The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie

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If you are considered one of the richest men in all of American history, then you must have been at least a little wise. Andrew Carnegie was an entrepreneur and businessman who set up the world's largest steel tycoon of the 19th century. He not only gained a net worth of a modern day equivalent of up to $5 billion by making careful decisions, he continued to use his money wisely. After selling his business in 1901, Carnegie dedicated his life to philanthropy. By the end of his life, Andrew Carnegie gave away around $350 million dollars to public libraries, trust funds, and universities. Coming from a poor immigrant family in Ireland, Andrew Carnegie was able to become one of the most successful businessman in American history because of his work ethic, smart investments with his money, and wise life choices.

From humble beginnings as a poor factory worker, Andrew Carnegie had the odds stacked against him, but that did not stop him from putting everything he had into his work. Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant that became one of the richest people in all of American history through his hard work, is a great example of what a strong work ethic can do for you. Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, to a poor family with little education in Dunfermline, Scotland. The Carnegie family moved to Allegheny, Pennsylvania in 1848, when Andrew was only 13 years old. Andrew worked many jobs to help support his family. His first was a factory job that earned him $1.20 a week, and a year later he got himself a job as a telegraph messenger. He soon moved up to a telegraph operator position in 1851. Two years later, he became the assistant and telegrapher of Thomas Scott, one of Pennsylvania Railroad’s top officials. Through his time working alongside Scott, Carnegie learned much about the railroad industry and business. In 1856, Carnegie was promoted to superintendent. After Carnegie continuing to work with the railroad industry, Carnegie started to invest in other things, and gained a good amount of money, and soon left the railroad in 1865. Over the next decade, Andrew Carnegie put all of his energy into the steel industry. He built up the Carnegie Steel Company by finding ways to manufacture steel easier, faster, and more productively. Andrew Carnegie had many admirable attributes, but his work ethic has definitely been one the key traits to his great success.

Carnegie made many wise investments that would not only benefit him in short gain, but also in the long run. His first “investment” wasn’t necessarily a financial one, but more so a time investment. He loved to read. Andrew got most of his education as a child from reading, thanks to Colonel James Anderson’s, an Allegheny citizen who opened his library to working boys. Investing his time in books and personal knowledge would benefit Carnegie more than he could imagine in the long run. Carnegie also was wise with who he invested in. His boss, Thomas Scott, would be a mentor and friend to him. Scott would soon point Carnegie to his first financial investment, a sale of shares in the Adams Express Company. Carnegie’s mother mortgaged their house and bought the share for 500 dollars, and it paid off as the money started rolling in. His next big investment was a deal with Theodore Woodruff, the man who started the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company. Carnegie got a bank loan and accepted Woodruff’s deal, and because of its success, would later purchase the company that introduced the first sleeping car on the U.S. railroad. Carnegie would go on to invest in many different things such as oil wells, iron, and most known, the steel business. He soon started the Carnegie Steel Company, and by 1889, it was the largest in the world. There is no better way to put how smart his investments were than how said it, “For every step of the process, he owned exactly what he needed: the raw materials, ships and railroads for transporting the goods, and even coal fields to fuel the steel furnaces.” From the time he spent, the people he got to know, and the money he used, Andrew Carnegie is an example of someone who made very prudent investments.

Even after becoming the wealthiest man in the world, Carnegie was still thoughtful with where his money went. In 1887, Carnegie married Louise Whitfield, and after that, he decided that the rest of his life would be dedicated to philanthropy. With a net worth of about $480 million, Carnegie had his wife sign an agreement that stated Carnegie would give away the bulk of his fortune. He was an avid reader his entire life, and wanted others who were less fortunate, as he was once, to have the same opportunity to learn. A total of more than 2000 public libraries were opened with his support, and over $55 million alone was put towards public access to books. He started many colleges, nonprofit organizations, schools, institutions, and trusts. Some of his most well known include: the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Carnegie UK Trust. The list could go on forever with all of the donations and funds that Andrew Carnegie put into various places. Carnegie wrote “The Gospel of Wealth”, which stated his views that the rich should not live with the all of the luxuries, provide comfortably for their family without all of the extravogence, and should use their wealth to provide happiness for the less fortunate. Carnegie died in August, 1919, with his last amounts of money being used to set up the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was meant to be used to promote international education and peace. He left his wife and daughter enough to live comfortably, but did not believe in handing down the money from generation to generation. He lived true to his most famous quote, “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced”, by being selfless and thoughtful with the way he distributed and gave his money.

From his work ethic to his generosity, Andrew Carnegie made wise decisions that brought him from a poor immigrant, to the wealthiest man in the world. He built a steel empire, made countless investments, and gave virtually all of his wealth away. He used around $350 million (around 4.8 billion today) to open countless libraries, start colleges and schools, and try to achieve world education and peace. As one of the men who helped America to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world, Andrew Carnegie built, grew, and gave away his fortune to the people.


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The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie. (2019, Nov 08). Retrieved February 23, 2024 , from

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