A man who transformed the Landscape of America forever with his pioneering techniques, That is the subject of Professor Harold C. Livesay’s book ” Andrew Carnegie and the Rise of Big Business”.
Published by The Library of American Biography and edited by Mark C. Carnes, the book is an informative biography of a man who had a significant effect on modern American business. Livesay’s thesis is that the “American Dream” is the defining characteristic of America and that no one person embodied the dream more in the 19th century than Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie and his family arrived from Dumfernline Scotland settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1848. Livesay relates how Carnegie is driven as a young man to succeed becoming the primary wage earner for his family while navigating the early American workplace and educating himself at night, days lasting sometimes 18 hours. The ideal of the “American Dream” is set as the foundation for the Andrew Carnegie story. It is what makes his success intimate, an immigrant arriving in America with nothing could, through the ideals of,” hardwork, honesty and thrift achieve positions of power and influence, even the presidency of the United States.”(Livesay 1) Livesay goes on through the course of the book to expound on the conditions and situations in which Andrew Carnegie exhibited his exceptional talents and where his motives may have lain. Whether highlighting Carnegie’s early life as a Railroad superintendant or later as a capitalist and enrtrepenuer, The author draws from many sources to convey Carnegie’s life as dynamic and profound.A professor of history at Texas A & M University.
The viewpoint of the author is interesting to note.Mark C. Carnes the editor, remarks about the author’s work experience,” Livesay delivered steel to job sites. From the cab of his 18-wheeler,…”(VII) Livesay worked in the industry that supplanted railroads, trucking. Commercial trucking is a business with many owner-operators, a distinctly different form of business organization than Andrew Carnegie’s massive enterprises. This contrast of life experience lends a notable business owners analysis to Livesay’s interpretation of Carnegie’s actions. The author has written this book as an introduction to Andrew Carnegie and his importance as an object of study to better understand the history of the United States as well as fundamental business practices. He has condensed the sum of Carnegies life into teachable moments, in order to highlight his view points on Carnegie’s contributions to history and business. To make his argument for Andrew Carnegie as the embodiment of the American Dream the author begins by pointing to Carnegie’s hard-scrabble upbringing and work ethic,” I have made millions since, Carnegie later claimed, but none of these gave me so much happiness as my first week’s earnings. I was now a helper of the family, a bread winner.”( Livesay 16) Livesay quotes Carnegie to illustrate the case for an affinity between the upbringing of Carnegie and the “American Dream”. Carnegie has through his early work realized part of James Truslow Allen’s vision of the American Dream,” The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”Remarking on the maturation of Carnegie the Railroad Manager Livesay says ,”He had learned his art. No further challenge remained in working for others. A man must necessarily occupy a narrow field, he wrote, who is at the beck and call of others”(Livesay 48) The author shows that Carnegie, by striking out on his own, again embodies the American Dream, entrepenuership. James truslow Allen eludes to this ideal when writing,” It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately “Trustlow is intimating that entrepenuership while a foreign idea in Europe, is the catalyst of American success. In defining Carnegies role as philospher and scholar on the issue of labor relations the author quotes Carnegie as saying, “Thou shalt not take thy neighbors job”.(Livesay 148) One of the leading industrialists and most powerful businessmen of the time, Livesay shows that Carnegies opinions were important and valued by the American public in understanding the controversial issues of the day. He had become one of the most well known men of his time, another example of his embodiment of the American Dream. The final, and crowning, monument to Carnegies legacy comes with the sale of his steel company to J.P Morgan. Livesay writes in describing the moment,”He had made it . Carnegie had fullfiled the American Dream in its fullest glory–poor immigrant boy to richest man in the world.”
Livesay has crafted a persuasive argument for Andrew Carnegie as the embodiment of the American Dream. The author uses many direct quotes from the writing of Carnegie to make his case. Using Carnegie’s own word’s he highlights the connections between Carnegie’s world and the ideal of the “American Dream”. Livesay’s use of a systematic review of Carnegie’s accomplishments gives the evidence needed to make a case. An argument could be made that entrepenurial spirit is not today part of the “American Dream” Dr. Stuart Graybill described in his lecture the current entrepenuer rate of America at, “5 percent of the population”.(Graybill 2/11) With such a small minority engaging in entrepreneurial activity it could be argued that it is not, in fact, an aspect of the “American Dream”. The argument for Andrew Carnegie as the embodiment of the “American Dream” that is put forth by Dr. Livesay is compelling, however, many aspects of the American Dream were unrealized for millions of people in America during Carnegie’s life. The concept of the American Dream was popularized by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book “Epic in America” he describes the dream as “but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable”.Carnegie cannot embody the American dream because he does not represent the totality of those dreams. An African-American sharecropper from Georgia in the 1890’s could not realize the success of Andrew Carnegie through “hard work, honesty and thrift”(Livesay 1). America did not allow the American Dream to exist for more than half of it’s society, women were not allowed to vote until 1925 and were payed less if allowed to work at all. For women, Andrew Carnegie’s American Dream would have been unthinkable .
The book Andrew Carnegie and the rise of big business cannot stand alone as a comprehensive biography of its subject. By itself it represents the facts of the life of Andrew Carnegie, accentuating his role as a pioneer in the field of management and financing and downplaying or omitting his unethical and dubious behavior. To truly understand the scope of Andrew Carnegie’s life and his effect on Big Business this book is a useful primer, but a closer examination would be warranted to understand the historical context of Andrew Carnegie’s life and his effect on Modern American society. Professor Livesay has an apt dedication, “They taught me that there is more to the truth than the facts.”
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