the local bank on his note. The success of this venture was
immediate and permanent, and Mr. Carnegie then resigned his position in
the Pennsylvania Railway to undertake the full direction of the new
In 1868 he visited
England, just as the Bessemer steel discovery was being exploited, and
realizing the importance of this process as applied to steel rails, he
promptly acquired all the necessary knowledge and equipment and on his
return to the United States erected one of the first and the largest
Bessemer steel manufacturing plants in this country. This venture alone
would have resulted in an enormous fortune, but not content with his
success, Mr. Carnegie determined to also acquire coal and iron fields
and transport facilities which would insure the materials and traffic
facilities to his great steel foundries. In rapid succession the Edgar
Thomson Steel Works, across the Monongahela River from Homestead, the
Iron Mines in the Gogebic Range on Lake Superior, the fleet of steamers
on the Great Lakes, and the Carnegie System of Railways were planned and
exploited. Realizing the opportunity for controlling the market for
steel rails, Mr. Carnegie negotiated with and absorbed the rival
foundries of The Homestead Steel Co. and other companies until in 1888
he stood at the head of seven immense iron and steel works, not to speak
of vast coal fields, iron mines, railways, docks and fleets of steamers.
It was the psychological moment in the great iron and steel industries
of this country, and Mr. Carnegie saw the opportunity to head and
control what was to be one of the greatest industrial manufactories in
the commercial history of this country. His sound commercial instinct
and training, coupled with the keenest foresight and a happy manner of
impressing men and controlling syndicates, enabled him to grasp the
reins of leadership before others had awakened to the great opportunity.
In 1900 The Carnegie
Steel Co. was recapitalized at $100,000,000 and owned the Homestead, the
Edgar Thompson, the Duquesne, and seven other steel and iron foundries.
The magnitude and system of organization of these works is too well
known to describe. When the Steel Trust organizers ‘commenced their
attempt to control the iron and steel industries of the United States,
they soon realized that no combination could be made a success unless it
absorbed the system controlled by Mr. Carnegie at his own valuation.
After some negotiation, Mr. Carnegie’s interest was acquired for the
enormous sum of $250,000,000 of bonds on the Trust properties, bearing
interest at five per cent.
Mr. Carnegie thus retired
from his active business career at the zenith of his powers, and his
marvelous success can be attributed to a genius for organization and
extraordinary judgment in availing himself of the abilities and
capacities of men. He not only was able to pick out younger men who were
to be successful, but by his association with them actually inculcated
into their minds some of his own shrewdness and commercial sense.
After severing his
connection with business enterprises, Mr. Carnegie turned his attention
to the complicated social, political and charitable problems of his
time, and thus found an outlet for the reasonings of his active mind. He
took the remarkable attitude of regarding his immense wealth as a
species of trust fund for his fellow-men and openly avowed his intention
to employ and distribute a large part of his fortune in doing good.
He commenced this work by
the endowment of numerous free libraries throughout the United States
and the United Kingdom, now making over four hundred in the United
States alone, and representing a capital outlay of over $30,000,000. He
supplemented this educational work with a large endowment of $4,000,000
to provide a pension fund for the workmen of the Carnegie Steel Co.
Latterly Mr. Carnegie has donated large sums to the advancement of
educational and scientific institutions, and notably the gift of
$10,000,000 to Scottish University education and the endowment of
$10,000,000 for Educational and Scientific Research at Washington, D.
C., the result of which will only show in future scientific discoveries
of incalculable benefit to the human race.
From early youth Mr.
Carnegie has had a strong literary bent of mind, and, as he obtained
more leisure from his business pursuits, he devoted his spare hours to
writing on important social topics of the time. Numerous articles have
appeared in the magazines of the day, notably his article on “Wealth,”
1889, and “The Advantages of Poverty,” 1891, and “Popular Illusions
About Trusts,” all of which appeared in the North American Review and
created a marked sensation for their sound common sense and
individuality of thought. His first publication was in 1879, entitled
“Round the World,” an account of a transcontinental trip, which was
followed in 1882 by “Our Coaching Trip,” subsequently republished as "An
American Four-in-Hand in Britain.” In 1886 “Triumphant Democracy”
appeared, his best known work and one which has aroused the greatest
interest and criticism. “The Gospel of Wealth” is a republication of a
dozen of his articles on this interesting topic, concerning which he is
so admirably qualified to speak and write; “The A, B, C of Business” is
an essay of value in regard to the entire money question; “The
Three-Legged Stool,” a brochure on the relation of labor and capital,
and “Thrift,” an essay on the art of saving. His latest book is “The
Empire of Business"..
