Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 5, Slice 4 "Carnegie Andrew" to "Casus Belli"

by: Various

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Language: English
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CARNEGIE, ANDREW (1837-  ), American “captain of industry” and benefactor, was born in humble circumstances in Dunfermline, Scotland, on the 25th of November 1837. In 1848 his father, who had been a Chartist, emigrated to America, settling in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. The raw Scots lad started work at an early age as a bobbin-boy in a cotton factory, and a few years later was engaged as a telegraph clerk and operator. His capacity was perceived by Mr T.A. Scott of the Pennsylvania railway, who employed him as a secretary; and in 1859, when Scott became vice-president of the company, he made Carnegie superintendent of the western division of the line. In this post he was responsible for several improvements in the service; and when the Civil War opened he accompanied Scott, then assistant secretary of war, to the front. The first sources of the enormous wealth he subsequently attained were his introduction of sleeping-cars for railways, and his purchase (1864) of Storey Farm on Oil Creek, where a large profit was secured from the oil-wells. But this was only a preliminary to the success attending his development of the iron and steel industries at Pittsburg. Foreseeing the extent to which the demand would grow in America for iron and steel, he started the Keystone Bridge works, built the Edgar Thomson steel-rail mill, bought out the rival Homestead steel works, and by 1888 had under his control an extensive plant served by tributary coal and iron fields, a railway 425 m. long, and a line of lake steamships. As years went by, the various Carnegie companies represented in this industry prospered to such an extent that in 1901, when they were incorporated in the United States Steel Corporation, a trust organized by Mr J. Pierpont Morgan, and Mr Carnegie himself retired from business, he was bought out at a figure equivalent to a capital of approximately £100,000,000.

From this time forward public attention was turned from the shrewd business capacity which had enabled him to accumulate such a fortune to the public-spirited way in which he devoted himself to utilizing it on philanthropic objects. His views on social subjects, and the responsibilities which great wealth involved, were already known in a book entitled Triumphant Democracy, published in 1886, and in his Gospel of Wealth (1900). He acquired Skibo Castle, in Sutherlandshire, Scotland, and made his home partly there and partly in New York; and he devoted his life to the work of providing the capital for purposes of public interest, and social and educational advancement. Among these the provision of public libraries in the United States and United Kingdom (and similarly in other English-speaking countries) was especially prominent, and “Carnegie libraries” gradually sprang up on all sides, his method being to build and equip, but only on condition that the local authority provided site and maintenance, and thus to secure local interest and responsibility. By the end of 1908 he had distributed over £10,000,000 for founding libraries alone....