Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

Founder of the Carnegie Steel Company; Industrialist & Philanthropist

Associated Houses

Carnegie’s Braemar Cottage

Cresson Township

Skibo Castle


Andrew Carnegie Mansion


Shadow Brook


He was born in a one-room cottage shared by two families in Dunfermline, Scotland, and was educated at the Free School until he was 12 in 1848. That year, facing starvation, his family emigrated to Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, where he started work in a cotton factory before taking the advice of an uncle and entering the telegraph industry as a messenger boy. Becoming an operator in 1853, he was hired as secretary to Thomas A. Scott, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who was the catalyst to his career and helped him invest his money in several growing businesses. Using their relationship and his savings by the late 1850s Carnegie had established his first business supplying rails and bridges to the Railroad as well as arranging an industry-changing merger between George Pullman and a company in which he'd invested.

During the Civil War, Scott (by then appointed Assistant Secretary of War) placed him in charge of military transportation and Union telegraph lines. After the war, Carnegie quit the railroad industry to focus on iron production while still heavily reliant on his relatonship with Scott and J. Edgar Thomson. He secured his fortune by improving on a process to mass produce steel cheaply and by the 1880s Carnegie Steel was the largest manufacturer of pig iron, steel rails, and coke in the world. In 1892, he combined all his assets and partnering with the likes of Henry Clay Frick, Henry Phipps etc. formed the Carnegie Steel Company. In 1901, it became the first corporation in the world with a market capitalization over $1 billion when it was bought out by J.P. Morgan (creating the U.S. Steel Corporation) in what remains the largest industrial takeover in U.S. history.

Carnegie's share of the profits was $226 million and from 1902 he retired to focus all his energies on philanthropy. Having already written "The Gospel of Wealth" his belief was that the rich should use their wealth to enrich society and he supported both progressive taxation and estate tax. He concentrated his philanthropy on social and educational advancement. He funded the construction of 7,000 church organs and 3,000 libraries across 47-states as well as in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the West Indies, and Fiji. He was a generous benefactor of the Tuskegee Institute for African-American education and co-created the National Negro Business League.

Among many donations, he gave $2 million to start the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now the Carnegie Mellon University); $10 million to start the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland; $10 million for the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust; and endowed the Carnegie Hero Fund. He built Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Peace Palace in The Hague in the Netherlands. In 1918, he came in at 3rd (behind John D. Rockefeller and Frick, and ahead of George F. Baker and William Avery Rockefeller who were tied at 4th) on the first ever Forbes Rich List with an estimated personal fortune of $200-million. By the time he died the following year, it was revealed that he had given away $350-million and after generous but not ostentatious trust funds were established for his only child, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren, he gave his remaining $30-million to charity.

His first real home in the States from 1875 was Braemar Cottage. After his mother died, he scrapped his plans to build a castle in Pennsylvania and in 1897 bought and rebuilt his beloved Skibo Castle in Scotland, dividing his time principally between there and the mansion he built in New York City at 2 East 91st Street, now home to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. He died at Shadow Brook in Lenox survived by his widow and daughter.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 01/11/2018 and last updated on 28/02/2023.
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress; Forbes Rich List, 1918