British-born US industrialist and philanthropist who used his personal fortune, derived largely from the steel industry, to finance a variety of charitable institutions.
Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, but his family moved to the USA in 1848 to settle in Allegheny, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of thirteen, Carnegie started work in a cotton factory but soon moved to become a messenger with a local telegraph company. Joining the Pennsylvania Railroad in Pittsburgh, he rose to become superintendent (1853–65), during which time he successfully introduced the first sleeping cars. Meanwhile he was investing his money in Storey Farm at Oil Creek, Pa., which duly yielded oil and a good return for Carnegie. In 1865 he co-founded the Keystone Bridge Company to manufacture iron railroad bridges and he also became a partner in an iron foundry. From these beginnings, the Carnegie Steel Company developed into a massive industrial complex near Pittsburgh. In 1892, the Homestead mill was the scene of a bitter industrial dispute that delivered a severe blow to the labour unions. In 1901, Carnegie sold out to John P. Morgan for an estimated $500 million.
Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth (1889) stated his belief that personal wealth should be used to benefit society as a whole; from the 1880s to the end of his life he put this into practice. Over 2500 public libraries in the USA, Britain, and Canada were funded by Carnegie, the first beneficiary being his home town in 1882. He also endowed a host of charitable foundations, the largest of which, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, disburses about $15 million annually for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge. Other bodies include the Carnegie Institute, Washington, and the Carnegie UK Trust. The Carnegie Institute of Technology, formed in 1912 in Pittsburgh, now forms part of the Carnegie–Mellon University. His concern with world peace prompted him to finance the Hague Peace Palace as well as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Subjects: Arts and Humanities.