If the name Carnegie Steel Corporation was mentioned to you, perhaps it would not ring any bells. But if I were to use the name U.S. Steel Corporation, perhaps it would be more familiar as this company is acknowledged to be the largest steel company in the nation and one of the 500 largest companies in the world. Also, maybe you are acquainted with people who have studied or at least have heard about Carnegie Mellon University as one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. Well then, a question arises. Who is the person behind all this? Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest and most successful businessmen of all times and one of the most recognized philanthropists in history.
Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, the historic medieval capital of Scotland, on November 25, 1835. He died on August 11, 1919, leaving his entire legacy to humanity. He is known to have helped build the American steel industry, and in the process he went from being a poor man into one of the richest entrepreneurs of his era.
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The Industrial revolution (that would later make Carnegie the richest man in the world) left his father without his job as a weaver. His mother had to work to support the family. Their poverty and a desire for riches was Carnegie’s motivation to thrive and have a better financial situation. His family left Scotland trying to find better possibilities in America, particularly in Pittsburg.
Among the various jobs that Andrew Carnegie had when he was just a child were: bobbin boy in a textile factory in which he worked 12 hours a day. Later he worked as a messenger boy in the telegraph office. He was also theatre ticket distributor and assistant in different factories.
Working in the telegraph office he developed memory skills easily because of his natural intelligence, interest and enthusiasm. This helped him to be promoted to the secretary position and later on he became the superintendent of telegraphs office in Pittsburg at that time. Andrew Carnegie displayed great capacity and willingness for hard work, perseverance and diligence, and this disposition towards life brought him great opportunities. He did his best in every job he had and the many opportunities he received, he embraced for his career development.
He loved Shakespeare and reading. He was blessed with the opportunity of using the library of a local benefactor that was interested in helping working boys. This benefactor would be a great inspiration for his future achievements and philanthropic activities. Later in his life, we will see how he gave his collected fortune away to cultural, educational and scientific institutions for the improvement of mankind. He was such an enthusiastic man who loved reading so much that his desire to give money to support reading and education was evident. Over time he supported and founded various public libraries in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The civil war activated the iron industry where Andrew saw the potential. It was an enterprising and courageous move that earned him his fortune. And that was his strategy: he had an amazing ability to anticipate how things were going to change, and when he identified that something was potentially beneficial to him he was ready to invest greatly in it.
In 1901, Andrew Carnegie retired from business to begin his career in philanthropy. As we can see, he did not only contribute with his business empire to the iron, steel and petroleum industry but also when he has ready to retire he contributed his vast fortune to causes such as: Scientific Research, Education, World Peace Support and Art. In his legacy we find: Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie institution for Science, Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, among many others.
Andrew Carnegie’s fortune was clearly received not as an inheritance, but was the result of a self-made man who worked hard for it. His decision of helping others remained intact until his last days. His lifestyle was evidence of his deep conviction that those with great wealth must be socially responsible and use their assets to help others.
These are some of his views about money:
- “The amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry. No idol more debasing than the worship of money.”
- “Watch costs and the profits take care of themselves.”
- “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”