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The countless contributions of Andrew Carnegie


“No man can become rich without himself enriching others.” Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

The following synopsis of Andrew Carnegie’s life was taken from a 113-year-old history book, The Marvelous Story of One Hundred Years History, Achievements and Progress, published in 1901 by Henry Davenport Northrop:

“Mr. Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, in Scotland, on the 25th of November 1835. When he was 12 years of age he emigrated to America and settled at Pittsburg with his parents and a younger brother. He was then almost penniless. He afterward accumulated many millions, and wielded an influence in the industrial world as great, possibly, as that of any living man. It may be said that Mr. Carnegie was exceptionally equipped for success both mentally and morally; numbering among his mental qualities, shrewdness, persistence, a good memory and an intuitive insight into character, and among his moral qualities, integrity, gratitude and geniality.

But his phenomenal rise in life must be attributed largely to his following certain clear principles and methods. Some of these he defined in an admirable address to the students of a commercial college in Pittsburg. These are his maxims, summarized:

’Avoid drink; avoid speculation; avoid endorsements. Aim high. For the question, “What must I do for my employer?” substitute “What can I do?” Begin to save early -- “capitalists trust the saving young man.” Concentrate your energy, thought and capital; fight it out on one line.’ (The lack of concentration he considers the failing of American business men.)

To these injunctions he might well have added another, suggested by his own career: ’Never think your education ended.’

Mr. Carnegie’s benefactions have been enormous, reaching many million dollars. Numerous towns have fully equipped public libraries which have been furnished by his well-known maxim, “No man should die rich.’ -- H.D. Northrop.”

Because Mr. Northrop’s writings don’t mention all of Mr. Carnegie’s unselfish generosity, we’ve added this second portion that includes some of Mr. Carnegie’s additional accomplishments:

During the last half of the 19th century, Scotch-born industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, who led this country’s enormous expansion of America’s steel industry, became one of America’s highest-profile philanthropists. His was truly a “Rags to Riches” life.

As a young man, Mr. Carnegie worked as a telegrapher and by the 1860s reportedly had investments in the railroad and oil industries. He added to his wealth as a bond salesman and also created Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company.

The later years of his life were devoted to large-scale philanthropy with special emphases on local “Carnegie” libraries and scientific research. He also built Carnegie Hall and founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York with other investments in universities and museums.

In his book, The Gospel of Wealth, written in 1889, Carnegie called on the rich to use their wealth to stimulate wave after wave of philanthropy. He believed as that wealth worked its way down to the masses, all U.S. citizens ultimately benefited. He called this concept the “stewardship” of wealth.

In 1901, Mr. Carnegie sold his Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company to a group headed by financier, J.P. Morgan, for $480 million (equal to $13.5 billion in 2012). Thus, the steel empire that Carnegie built became America’s first billion-dollar corporation, the United States Steel Corporation.

A Forbes report in 2008 shows that at the time of his death in 1919, Mr. Carnegie’s net worth using 2007 dollar values would have been the equivalent of $298.3 billion today (after his having already given many times that amount to charity throughout his lifetime).

Thanks, Mr. Carnegie!

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at or visit

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