Monday, June 6, 2011

Wee Andra Carnegie

William Carnegie moved his little family from Dunfermline to Allegheny, Pennsylvania in 1848, borrowing the money for the emigration. Andrew was 13 years old. His first job was as a bobbin boy in in a cotton mill, child labor being the norm back then. He was making $1.20 a week. His next job was as a telegram messenger boy, which doubled his salary. Andrew became interested in the telegraph business and eventually became an operator. This led to him being employed with the Pennsylvania Railroad three years later as a telegraph operator at $4 a week. He soon worked his way up to a superintendent's position with the railroad.

Those were days of graft and corruption, and, under the tutelage of his boss, soon learned the wonders of insider stock trading. Andrew began building an investment nest egg. As the years went by, Carnegie made a lot of money with his friends at the railroad in investments and kickbacks, which was the way it was done back in those days. And perhaps still today.

Carnegie was wealthy before he even got into the steel business. He returned to Dunfermline several times, dropping a lot of money there each time. In 1879, he built them large swimming baths (I think that means a swimming pool) and in 1884 gave $40,000 towards a free lending library. He began to pick up several influential British friends, including Prime Minister Gladstone. I'm sure it was due to his pleasing personality and had nothing to do with money. Oddly, he supported the anti-monarchy, pro-republican movement at that time, and bought up several newspapers to push his views. I guess nothing came of it. Victoria was probably not one of his British friends, I'm guessing.

In 1881, Carnegie returned to Dunfermline with his elderly mother who laid the corner stone for the Carnegie Library he was in the process of donating. Elderly but strong, apparently. Then he went home and wrote a book about Americans and Britain. Stole my idea. His was published. Actually he wrote quite a few books.

Mainly, though, Andrew Carnegie built a steel empire which he eventually sold to J.P. Morgan as part of the mammoth combination called U.S. Steel, for about $485 million dollars, give or take. That's $485 million turn-of-the-century dollars. That's about $11 billion in today's weak dollars. At 66 years of age, Andrew contemplated retirement. He spent the rest of his years as a philanthropist. I think that means stamp collector. His specialty was libraries and church organs.

He eventually died, without leaving Max any money. But I want to go back to the late 1880s and tell another story about him first. It has nothing to do with Picts. Just wait.


  1. Gladstone criticised rich men who died and left money to charity. "Why didn't they give it away when alive?" he asked. That is why he would have appreciated Carnagie (pronounced Karnaygee).
    He also bought the grounds in which Dunfermline Abbey stands, known as Dunfermline Glen, and donated this to the town. Something he promised when a child was the tale we were told (my aunt lived there. (not in the glen, I mean she lived in the town))
    On the other hand he would not give money to anyone. They had to work for it. I wonder what he did with his kids? If he had any....

  2. I have no comment, just reading along. I love history. Fife is pretty, looks like.

  3. @Adullamite - That is an interesting story. It appears he did have a thing about giving away money all his life. Or at least investing it in people and communities. He seemed to have a knack of making money faster than he could give it away, though. And remember, this was before we had an income tax, so he got no tax break for giving away money to charity.

    Incidentally, the people in Pittsburgh agree with you about the pronunciation of his name. Most others mispronounce it.



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