Was Andrew Carnegie a Hero

America, throughout history, has seen thousands of rags-to-riches tales of people who become immensely wealthy through their creativity and ideas, but none are quite like the amazing and turbulent as Andrew Carnegie’s. Throughout his life Carnegie met numerous trials and tribulations and each one he overcame. Throughout his life Carnegie had many accomplishments to speak of, from being one of the biggest boomers in the steel industry to being a successful philanthropist. Throughout his life he was seen as a member of a poor scottish family to very well renowned business leader. Andrew Carnegie’s life is both intriguing and inspirational.

Andrew Carnegie was the son of Margaret Carnegie and William Carnegie. He was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in the year 1835. Carnegie grew up in a usual weaver’s cottage that had just one main room inside of it, in fact he lived in the same house with his neighbors. In the year 1836 he and his family moved to a larger house on edgar street. He attended the Free School of Dunfermline, which had was a gift to the town by a man named Adam Rolland, he was a philanthropist. It can be argued that much of Andrew’s inspiration was drawn from his uncle who was a political leader who would introduce Andrew to the writings of Robert Burns and stories of other historical Scottish heros like William Wallace and Robert Bruce. His uncle’s son, Andrews cousin, would grow up with Andrew and later become his business partner. When Andrew was just 14 years old his father, along with most of Scotland fell into a time of hardship. There was a mass starvation and the disease ran ramped. Andrew’s mother tried to make money for the family by assisting her brother, who was a cobbler, and selling potted meat items at her shop, but alas the carnegies could not overcome the troubling times in Scotland and so they decided to move to Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

In 1848 Andrew would arrive at his new home in the city of Allegheny with a population of about 21,262 people. The city was a bustling hub for industries and it produced many products like wool and cloth. These booming industries brought hope to Mr. Carnegie, who wanted to start his own industry selling his own products, but no business wanted his product and he had very little success selling it on his own.

Andrew’s first job would be with his father at the Anchor Cotton Mills. He was a bobbin boy, or the worker who changed the spools of thread in a cotton mill for 12 hours every day, 6 days a week. He only made $1.20 a week for his efforts. After some time Mr. Carnegie quit his job their but his son Andrew was offered another job by John Hay. Hay offered him a bobbin job as well but this time Andrew would be making $2.00. After some time of working in cotton mills, Andrew got a job as a telegraph messenger boy in 1849. The job was based in the Pittsburgh Office of the Ohio Telegraph Company and it payed $2.50 weekly. Andrew was a tireless worker and memorized all the locations of businesses and the faces of important men, some say this is how he made many connections with people who he would have help him later in his life. He also gained the unique ability to translate signals by his hearing without the use of a paper slip.

This hard work, which lasted for only a year, would lead him to the promotion of operator. Andrew’s love for books and learning was amplified when Colonel James Anderson would open his library of 400 volumes each night to the working boys. Through this library Andrew taught himself many of the important things about economics and culture. This act of Colonel Anderson inspired Andrew so much that he vowed that if he ever became rich that he would open a library so that every boy could have the opportunity to educate himself. When Carnegie was 18, Thomas A. Scott employed Andrew at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company as a secretary and telegraph operator for a whopping $4.00 per week. When Andrew was 24 Thomas asked him if he might be able to handle being the superintendent of the Western Division of the Railroad Company, and on December 1, 1859, Carnegie was officially inducted as superintendent.

As superintendent, Carnegie hired his brother and cousin, the former would go on to become the first female telegraph operator in the United States. Working at the railroad is where Andrew learned most about job management and how to control his money. Thomas also helped Andrew with learning to invest his money into stocks and trains. Carnegie started investing into a company called Sleeping Car Company that was owned by Theodore Tuttle Woodruff. Slowly over time Carnegie began making a name for himself and building up his capital money. He then began to start his own business that supplied rails and bridges to the railroad factories in the surrounding area.

By the beginning of the civil war Thomas made Andrew Superintendent of the Military Railways and the Union government’s telegraph lines. Some of Andrew’s achievements during the war were opening a railway in D.C. that was previously destroyed by the rebels, and he supervised the transportation of defeated forces that retreated on the trains. Out of all the devastation that the war brought Carnegie saw an advantage. The war also called for lots of ammunition and guns, and Carnegie saw an opportunity for his railways to transport them. Some of his other large investments were things like the Keystone Bridge Company, the Union Iron Mills and the Pittsburgh Locomotive Works.

By the time Andrew was 30 he already had an income of about $50,000. He also invested in oil fields in Europe and on his trips to Europe he began to meet Steel Industrialists and foresaw that there would be a high demand for steel and iron, and so he left the Pennsylvania area and was now full time managing the Keystone Bridge Company. By the time he was 38 he had started his own steel industry called the J. Edgar Thomson Steel Works Company. It is said that any new technology that could reduce the time it took to work with steel products and was more cost efficient probably came from Carnegie and his companies.

For the first time in American history steel output had surpassed that of Britains. Carnegie’s companies still did good even during the depression of 1892, this was also a time when labor unions were being demanded and workers were going on strike because of unfair working conditions. However Andrew was a large supporter of labor unions. By 1900 Andrew Carnegie had a net worth of about $40,000,000 and he sold his company to the newly formed United States Steel Corporation. He also retired in the year of 1901 and devoted most of his free time to philanthropy.

Some say that Carnegie was one of the most sincere Millionaires in american history, in fact he published an Essay called “The Gospel of Wealth” and in this essay he states “The rich have a moral obligation to distribute in ways that promote the welfare and happiness of the common man.” (Carnegie). His philosophy seemed to be that men should aspire to be very wealthy and towards the end of their life give the money away to charities and other profitable groups that further the goodness and development of mankind.

Towards the end of his life Carnegie had donated and distributed a whopping $350,000,000 total. $62,000,000 of that $350,000,000 went to his benefactors for his oil fields in europe and another $288,000,000 went to his businesses and benefactors in America. Carnegie is also responsible for over 3,000 public libraries being funded and built. No doubt gaining inspiration from his former mentor Colonel Anderson, he set out to make self education as free and easily accessible as he could. He also helped fund many different public schools and universities in Europe and the United States.

Unfortunately on the ninth of August, 1919 Andrew Carnegie Died at his estate in Massachusetts of Bronchial Pneumonia. After his death the rest of his money was given to charities and non-profit organizations. Carnegie was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York. In his life he had some of the most accomplishments out of any american entrepreneur in history. He was responsible for building the St. Louis Missouri Bridge, which is what got his steel company started. He introduced the new “double plating system” on bridges that is still in use today, not only in america, but all over the world. The double plating system was also how skyscrapers were built causing cities to grow upward instead of expanding outward, saving space for farms and other agricultural activities. Carnegie also funded Museums, libraries, schools, science centers, and hospitals. Truly any modern day self made businessman can take a few notes from the works of Andrew Carnegie. His legacies, charities, and methods of business still live very prominently today in our modern society.

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Was Andrew Carnegie a Hero. (2021, May 15). Retrieved April 1, 2023 , from

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