Andrew Carnegie Biography

Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835–August 11, 1919) was a steel magnate, leading industrialist, and philanthropist. With a keen focus on cost-cutting and organization, Carnegie was often regarded as a ruthless robber baron, though he eventually withdrew from business to devote himself to donating money to various philanthropic causes.

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Fast Facts: Andrew Carnegie

  • Known For: Carnegie was a preeminent steel magnate and a major philanthropist.
  • Born: November 25, 1835 in Drumferline, Scotland
  • Parents: Margaret Morrison Carnegie and William Carnegie
  • Died: August 11, 1919 in Lenox, Massachusetts
  • Education: Free School in Dunfermline, night school, and self-taught through Colonel James Anderson’s library
  • Published Works: An American Four-in-hand in Britain, Triumphant Democracy, The Gospel of Wealth, The Empire of Business, Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie
  • Awards and Honors: Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Glasgow, honorary doctorate, University of Groningen, the Netherlands. The following are all named for Andrew Carnegie: the dinosaur Diplodocus carnegii, the cactus Carnegiea gigantea, the Carnegie Medal children’s literature award, Carnegie Hall in New York City, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
  • Spouse(s): Louise Whitfield
  • Children: Margaret
  • Notable Quote: “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Early Experiences and Education

Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland, where his family ran a small, manpowered weaving shop. When the Industrial Revolution hit Scotland, mechanized looms drove the handloom weavers out of business. Hoping to start a new life, the Carnegies and their two young sons, Andrew, 13, and Thomas, 5, immigrated to the United States and settled outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Although his parents believed strongly in education, Carnegie attended school for only four years before he was forced to find a job to help support the family. He became an avid reader and developed a lifelong habit of learning and self-education.


M Y first Rectorial Address to the students of St. Andrews University attracted the attention of the German Emperor, who sent word to me in New York by Herr Ballin that he had read every word of it. He also sent me by him a copy of his address upon his eldest son’s consecration. Invitations to meet him followed; but it was not until June, 1907, that I could leave, owing to other engagements. Mrs. Carnegie and I went to Kiel. Mr. Tower, our American Ambassador to Germany, and Mrs. Tower met us there and were very kind in their attentions. Through them we met many of the distinguished public men during our three days’ stay there.

The first morning, Mr. Tower took me to register on the Emperor’s yacht. I had no expectation of seeing the Emperor, but he happened to come on deck, and seeing Mr. Tower he asked what had brought him on the yacht so early. Mr. Tower explained he had brought me over to register, and that Mr. Carnegie was on board. He asked:

“Why not present him now? I wish to see him.”

I was talking to the admirals who were assembling for a conference, and did not see Mr. Tower and the Emperor approaching from behind. A touch on my shoulder and I turned around.

“Mr. Carnegie, the Emperor.”

It was a moment before I realized that the Emperor was before me. I raised both hands, and exclaimed:

“This has happened just as I could have wished, [Pg 367] with no ceremony, and the Man of Destiny dropped from the clouds.”

Then I continued: “Your Majesty, I have traveled two nights to accept your generous invitation, and never did so before to meet a crowned head.”

Then the Emperor, smiling—and such a captivating smile:

“Oh! yes, yes, I have read your books. You do not like kings.”

“No, Your Majesty, I do not like kings, but I do like a man behind a king when I find him.”

“Ah! there is one king you like, I know, a Scottish king, Robert the Bruce. He was my hero in my youth. I was brought up on him.”

“Yes, Your Majesty, so was I, and he lies buried in Dunfermline Abbey, in my native town. When a boy, I used to walk often around the towering square monument on the Abbey—one word on each block in big stone letters ‘King Robert the Bruce’—with all the fervor of a Catholic counting his beads. But Bruce was much more than a king, Your Majesty, he was the leader of his people. And not the first; Wallace the man of the people comes first. Your Majesty, I now own King Malcolm’s tower in Dunfermline [79]—he from whom you derive your precious heritage of Scottish blood. Perhaps you know the fine old ballad, ‘Sir Patrick Spens.’

I should like to escort you some day to the tower of [Pg 368] your Scottish ancestor, that you may do homage to his memory.” He exclaimed:

“That would be very fine. The Scotch are much quicker and cleverer than the Germans. The Germans are too slow.”

“Your Majesty, where anything Scotch is concerned, I must decline to accept you as an impartial judge.”

He laughed and waved adieu, calling out:

“You are to dine with me this evening”—and excusing himself went to greet the arriving admirals.

About sixty were present at the dinner and we had a pleasant time, indeed. His Majesty, opposite whom I sat, was good enough to raise his glass and invite me to drink with him. After he had done so with Mr. Tower, our Ambassador, who sat at his right, he asked across the table—heard by those near—whether I had told Prince von Bülow, next whom I sat, that his (the Emperor’s) hero, Bruce, rested in my native town of Dunfermline, and his ancestor’s tower in Pittencrieff Glen, was in my possession.

