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A man of Scotland, a distinguished citizen of the United States, and a philanthropist devoted to the betterment of the world around him, Andrew Carnegie became famous at the turn of the twentieth century and became a real life rags to riches story.
Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on November 25, 1835, Andrew Carnegie entered the world in poverty. The son of a hand weaver, Carnegie received his only formal education during the short time between his birth and his move to the United States. When steam machinery for weaving came into use, Carnegie’s father sold his looms and household goods, sailing to America with his wife and two sons. At this time, Andrew was twelve, and his brother, Thomas, was five. Arriving into New York on August 14, 1848, aboard the Wiscasset from Glasgow, the Carnegies wasted little time settling in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where relatives already existed and were there to provide help. Allegheny City provided Carnegie’s first job, as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory, working for $1.20 a week. His father also worked there while his mother bound shoes at home, making a miniscule amount of money. Although the Carnegies lacked in money, they abounded in ideals and training for their children. At age 15, Carnegie became a telegraph messenger boy in Pittsburgh. He learned to send and decipher telegraphic messages and became a telegraph operator at the age of 17. Carnegie’s next job was as a railroad clerk, working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He worked his way up the ladder, through his dedication and honest desire to succeed, to become train dispatcher and then division manager. At this time, young Carnegie, age 24, had already made some small investments that laid the foundations of his what would be tremendous fortune. One of these investments was the purchase of stock in the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company.
In 1864, Carnegie entered the iron business, but did not begin to make steel until years later. In 1873, he built the Edgar Thomson works in Braddock, Pennsylvania, to make Bessemer steel. He established many other steel plants, and in 1892, he merged all of his interests into the Carnegie Steel Company. This act from Carnegie is fitting with one of his most famous quotations, “Put all of your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” This firm became one of the greatest industrial enterprises in America. Carnegie later sold it to J.P. Morgan’s United States Steel Corporation in 1901 for $400 million, which would be a little over $4 billion today!
After retiring, Carnegie’s fortune was estimated to be as large as half a billion dollars. From that time on, with the philosophy that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their money, he devoted himself to philanthropy. Although ironic, this man of great fortune strongly believed in the merits of poverty for the development of character and work ethic, and determined that wealthy men should not leave their fortunes to their children, but should give it away, claiming “The man who dies thus rich, dies disgraced.” The picture of community service, Carnegie is quoted as saying, “Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy, and cannot be torn out. I can never be one hair’s breadth less loyal to her, or less anxious to help her in any way, than I have been since I could help anything. My treasure is still with you, and how best to serve Pittsburgh is the question which occurs to me almost every day of my life."
Colonel James Anderson, who Carnegie believes to be his childhood be
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