Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland. He was the eldest son. His father was William Carnegie, and his mother was Margaret Morrison Carnegie. William Carnegie was a linen weaver and was a leader of a group known as the Chartists who worked to “improve the conditions of working-class life in Great Britain. Margaret was the daughter of Thomas Morrison who was a shoemaker and a reformer, both political and social.
When William was thirteen years old, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. The move took place because industrialization was destroying the handloom business. Andrew soon found a job as a “bobbin boy in a cotton factory.” He was a “voracious reader” and welcomed the opportunity to borrow books from the personal library of a man. He gained most of his education from books while he moved from bobbin boy to messenger for Western Union to telegraph operator – and “then to a series of positions leading to the superintendent of the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.”
While working for the railroad, “Carnegie invested in a new company to manufacture railway sleeping cards. He later expanded his business to building bridges, locomotives and rails. He organized many companies, the first being Keystone Bridge Company in 1865 and the first of his steel works in 1873. Carnegie believed that the working class should work with the business man in joint efforts and joint success, and he attracted talented young men who had the talent to manage organizations. His steel company did so well that he sold it to J.P. Morgan in 1901
and the Carnegie Company was worth more than $400.
Carnegie began his philanthropic around 1870 and is best known for providing free public library buildings. He gave his first library to his home town, Dunfermline, in 1881, and eventually gave 2,509 similar gifts to communities throughout the English-speaking world.
A prolific writer, Carnegie wrote many books sharing his belief that rich people are only trustees of money and should distribute it to the less fortunate. He retired from business in 1901 and became more active in giving away his wealth. He helped to establish colleges, schools, nonprofit organizations and associations in the United States, Scotland and around the world. “His most significant contribution, both in terms of money and in terms of enduring influence, was the establishment of several endowed trusts or institutions bearing his name.” By the time he passed away, he had distributed about $350 million; however, his legacy of generosity continues through the work of trusts and institutions he endowed.