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Andrew Carnegie is a prime example of Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is basically the belief that hard work leads to success and those who fail only have themselves to blame. Carnegie was from Scotland, where his father was a weaver. Carnegie and his father moved to western Pennsylvania in 1848. Carnegie started out relatively poor and worked his way up. He held several jobs, where he saved his money and learned the techniques of running a business by observing the way the companies he worked for ran. By 1873, Andrew Carnegie had opened his own steel company in Pittsburgh. Eventually dominating the steel industry, and becoming one of the wealthiest and most famous industrialists during this time period.
At the young age of thirteen, Carnegie worked in a textile mill. At this job he only made approximately $1.20 each week. Until 1853, he also worked as a telegraph messenger. As a telegraph messenger he made approximately $2.50 each week. In 1853, he decided to start working for the Pennsylvania railroad. At this job he took advantage of the resources available to him. He carefully observed the management techniques and later used this knowledge and these methods when he created his own business. Carnegie advanced in his job at the Pennsylvania railroad because of his determination to learn how the business was run. After he decided that he had earned and saved enough money, he quit his job at the Pennsylvania railroad and began managing his own investments. Carnegie not only had investments in railroads, but also in telegraphs and oil as well. Soon he turned his interests to investing in iron and steel. He began first in building bridges, then he turned his attention to the steel itself.
Another method Carnegie used in order to build his steel business into the large industry it became was a technological innovation. This innovation was known as the Bessemer process or the Bessemer convertor. The Bessemer process was originally invented in England in 1856. It allowed for the conversion of pig iron into steel. By using this process, it eliminated a few of the steps that previously had to be used in order to convert pig iron into steel. Thus, making steel much cheaper to make and because it was cheaper to make more and more people began using it. Carnegie capitalized on the Bessemer process. By 1880, the United States was able to produce approximately 1.4 million tons of steel per year. This was a huge difference from the approximated thirteen thousand tons of steel that could be produced in 1860.
Carnegie had taken notice in some of the methods Rockefeller used to gain his fortune and began using very similar tactics in his own business. At this point Carnegie has saved quite a bit of his money. Similar to Rockefeller, he used the large amounts of money he had saved to buy out other steel companies when the economy had hit a rough time. Henry Clay Frick was Carnegie’s associate. With Frick as his associate he bought several coal mines along with railroads after leasing part of the Mesabi iron range in Minnesota and establishing a fleet of ore ships on the Great Lakes. Carnegie’s steel industry flourished so well because he was always looking ahead. He preferred the newest equipment and always spoke to employees about the necessity of expansion and innovation.
With Carnegie being such a successful businessman, there were bound to be some problems. In 1892, a strike against Carnegie happened known as the Homestead Steel Strike. Pinkerton were hired in order to replace the union strikers. The pinkertons were actually a detective agency but to businesses they were really only hired “muscle” used to break the strikes. During this strike a shootout happened. Six workers and three pinkertons were killed. When the strike began to come under control, Carnegie’s associate Henry Clay Frick was shot and wounded. Frick was shot by an Anarchist who believed that the government was essentially an oppressive device to the working class and that it should be gotten rid of.
Carnegie was not only a businessman but also a philanthropist. His philosophy on the place of big business in American life is what he is presumably most known for. In his essay The Gospel of Wealth, he argues that differences between successful business like himself and common laborers like his employees, was not indeed a problem but showed that the system was working properly. He also believed that the very rich had obligations to give their excess money to the public good and not simply just be given to the poor. His strong belief in social Darwinism had a lot to do with this. Therefore, he gave to public institutions that allowed for human progress. This way people could help themselves. Carnegie gave large sums of money to several institutions including: universities, hospitals, concert halls, libraries, parks, and churches. All of the institutions he gave money to were places where the public could benefit.
Eventually in 1901, Carnegie sold his business to the banker J.P. Morgan. He sold it for $450 million. Morgan then merged the business Carnegie had built with other steel companies and formed the United States Steel Corporation. The U.S Steel corporation was a 14-billion-dollar enterprise that ended up controlling approximately two-thirds of the nation’s steel production.
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