Andrew Carnegie


Andrew Carnegie : biography

November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919

In 1886, Carnegie wrote his most radical work to date, entitled Triumphant Democracy. Liberal in its use of statistics to make its arguments, the book argued his view that the American republican system of government was superior to the British monarchical system. It gave a highly favorable and idealized view of American progress and criticized the British royal family. The cover depicted an upended royal crown and a broken scepter. The book created considerable controversy in the UK. The book made many Americans appreciate their country’s economic progress and sold over 40,000 copies, mostly in the U.S.

In 1889, Carnegie published in the June issue of the North American Review. After reading it, Gladstone requested its publication in England, where it appeared as "The Gospel of Wealth" in the Pall Mall Gazette. The article was the subject of much discussion. Carnegie argued that the life of a wealthy industrialist should comprise two parts. The first part was the gathering and the accumulation of wealth. The second part was for the subsequent distribution of this wealth to benevolent causes. The philanthropy was key to making the life worthwhile.

Carnegie was a well-regarded writer. He published three books on travel.Swetnam, George (1980) Andrew Carnegie. Twayne Publishers.


While Carnegie did not comment on British imperialism, he very strongly opposed the idea of American colonies. He strongly opposed the annexation of the Philippines, almost to the point of supporting William Jennings Bryan against McKinley in 1900. In 1898, Carnegie tried to arrange for independence for the Philippines. As the end of the Spanish American War neared, the United States bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million. To counter what he perceived as imperialism on the part of the United States, Carnegie personally offered $20 million to the Philippines so that the Filipino people could buy their independence from the United States. PBS. However, nothing came of the offer. Carnegie worked with other conservatives who founded the American Anti-Imperialist League, which included former presidents of the United States Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison and literary figures like Mark Twain.Robert P. Porter Industrial Cuba, p. 43, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899Katherine Hirschfeld Health, Politics and Revolution in Cuba, p. 117, Transaction Publishers, 2008 ISBN 978-1-4128-0863-7

1901–1919: Philanthropist

Carnegie spent his last years as a philanthropist. 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 projects. He had written about his views on social subjects and the responsibilities of great wealth in Triumphant Democracy (1886) and Gospel of Wealth (1889). Carnegie bought Skibo Castle in Scotland, and made his home partly there and partly in New York. He then devoted his life to providing the capital for purposes of public interest and social and educational advancement.

He was a powerful supporter of the movement for spelling reform as a means of promoting the spread of the English language.

Among his many philanthropic efforts, the establishment of public libraries throughout the United States, Britain, Canada and other English-speaking countries was especially prominent. The first Carnegie library opened in 1883 in Dunfermline. His method was to build and equip, but only on condition that the local authority matched that by providing the land and a budget for operation and maintenance. To secure local interest, in 1885, he gave $500,000 to Pittsburgh for a public library, and in 1886, he gave $250,000 to Allegheny City for a music hall and library; and $250,000 to Edinburgh for a free library. In total Carnegie funded some 3,000 libraries, located in 47 US states, and also in Canada, the United Kingdom, what is now the Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, and Fiji. He also donated £50,000 to help set up the University of Birmingham in 1899.Peter Mickelson, "American Society and the Public Library in the Thought of Andrew Carnegie," Journal of Library History (1975) 10#2 pp 117-138.