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Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie, Andrew (kärnĕgˈē, kärˈnəgē) [key], 1835–1919, American industrialist and philanthropist, b. Dunfermline, Scotland. His father, a weaver, found it increasingly difficult to get work in Scottish factories and in 1848 brought his family to Allegheny (now Pittsburgh), Pa. Andrew first worked in a cotton mill as a bobbin boy, then advanced himself as a telegrapher, and became (1859) a superintendent for the Pennsylvania RR. He resigned (1865) his railroad position to give personal attention to the investments he had made (1864) in iron manufactures.

By 1873, Carnegie had recognized America's need for steel and, concentrating on steel production, he began his acquisition of firms, which were later consolidated into the Carnegie Steel Company. His success was due in part to efficient business methods, to his able lieutenants, and to close alliances with railroads. Another factor was his partnership with Henry C. Frick. Carnegie, concentrating on production rather than stock-market manipulations, further expanded his plants and consolidated his hold in the depression of 1893–97. By 1900, the Carnegie Steel Company was producing one quarter of all the steel in the United States and controlled iron mines, coke ovens, ore ships, and railroads. It was in these circumstances that the U.S. Steel Corp. was formed to buy Carnegie out. He had long been willing to sell—at his own price—and in 1901 he transferred possession for $250 million in bonds and retired from business.

Carnegie's essay "The Gospel of Wealth" (1889) set forth his idea that rich men are "trustees" of their wealth and should administer it for the good of the public. His benefactions (totaling about $350 million) included Carnegie Hall (1892) in New York City, the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1902), the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission (1904), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1905), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1910), and over 2,800 libraries. After 1887, Carnegie lived a large part of each year in Scotland on his great estate on Dornoch Firth.

See his autobiography (1920, repr. 1963); biographies by B. J. Hendrick (2 vol., 1932, repr. 1989), A. F. Harlow (1953), J. F. Wall (1970), and D. Nasaw (2006); study on Carnegie libraries by A. A. Van Slyck (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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