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The Life, Entrepreneurship, and Philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie, a memorable name in American modern times. The great man had a lot titles during his lifetime — a self-made steel tycoon, the richest of 19th century, an inspirational elocutionist, a well-known philanthropist. He contributed his whole life to building his legendary “American Dream”. Carnegie’s autobiography shows us his spectacular life from his 4 different stages — early life, entrepreneurship, politics career, donation enterprise. Additionally, his paper “The Gospel of Wealth” reveals his lofty money value for us. April shower brings May flowers. 

The early life both in Scotland and the United State is harsh for little Carnegie because of poverty. Andrew Carnegie was born on a poor weaver’s family in Dunfermline. The invention of weaving machine forced his father jobless when Carnegie was a child. For more opportunities, his father moved the entire family to Pennsylvania, in 1848 during the first industrialization phase. The life in US was neither easy. Carnegie’s father was hired by a small cotton factory while he soon quit to star up linens home-made business and sell them door to door. The terrible environment drove young Carnegie enter the cotton factory for a job. Carnegie lost his father in 1855 when he was only 20 years old. It is really hard to imagine how painful it is for such a young boy to lose his father under poverty. However, poverty did not collapse young Carnegie. From his autobiography, he was inspired by his mother so that he could walk on a right path. Andrew Carnegie’s mother was a remarkable woman who had a profound influence on her son’s early life. Margaret Carnegie was a strong and hard-working women. She boosted the family income by cobbling shoes which is a skill she had learned in her youth from Andrew’s grandfather when her husband experienced a failure on the weave trade. Margaret had high expectation for her sons and was fiercely proud of them. She strongly refused her relatives’ suggestions that the young Andrew contribute to the family coffers by peddling ‘knick-knacks’, “she flew into a rage, crying, ‘What? my son a pedlar and go among rough men upon the wharves! I would rather throw him into the Allegheny River!’” It was very luck for Andrew Carnegie to own a wise mother as well as a talent scout in his early career. Starting in 1853, Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company employed Carnegie. “Tomas A Scott, one to whom the term ‘genius’ in his department may safely be applied”. His employment by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company could be vital to his later success. The railroad was the first big business in America, and the Pennsylvania was one of the largest of them all. Carnegie leaned much about management and cost control during these years, and from Scott in particular. Even many years later, Carnegie and Scott went their separate ways because of unsolvable contradicts, Andrew Carnegie still valued Mr Scott as his teacher. From a poor Scottish immigration to one of the 3 biggest monopoly titans in the United State, Andrew Carnegie accomplished a perfect counterattack during his lifetime. From his biography, his success is due to 3 vital parts — his good personalities, proficient skills coming from Second Industrial Revolution, and 19th American times background. The Scottish man had strong will to learn new knowledge which contributed to his promotion in his different stages. His learning capacities made him outstanding among his peers at a very young age. Carnegie worked in a cotton factory with $1.20 per week at 13. The next year he found a job as a telegraph messenger after he controlled telegram. In order to advance his career, he succeed to a become telegraph operator at year of 18. young Carnegie had s an eager approach to reading. He took advantage of Mr Colonel James Anderson, the gentleman who built a public free library for local youngsters to voraciously study knowledge. 

At Andrew Carnegie’s 20s, reading played a major role in his education as he was rapidly promoted. His diligence and leaning capacity made him appreciated by Tomas Scott. Through experience of working with Mr Scott, Carnegie gradually had a knowledge of the railroad industry and business. Andrew Carnegie’s huge steel empire was built based on the technology inventions from the Second Industrial Revolution. Carnegie himself kept exposed to new industrial outcomes and new knowledge through his lifetime. Carnegie designed plants through the United State with technology and methods which improve steel manufacturing efficiency and productivity. In the manufacturing process, he prepared everything fundamental to the building project: the raw materials, ships and railroads for goods transportation, and even coal areas to fuel the steel furnaces. One of his two great innovations was in the cheap and efficient mass production steel by adopting the Bessemer process for steel making. Times produce their heroes. The success of Andrew Carnegie was closely connected to the special history background of America in 19th. Three historical titans— Andrew Carnegie(steel), John Davison Rockefeller(petroleum), John Pierpont Morgan(finance) built their legendary career almost at the same times. Among them, Carnegie and Rockefeller built up from nothing. After America bounced back from a long civil war, a thousand things waited to be done. 

Andrew Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry, controlling the most extensive integrated iron and steel operations ever owned by an individual in the United States. The Second Industrial Revolution which happened at the end of the 19th also provided his corporation with advanced skills. Even though Carnegie himself did not receive a high education, he used skills coming from industrial revolution to build infrastructure such as bridges, railroads, and skyscrapers for the United States. When it comes to the Homestead Strike, there is an obvious bias between Andrew Carnegie’s statements in his autobiography and the primary digital resource coming from Digital Public Library of America. In his autobiography, Carnegie was not ware of the violent issue because he was in Scotland. He was deeply sorry of Homestead Strike, “Nothing I have ever had to meet in all my life, before or since, wounded me so deeply.” He also attributed this tragic to the workers’ voracity that they asked for unrealistic additional salaries.“It very rightly declined. Had I been at home nothing would have induced me to yield to this unfair attempt to extort” However, the primary resources from the Digital Public Library of America indicates a totally different statement. “He (Henry Frick) constructed a fence around the steel mill at Homestead, shut down operations, and laid off hundreds of workers, leading to an official lockout by June 30.” It seems like Henry Frick, Carnegie’s chief executive officer, not the workers, lead a violence conflict after the workers refused to sign the new contract. These statements absolutely built on the opposite standpoints. Personally speaking, maybe the Digital Library’s comments are more convincing. I believe that Carnegie deeply mourned for the victims in Homestead Strike from his heart. However, I do not consider that Henry Frick dared to recruit scabs to fight with workers without Carnegie’s connive. No one is a pure saint. 

Andrew Carnegie could be an influential philanthropist in later years while a cruel even horrible employer in early years. ‘I should consider it a disgrace to die a rich man’ said by Andrew Carnegie in“Gospel of Wealth”. For the magnate, the gospel of wealth is duty of charity by the new upper class. Carnegie insisted that the best way of solving the wealth inequality in the United States was to redistribute the wealth’s surplus in the whole society. Carnegie proposed that the wealthy had a responsibility to better the country by caring for the poor. However, he never advocated merely giving donations to the poor. Rather, Carnegie considered that the wealthy are supposed to provide means and knowledge by which the poor could find an opportunity on their own. Actually, Andrew Carnegie did practice what he advocated in his later years. From 1901 forward, public attention was turned from the shrewd business acumen which had enabled Carnegie to accumulate such a fortune, to the public-spirited way in which he devoted himself to utilizing it on philanthropic project. With his many philanthropic efforts, the establishment of public libraries throughout the United States, Britain, Canada and other English-speaking countries became possible. 

In 1919, Andrew Carnegie passed away in Lenox, Massachusetts, and his autobiography was published in 1920. How to make a final judgement for the steel-magnate has been a controversial issue for a long run. Someone phrase his accomplishment of building up such an empire from nothing while someone criticize him that he raked in more than a billion by exploiting his workers, stealing from the competition and cheating his partners. Whatever, no one can doubt the controversial figure dedicated his power to promoting the United States to a high level society in modern times. 

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