Founder of the Carnegie Steel Company.
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835 in Dunfernline, Scotland. His father was an active Chartist while his grandfather created a campaign for social reform with William Cobbett.
The Carnegie family immigrated to the U.S. when the economic depression struck the country in 1848. They became part of a Scottish colony at Pittsburgh while in America.
Andrew started working at the age of 12. He got his job at a local cotton factory while continuing his study at night school.
At age 14, he worked as a messenger boy in the local Pittsburgh Telegraph Office. His excellent performance and hard work was noticed by a supervisor working in the western division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Thomas A. Scott, the supervisor, made Andrew Carnegie his secretary.
His luck continued as he was chosen to become the assistant secretary of war during the Civil War. He became Thomas Scott’s right-hand man while doing his work in Washington. One of the responsibilities that he was handling during that time was organizing the military telegraph system.
When the war ended, he succeeded Scott’s position. He was appointed as superintendent in the same division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Carnegie made use of his earning by carefully investing in various ventures such as the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company. He also put his money in small factories and iron mills. One of the major investments he made was at Keystone Bridge, where he owned about one-fifth of the total share.
Carnegie was impressed by Henry Bessemer’s invention, which led him to build his first blast furnace. In 1874, he opened his steel furnace in Braddock. He and Henry Frick became business partners. Though he had grown his business and had people working with him, he always made sure that he keeps the biggest share in each of his ventures.
Besides business, Carnegie also participated in the political and social arena. He wrote a number of books such as the Triumphant Democracy in 1886, An American Four-in-Hand in Britain in 1883 and Round the World in 1881. In one of his writings, he praised the educational system of America.
In 1889, an article written by Carnegie was published by the North American Review. The article was entitled “Gospel of Wealth”, where he encouraged the rich people to support community welfares. He indicated that any person who dies rich dies disgraced.
In the same year, Carnegie allowed Henry Frick to act as chairman of the Carnegie Company. He moved to New York to focus more on research and development.
A conflict within the company’s management came up while Frick was in charge, but Carnegie was able to solve the problem and continued to increase Carnegie Steel Company’s profits.
Carnegie paid Henry Frick $15 million to leave the company. Frick joined J. Pierpont Morgan in acquiring the Carnegie Company for $500,000,000. The purchased Carnegie Company was later established as the U.S. Steel Corporation, with a value of $1.4 billion.
Carnegie spent the rest of his doing philanthropic activities and writing. He distributed his wealth to public donations. He built 2,509 libraries and founded the Carnegie Mellon University. He gave away more than $350 million in 1919, the year he died.
According to the list of wealthiest historical figures from Forbes, his net worth would be estimated at $298.3 billion if he lived today.