“No,” I replied; “with Your Majesty I am led into such frivolities, but my intercourse with your Lord High Chancellor, I assure you, will always be of a serious import.”

We dined with Mrs. Goelet upon her yacht, one evening, and His Majesty being present, I told him President Roosevelt had said recently to me that he wished custom permitted him to leave the country so he could run over and see him (the Emperor). He thought a substantial talk would result in something good being accomplished. I believed that also. The Emperor agreed and said he wished greatly to see him and hoped he would some day come to Germany. I suggested that he (the Emperor) was free from con [Pg 369] stitutional barriers and could sail over and see the President.

“Ah, but my country needs me here! How can I leave?”

“Before leaving home one year, when I went to our mills to bid the officials good-bye and expressed regret at leaving them all hard at work, sweltering in the hot sun, but that I found I had now every year to rest and yet no matter how tired I might be one half-hour on the bow of the steamer, cutting the Atlantic waves, gave me perfect relief, my clever manager, Captain Jones, retorted: ‘And, oh, Lord! think of the relief we all get.’ It might be the same with your people, Your Majesty.”

He laughed heartily over and over again. It opened a new train of thought. He repeated his desire to meet President Roosevelt, and I said:

“Well, Your Majesty, when you two do get together, I think I shall have to be with you. You and he, I fear, might get into mischief.”

He laughed and said:

“Oh, I see! You wish to drive us together. Well, I agree if you make Roosevelt first horse, I shall follow.”

“Ah, no, Your Majesty, I know horse-flesh better than to attempt to drive two such gay colts tandem. You never get proper purchase on the first horse. I must yoke you both in the shafts, neck and neck, so I can hold you in.”

I never met a man who enjoyed stories more keenly than the Emperor. He is fine company, and I believe an earnest man, anxious for the peace and progress of the world. Suffice it to say he insists that he is, and always has been, for peace. [1907.] He cherishes the fact that he has reigned for twenty-four years and has [Pg 370] never shed human blood. He considers that the German navy is too small to affect the British and was never intended to be a rival. Nevertheless, it is in my opinion very unwise, because unnecessary, to enlarge it. Prince von Bülow holds these sentiments and I believe the peace of the world has little to fear from Germany. Her interests are all favorable to peace, industrial development being her aim; and in this desirable field she is certainly making great strides.

I sent the Emperor by his Ambassador, Baron von Sternberg, the book, “The Roosevelt Policy,” [80] to which I had written an introduction that pleased the President, and I rejoice in having received from him a fine bronze of himself with a valued letter. He is not only an Emperor, but something much higher—a man anxious to improve existing conditions, untiring in his efforts to promote temperance, prevent dueling, and, I believe, to secure International Peace.

I have for some time been haunted with the feeling that the Emperor was indeed a Man of Destiny. My interviews with him have strengthened that feeling. I have great hopes of him in the future doing something really great and good. He may yet have a part to play that will give him a place among the immortals. He has ruled Germany in peace for twenty-seven years, but something beyond even this record is due from one who has the power to establish peace among civilized nations through positive action. Maintaining peace in his own land is not sufficient from one whose invitation to other leading civilized nations to combine and establish arbitration of all international disputes would be gladly responded to. Whether he is to pass into history as only [Pg 371] the preserver of internal peace at home or is to rise to his appointed mission as the Apostle of Peace among leading civilized nations, the future has still to reveal.

The year before last (1912) I stood before him in the grand palace in Berlin and presented the American address of congratulation upon his peaceful reign of twenty-five years, his hand unstained by human blood. As I approached to hand to him the casket containing the address, he recognized me and with outstretched arms, exclaimed:

“Carnegie, twenty-five years of peace, and we hope for many more.”

I could not help responding:

“And in this noblest of all missions you are our chief ally.”

He had hitherto sat silent and motionless, taking the successive addresses from one officer and handing them to another to be placed upon the table. The chief subject under discussion had been World Peace, which he could have, and in my opinion, would have secured, had he not been surrounded by the military caste which inevitably gathers about one born to the throne—a caste which usually becomes as permanent as the potentate himself, and which has so far in Germany proved its power of control whenever the war issue has been presented. Until militarism is subordinated, there can be no World Peace.

As I read this to-day [1914], what a change! The world convulsed by war as never before! Men slaying each other like wild beasts! I dare not relinquish all hope. In recent days I see another ruler coming forward upon the world stage, who may prove himself the immortal one. The man who vindicated his country’s [Pg 372] honor in the Panama Canal toll dispute is now President. He has the indomitable will of genius, and true hope which we are told,

Nothing is impossible to genius! Watch President Wilson! He has Scotch blood in his veins.

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