ANDREW CARNEGIE: GIANT OF INDUSTRY
Andrew Carnegie, the “King of Steel”, the benevolent employer, the giant of industry, was among the greatest influences of the second industrial revolution. It is sometimes questioned whether Carnegie was the ruthless, sneaky steel tyrant some made him out to be, or the generous, benevolent education benefactor he appeared to be. I believe him to be a combination of both, but more so the great giant of industry.
Carnegie was the classic rags to riches story, the penniless immigrant who made it big in the land of opportunity. Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and migrated to America in 1848 at the age of 13. His first job was in a cotton mill, earning a measly $1.20 each week. Carnegie was ambitious and determined though and by the next year had gotten a job in a Pittsburg telegraph office. It was here he got his foot on the door to the business of Pittsburg. This allowed him to begin a job at the Pennsylvania Railroad as a secretary to the railroad official, Thomas Scott. By making wise choices, taking control of situations and making smart investments, he soon began climbing the ladder of success. Scott immediately noticed Carnegie as a valuable asset to the company and to his own wealth and took him on as a partner after several promotions.
As young as 33, Carnegie was pulling in an annual income of $50,000 a year, a huge amount at that time, and this was enough for him. Carnegie was a firm believer that anyone could make it to the top, and that it was the wealthys’ duty to help the poor work towards a more comfortable life. Carnegie said that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” This is a greedy, unselfish philosophy that a robber baron could not conceive.
Without Carnegie, the steel industry, and the second industrial revolution in general, would never have progressed as much as it did. Carnegie did what was necessary to make the steel industry more productive and more efficient, for less money. He was a shrewd, ruthless, businessman whose aggressiveness made the steel, railroad, and oil industries so economically successful. These characteristics, though not always looked upon as nice or sympathetic, were sometimes necessary. He had paid his time as a poor factory boy, and now it was his turn to live comfortably and aid others less fortunate to work towards the same success.
I feel that Carnegie was a very generous and benevolent philanthropist in his giving of hundreds of millions of dollars to schools, libraries, arts and music centers, and other educational and recreational facilities. However, I believe it would have been more ethical to be more generous to his workers in the factories than to just the common person. He could have may be raised their wages and cut their hours, or given them a few days off, more than once a year, if he really wanted to help them. The libraries and theaters are nice, but higher wages would have decreased the struggle to provide his workers faced.
Overall I think Carnegie’s good outweighs his bad, and without him the second industrial revolution would have died out sooner and less progressed. His donations have allowed many people to better themselves, who might not have had that chance without his trust funds and libraries. Carnegie really was the giant of industry during the second industrial revolution.