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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: Andrew Carnegie

Thirty-ninth President

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 $1,000,000.

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 bridge company.

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 private library.

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 the sky.

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 Society, etc.

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 Thousand Dollars,

“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.

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