CARNEGIE, Andrew, American ironmaster, manufacturer and philanthropist: b. Dunfermline, Scotland, 25 Nov. 1835 [d. Lenox, Massachusetts, United States, 11 August 1919]. None even of the mighty makers of their own fortunes began closer to absolute zero; certainly none who have owed success not to fortunate speculations, but to steady labor, sagacity and self-culture, the natural working of the highest powers on opportunities open to all and less to him than to most. His father owned a small hand-loom business, which was closed in 1848 by the competition of steam. He then emigrated to the United States and settled in Allegheny City, Pa. The 10-year-old child here became a bobbin-boy at 20 cents a day; his alertness in a few months brought him transference to an engine-room, his penmanship and arithmetic a chance to do clerical work.
Next a telegraph messenger boy at Pittsburgh (with a mother and younger brother to support from his slender wages), he promptly mastered telegraphy, was soon given a place as operator, and won himself extra earnings and experience in composition as a newspaper telegraph reporter. Superior fitness brought him the post of telegraphic train dispatcher to the Pennsylvania Railroad; then of secretary to its general superintendent, Colonel Scott; and in 1860, when his chief became vice-president, Mr. Carnegie was made superintendent of the Western Division. Meantime his business fortune had opened with the tentative adoption by the road, through his agency, of the Woodruff sleeping-car system, in which he shrewdly embarked some borrowed money; his expert knowledge made it investment, not speculation; and his dividends went partially into oil lands around Oil City, selected with equal judgment.
At the outbreak of the war, Colonel Scott was made Assistant Secretary of War, and gave Mr. Carnegie charge of the eastern military railroads and telegraph lines, and of this department there was no complaint or scandal, and no breakdown except of Mr. Carnegie's health from overwork. He was also the third man wounded on the Union side, while removing obstructions from the Washington tracks.Already a small capitalist, in 1862 the Pennsylvania road's experiments in replacing wooden with iron bridges led him to forecast the future monopoly of the latter, and organize the Keystone Bridge Works, which built the first iron bridge across the Ohio. To increase their profit by furnishing their own iron, he entered the field which has made him one of the industrial sovereigns of all time. The first step was the erection of the Union Iron Mills, furnaces and rolling mills; the last, after inspection of the Bessemer process in England, to establish it in this country in 1868. The story since is one of swift aggregation of plant to plant, till they have dominated their class, and become one of the chief industrial factors of the entire business world in this its greatest age.
By 1888 he had acquired a controlling interest in his foremost rival, the Homestead Steel Works, and in seven other immense establishments centred around Pittsburgh; in 1899 he consolidated all these into one giant structure, the Carnegie Steel Company; and in 1901 he retired from business life, transferring his company at a valuation of $500,000,000 to be merged into one still vaster, the United States Steel Corporation, formed by J. Pierpont Morgan. His United States residence is in New York; his summer establishment at Skibo Castle, in the extreme north of Scotland.Such supreme success, fairly won in a struggle with the world, is of course the result of a supreme individual genius not to be taught or explained, but as the amount of work any one man can do unassisted is a trifle, the chief instrumentality is always the faculty of organization. Mr. Carnegie himself once said that the organization was the business; that if stripped at a blow of all his material property and business connections, but left his organization, in four years he would have re-established himself. But the organization is simply the men who work it, with their capacity of selecting capable subordinates, and understanding public needs and the means of supplying them; and this leaves the faculty of creating and sustaining it no nearer solution than before. In the last analysis it means a nicely accurate judgment of men, resulting from an intuitive gift informed and tested by long experience; and as men are not pawns, it implies the power of persuading them into and keeping them in alliance as well.Always a generous and helpful man, he had definitely begun, a few years before his retirement, a new existence consecrated to public service, and to which he will owe enduring remembrance. Another generation would have forgotten the mere business man, however great; for after all it would have had steel from some source, if perhaps less cheaply; but it could not have had from lesser men, and would not have had from any, the splendid, judicious and permanently useful gifts with which he has endowed it, and which no change of social ideals can render obsolete or harmful. No one has ever so royally returned to the public what he had (to its own benefit) drawn from the public.