For many years Mr.
Carnegie resided at No. 5 West 51st Street, New York, but in 1900 he
purchased the block front on Fifth Avenue, between 90th and 91st Street,
upon which he erected a palatial residence, in which the notable rooms
are the great entrance hall, with its large pipe organ, and his own
A love of his native land
caused him to rent Cluny Castle for some years as a summer residence,
but in 1895 he purchased the Castle and Estate of Skibo, situated on the
northern shore of Dornoch Firth, Sutherlandshire, Scotland, for
$425,000. This ancient manorial castle has been greatly altered and
improved and now is one of the great Highland show places, and its
proprietor is universally known as the “Laird of Skibo.” An admirable
golf links lies near the castle, and for those who prefer the sports of
shooting or fishing the grouse moors and salmon streams of the estate
are renowned. One of the features of the castle is its private
salt-water swimming bath, with its glass roof, which can be opened to
He is President of the
Keokuk & Hamilton Bridge Company, and the Music Hall Co. of N. Y„ Ltd.,
having erected for this latter corporation “Carnegie Hall,” the largest
concert music hall in New York City.
Mr. Carnegie is Lord
Rector of St. Andrew’s University, Edinburgh; a Doctor of Laws of the
University of Pennsylvania; of Western University, Pennsylvania; of
McGill University of Montreal; of Kenyon College, Ohio; and of the
University of Glasgow, Scotland. He is a member of numerous clubs both
in the United States and Great Britain, among the more prominent being
the Reform Club of London; the Union League Club of New York City; the
Philosophical Society of Philadelphia; the New York Genealogical
He has been made a
Freeman of many of the ancient London Guilds, notably the Guild of
Painters, Ironmongers, Plumbers, Playing Card Makers and Musicians; and
of the Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York City. He has,
moreover, received the freedom of over forty cities, towns and villages
in England, Scotland and Ireland, and in the United States.
Mr. Carnegie was elected
a member of Saint Andrew's Society on the 1st December, 1871 ; served as
a Manager 1893-1897; as 2d Vice-President 1897-1898; as 1st
Vice-President 1898-1899, and as President 1899-1902. Thereafter he
retired to the Standing Committee in 1903 and is still a member of that
honorable body. He ever had the interest and welfare of the Society at
heart, and in 1897 donated the sum of $1,000 to the Permanent Fund. His
attention being drawn to the fact that the scope of the charitable work
of the Society was somewhat hampered in 1901 for lack of adequate
income, Mr. Carnegie gave the princely sum of $100,000 to the Permanent
Fund, and for this generous donation received the thanks of the Society
engrossed and illumined on vellum, as follows:
“Whereas, The vast growth
in the population of the City of New York, as well as the
ever-increasing number of resident Scotsmen, has of necessity multiplied
the demands on Saint Andrew's Society for assistance on behalf of our
distressed fellow-countrymen, in many cases beyond the ability of the
Society to relieve them adequately; and,
“Whereas, Our much
esteemed and honored President, Andrew Carnegie, Esq., LL.D., of Skibo,
having in mind the philanthropic purpose for which the Society was
originally founded and has ever since been maintained, has, with his
usual large-hearted generosity, intimated his intention of increasing
the permanent fund of the Society by the noble gift of One Hundred
“Now, therefore, we, the
officers and members of Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York,
in meeting assembled, do cordially unite in tendering to Dr. Carnegie
our sincere and hearty thanks for his practical interest in the welfare
of the Society and especially for his princely addition to his former
generous gifts. We rejoice in the enlarged opportunities of aiding our
worthy brethren in distress which this magnificent sum has made
possible, and we express the earnest hope and prayer that our esteemed
friend the President may long be spared to see the fruits of his
benefactions amongst his fellow-countrymen, so realizing in his own
experience the words of inspired wisdom, ‘He that hath pity upon the
poor lendeth unto the Lord.’ ”
Mr. Carnegie married on
the 23d April, 1887, at New York, Louise Whitfield, daughter of John W.
Whitfield and Fanny Davis. His only child is a daughter, Margaret
Cameron, born 30th March, 1897, at New York City.
His portrait is
reproduced from a photograph now in the possession of the Society, which
both Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie consider to be his best likeness.