There have been many wealthy men Throughout American history, many have been the topic of many heated debates among them, Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie at one time was the richest man in the world, who immediately after gaining that title began giving his money away. The impact and size of Carnegie’s philanthropic efforts are undeniable, but why he gave so much has been a topic of debate for nearly a century now. Carnegie’s rags to riches story is the epitome of the American dream and has been an inspiration to many entrepreneurs around the world.
Andrew Carnegie was born November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland. He was born to a family of weavers, a prominent occupation in his hometown. In 1847, the increased linen production from steam powered looms caused Carnegie’s father to lose his job. Carnegie’s mother went to work trying to provide for the family. This is when Carnegie says “I began to learn what poverty meant, it was burnt into my heart then that my father had to beg for work. And then and there came the resolve that I would cure that when I got to be a man.” (Carnegie, 1920)
At the same time that Carnegie was learning about the pains of poverty; his family including his father, grandfather, and uncle were ardent labor activists. Working to end the hierarchy of the past and empower working men. (PBS, 1999) These two experiences would influence both Carnegie’s career and his ideology for the rest of his life. At times at odds with each other, but occasionally, he was capable of walking a fine line of building his fortune and helping those around him to improve their lot.
In 1848 Carnegie came with his family to the United States eventually settling in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He was able to find work in a factory earning $1.20 a week. Later he got a job as a messenger and then as a telegraph operator. While working as a telegraph operator he met Thomas Scott, a top official for the Pennsylvania railroad, who hired him to be his assistant and telegrapher. Working for Scott Carnegie learned about the railroad and about business. it is obvious that from a young age Carnegie had a strong work ethic and was full of ambition.
Carnegie rose through the ranks fast in the railroad industry. Starting from his humble beginnings as an assistant, Carnegie would eventually become the superintendent of the Pennsylvania railroad. During the civil war Carnegie saw an opportunity in iron. He left the railroad investing heavily in the keystone bridge company. Soon Carnegie was making more money than he could have imagined.
Carnegie had a keen sense for a good investment. Historian John Ingram said “I think Carnegie’s genius was first of all, an ability to foresee how things were going to change, once he saw that something was of potential benefit to him. He was willing to incest enormously in it.”(PBS, 1999) Carnegie shows this with his heavy investment in the steel industry. Taking ideas created by Henry Bessemer he...