Andrew Carnegie

“It’s the birthday of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, born in Dunfermline, Scotland (1835), the son of a weaver and political radical. His father instilled in young Andrew the values of political and economic equality, but his family’s poverty taught Carnegie a different lesson. At the age of 12, the boy worked as a milkhand for $1.20 per week. When the Carnegies immigrated to America in 1848, Carnegie was determined to find prosperity. One of the pioneers of industry of 19th-century America, Andrew Carnegie helped build the American steel industry, which turned him into one of the richest entrepreneurs of his age.

In 1868, at age 33, Carnegie wrote himself a memo in which he questioned his chosen career, a life of business. He kept the letter for his entire life, carefully preserving it in his files. In the memo, he vowed to retire from business within two years, believing that the further pursuit of wealth would degrade him. Carnegie eventually sold his steel business and gave his fortune away to cultural, educational, and scientific institutions for the improvement of mankind.

Over the course of his life, Andrew Carnegie endowed 2,811 libraries and many charitable foundations as well as the internationally famous Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He also bought 7,689 organs for churches. The purpose of the latter gift was, in Carnegie’s words, ‘To lessen the pain of the sermons.'” (from The Writer’s Almanac)

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