Born on November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland, Andrew Carnegie is the embodiment of the American Dream. The son of poor Scottish immigrants, Andrew Carnegie literally went from "rags to riches" as he propelled his way forward with hard work and determination from a simple bobbin boy to “Steel King” and “Richest Man in America.”
When steam-powered looms came to Dunfermline in 1847, hundreds of hand loom weavers, including William Carnegie, became expendable. Andrew's mother, Margaret Morrison Carnegie, went to work to support the family, opening a small grocery shop and mending shoes. Fearing for the survival of their family, the Carnegies soon decided to leave Scotland, borrowing 20 pounds for passage to America. Upon arriving in 1848, the Carnegie family joined two of Margaret's sisters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Life in America:
It was in Pittsburgh, at the age of 13, that Andrew Carnegie began his career as bobbin boy in a cotton factory for $1.20 per week. A voracious reader, he took advantage of the generosity of Col. James Anderson who opened his library to local working boys. Books provided most of his education as he worked his way through a series of jobs from messenger boy in the city's telegraph office to superintendent of the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Andrew Carnegie, Steel King of America:
Andrew Carnegie ultimately made his fortune in steel, turning the industrial world on its ear in the process. He introduced the Bessemer steel making process to America and, in 1875, opened his largest steel plant, the Edgar Thompson Works, in Braddock, Pennsylvania. In 1899, Carnegie joined several of his business interests by forming the Carnegie Steel Company, which immediately became a leader in the steel industry.
He expanded his business by buying out his competitors when steel prices were low. Carnegie never held a monopoly on steel production in the United States. However, by 1901 Carnegie's mills were producing more steel than all of Great Britain's steel mills combined. He used a method called vertical integration—owning the businesses involved in each step of a manufacturing process. To lower his production costs, Carnegie bought the iron ore mines, the coal fields, and the railroads needed to supply and support his steel mills.
Issues with Labor:
His conflicts with labor are best remembered in the 1892 showdown between Carnegie Steel and the unions at Homestead, Pennsylvania, a workers' town where the steel unions reigned supreme. Carnegie, on vacation in Scotland, had left his partner, Henry Clay Frick, to settle the dispute, wiring him that he approved "anything you do." But later Carnegie held Frick solely responsible for the violence at the mill that left seven workers and three Pinkerton guards dead.
Andrew Carnegie, Philanthropist:
The empire he forged in the steel furnaces of Pittsburgh sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $400 million and Andrew Carnegie retired from business life as the richest man in the world. The man of steel, however, had a heart of gold. By the time of his death in 1919, Andrew Carnegie had given away over $350 million to provide more than 2,500 free public libraries throughout the world.
Well remembered for his philanthropy and generous heart, Andrew Carnegie also gave money for museums and concert halls (including Carnegie Hall in New York City), and founded the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University)