This is his own expressed conviction of duty; that “surplus wealth is a sacred trust to be administered for the highest good of the people,” and that sometime “the man who dies possessed of millions free and ready to be distributed, will die disgraced.” But he is equally emphatic in declaring that indiscriminate giving is mostly sheer mischief, and that no person and no community can be permanently helped except by their own co-operation. Therefore, every gift of his to a community is conditioned on the latter supporting it; and all those to institutions are thought out, and so bestowed that they forward the work without impairing the springs of public interest, or the ties to the public, which must after all be their permanent stay. These gifts are mostly not to charities in the current sense, relief of material distresses, for which the spirit of human brotherhood should be adequate; but for that mental and spiritual cultivation which should raise communities out of the lowest plane of social evils.
An apparent exception, which, however, is not charity but justice and business sense, is the endowment of $4,000,000 given for an annuity fund to the workers at Homestead. The remainder of his benefactions may be divided broadly into institutions for research and the discovery of fertile new ideas; those for teaching the best of ideas and their practical appliances already known; and those for storing the results of knowledge and creation and distributing them to the public — in a word, universities, colleges and technical schools and libraries. Even the organs he has presented to several hundred churches may be classed in this category; as he genially observed, he is willing to endorse unreservedly all the utterances of the organs, but not of the preachers. The greatest single foundation will be the Carnegie institute at Pittsburgh an enormous technological school, with library, art gallery and every imaginable accessory, — the people's college of what he thinks the coming type, — which has received $25,000,000 in all.Next is the Carnegie Institution (q.v.) at Washington, to promote original research and enable original workers to use their whole time for study, experiment and creation; perhaps his most valuable benefaction ultimately, since new ideas are at once the scarcest and the most valuable items of the world's income, and the work of one great man outweighs that of 10 generations of small ones. Of the others, perhaps the most useful, considering the work, and the chief, is the gift of $600,000 to the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, conditioned on the trustees using enough of its income annually to free its president from money cares and the need of “drumming” support for his college. Sixty-five libraries in New York have received $5,200,000, one in Saint Louis $1,000,000, and two in Detroit and San Francisco $750,000 each; libraries at Homestead, Braddock and Duquesne $1,000,000; and the universities in Scotland $10,000,000.
In 1905 he established the Carnegie Foundation of $10,000,000, the income from which provides retiring pensions for teachers in colleges, universities and technical schools; and in December 1910 a Peace Fund of $10,000,000; $5,000,000 to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Pittsburgh; $1,500,000 to the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, Dunfermline, Scotland; and the following amounts to various Hero Funds: France $1,000,000; Germany $1,500,000; Belgium $230,000; Denmark $125,000; Holland $200,000; Sweden $230,000; Switzerland $130,000; Italy $750,000; Norway $125,000.He has also given $3,500,000 to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust; $1,500,000 for the Peace Temple at The Hague; $1,500,000 to the Allied Engineers' Society; and his total benefactions exceed $300,000,000, including over $60,000,000 for over 3,000 municipal library buildings; also the building and grounds for the Pan-American Union, Washington, 1906; $16,150,000 for Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in United States, Canada and Newfoundland.He is a life trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York ($125,000,000) which was founded to carry on the various works in which he has been engaged and to which he announced in 1912 that he had given all his fortune except $25,000,000. He was lord rector of Saint Andrew's University in 1901-02 and 1906, and of Aberdeen University in 1912.Mr. Carnegie has also won fame as an author. His first works, ‘Notes of a Trip Around the World’ (1879) and ‘Our Coaching Trip’ (1882) were printed first for private circulation, but published in consequence of the great pressure for private copies. ‘An American Four-in-Hand in Britain’ (1883) and ‘Round the World’ (1884) followed; but his greatest success was attained with ‘Triumphant Democracy’ (1886), which sold 40,000 copies within two years. ‘The Gospel of Wealth’ (1900); ‘The Empire of Business’ (1902, since translated into eight languages); ‘James Watt’ (1906); and ‘Problems of To-day’ (1909) have maintained his reputation as a clear, forcible and interesting writer and thinker.
Encyclopedia Americana, 1920