Andrew Carnegie

It’s often been a comparison that many historians have touched on in the past when the subject of Andrew Carnegie is the focus. Was he a ruthless business man or was his generosity unmatched by any before him and few after him? He was both. Andrew Carnegie was a man of very humble beginnings. He loathed charity but yet became known for his many charitable contributions. Carnegie and his family were unimpressed by wealth yet during Andrew’s lifetime he became the wealthiest man alive. And along the way Andrew Carnegie, far away from his birthplace in Scotland, became an American leader in business and in life.

Andrew Carnegie was a man who stood up for the working people. He knew what it was like to watch his father lose his job and all but solicit for a job or food. He watched his mother with eager determination borrow the money the family needed to leave Scotland to begin their lives in America and he loathed the fact that his mother and father were at the mercy of financial restraints. Yet, as a family, the Carnegies had never embraced the idea of wealth. In fact, they despised the idea of it.

When historians look at Andrew Carnegie, many believe that he was a man who fought battles within himself all of his life because of the burning ideas of wealth and poverty he had that stemmed from his parents and grandparents. Some historians believed he acted as a man who never knew quite what he wanted. While on one hand he would fight diligently for the working class of individuals, on the other hand he would demolish their safety nets which were their unions. The name Carnegie will always bring to mind generosity, yet the people who worked for Andrew Carnegie worked extremely hard for meager wages. As a Carnegie employee, individuals knew they were always at risk for a cut in salary while Carnegie himself, continued on the road to wealth and prosperity.

Still, Andrew Carnegie was very much a leader who worked his way up from the cotton factory where his father worked to the office of Thomas A. Scott of Pennsylvania Railroad. Sometime after the Civil War, Carnegie left the railroad and went to work at Keystone Bridge Company for a short number of years before the introduction to the steel refining process which was already making Henry Bessemer into a wealthy man. Carnegie threw himself into the steel business and the rest, of course, is history.

One of Carnegie’s favorite quotes was “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” As the richest man in the world, many laughed at his sentiments. However, Andrew Carnegie systematically gave away over 350 million dollars prior to his death. Because Andrew Carnegie was an advocate for lifelong learning, his fortune was responsible for building over 2500 public libraries and donations to higher learning were dominant as well.

Andrew Carnegie contributed more money to education than any before him but he could’ve been so much more to himself if he had let go of many harbored and unhealthy thoughts toward his wealth and money. His mother and father’s beliefs helped him achieve greatness but hindered him from truly enjoying the wealth and prosperity that he most certainly earned.

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