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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was actually Scottish, born on November 25, 1835 in a Dunfermline weavers cottage. Carnegie came over to the US as a boy, where he got a job as a steel factory worker.

In 1892, the Carnegie Steel Company was created in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company grew and, after Carnegie sold it in 1901, later merged with US Steel, a corporate giant that is still active today.

Carnegie as he appears in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Carnegie was at one point so wealthy, his fortune represented 0.6% of the entire US GDP.

Carnegie published a famous essay, The Gospel of Wealth, in 1889, which appeared in the North American Review and in Britain in the Pall Mall Gazette. In it he set out his belief that a successful businessman should devote the first part of his life to accumulating wealth and the second to distributing it as, “a man who dies rich, dies disgraced”. By bettering the life of his less fortunate fellowman whilst on earth he will be rewarded when he dies at the gates of paradise.

Carnegie fulfilled this ideal with astounding generosity, giving much of his fortune to schools, libraries and universities before his death at 83. In particular he funded the establishment of a number of public libraries throughout the United States as he believed this would give people the opportunity to better themselves.

He gave away $288 million ($4.22 billion today) to American charities alone.

Though Carnegie believed philanthropy was a moral imperative, personally he was a religious sceptic and an evolutionist. The philanthropist believed that society was progressing beyond the need for wars towards a time of universal peace, spiritual idealism and prosperity for all.

Carnegie Hall in New York City opened in 1891 with Tchaikovsky as guest conductor.

Andrew Carnegie exchanged gag Christmas gifts with fellow billionaire entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller, Rockefeller once sent Carnegie a cardboard vest to make fun of his poor childhood. In return Carnegie sent a fine whiskey to Rockefeller, a devout baptist who had given up drinking.

Despite being of the richest Americans ever, Carnegie never carried any cash. He was once put off a London train because he did not have the fare.

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