Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish immigrant who became a leader of the 19th Century steel industry and a well-known philanthropist. The majority of his wealth was from building, operating and selling of the Carnegie Steel company in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He is still well known, almost a century later, due to donating a major portion of his wealth to fund libraries, world peace, education and scientific research that are still in operation today.

Mr. Carnegie emigrated with his parents from Dunfermline, Scotland at the age of 13. His career started in earnest in 1850 as a telegraph messenger, where he was subsequently hired by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company where he rapidly advanced through the company, making investments in railroad entities eventually starting his own business supplying rails and bridges to the industry.

The Civil War created high demand for more iron especially in Pittsburg where Mr. Carnegie was located. He focused his energy on developing the steel production in this area to meet the demand. Andrew Carnegie is credited with inventing a cheap and efficient mass production system for producing steel, becoming the largest steel manufacturer in the world. He eventually sold his steel mill to J.P Morgan for $480 million or the equivalent of $13.6 billion today.

After selling his steel works, Mr. Carnegie continued operating his numerous other businesses that ranged from newspapers to iron ore fields that supplied the steel industry. Always an avid reader and a self-learner, Mr. Carnegie began building public libraries throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. The first library opened in his birth town of Dunfermline, Scotland in 1883.

A shrewd business man, Andrew Carnegie would fund the building and the books of a library only on the condition that the local governing board matched that by providing the land and operating capital. It is estimated that he funded 3,000 libraries in eight countries. He would subsequently provide endowments for any library that struggled to keep its doors open to the public.

His philanthropy continued on to education and science by funding the construction of several colleges and establishing grants that are still awarded today. The most famous of his philanthropic expressions is the Carnegie Hall in New York City, which is still considered one of the most prestigious venues today.

An idol of the rags to riches story told world-wide, Andrew Carnegie was a self-made and self-taught man who created the largest steel empire of the 19th century and upon his death in 1919 had donated $350 million (approximately $4.8 billion today) of his fortune to build thousands of libraries, started colleges, created endowments, art centers and championed peace efforts across the world.