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Andrew Carnegie


1835 - 1919

Iron and steel magnate, 'robber baron' and great philanthropist. Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, in Fife. Unable to earn a living as a handloom weaver, his father emigrated with his family to Pittsburgh in 1848. Carnegie began as a telegraph messenger boy at the age of 14. He later began to invest in railways, iron and steel. He ruthlessly grew his business, the Carnegie Steel Company in Pittsburgh, which came to dominate the market in the USA. His approach was sometimes contradictory; on one hand he was a benevolent employer who supported workers' rights but he also tried to destroy unions and allowed his business partner Henry Frick to reduce wages and increase working hours to increase profits.

Having become the richest man in the world of his time, Carnegie retired and sold his business to J.P. Morgan for $480 million in 1901 (which equates to $370 billion today). He then proceeded to give his wealth away, taking the view that a man who died wealthy died unfulfilled. He gave a considerable proportion of his fortune to the benefit of Scotland, including substantial educational endowments, as well as funding many libraries and purchasing more than 10,000 church organs.

He also became committed to world peace, and led an anti-imperialist group opposed to the exploitation of the former Spanish colonies gained by the USA after the Spanish-American War (1898). He offered to buy the Philippines for $20 million in order to give its people freedom from colonial domination (1900). He was given the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1887 and the Freedom of Stirling in 1902.

After his retirement, he spent much time on his Highland estate at Skibo Castle, but died in Massachusetts and lies buried in White Plains, New York.


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