Rags To Riches – Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspire your hopes”Andrew Carnegie

Born on November 25, 1835 in Scotland, Andrew Carnegie is a true example of rags to riches story that inspires everybody. He was born to a poor hand-loom weaver, who with sheer hard work and business acumen went on to become the richest person in the world. He is one of the person who have been credited as the “builders” of America.

Early Life

His family migrated to the Allegheny, Pennsylvania, US in 1848 where he took a job as a worker in a cotton mill changing spools of thread. His next job was as a telegraph messenger boy. From the early age he was very interested in reading books. His uncle introduced him to the writings of Robert Burns and William Wallace which deeply influenced him. Later when Colonel James Anderson opened his own personal library of 400 volumes to working boys each Saturday night, his passion for reading and education got a big boost. He was so impressed with the impact of books and education that when he got wealthy and started philanthropic activities, donating to libraries became his main focus.

In 1853 he started working as telegraph operator in Pennsylvania Railroad Company. By 1859 with his hard work he rose to the position of superintendent. This was the job that gave him his first lessons of management and cost control, which later turned out to be very vital for his success. He started investing in the companies known through his inside contacts and slowly accumulated capital, the basis of his later success.

Success Story

During the time of civil war (1860-1865) there was a huge demand for iron products, Carnegie worked to establish a steel rolling mill. After this the steel production became the source of his fortune. He named his company Keystone Bridge Company and made handsome profits by getting contracts through his old acquaintances in the railroads. He made some great innovations in the steel industry by adapting Bessemer process for steel making. In 1880’s he bought some of his competitors and later merged with his own company and formed Carnegie Steel Company.

In 1901 he retired after selling Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480 million. This amount was equivalent to $13.8 billion in 2016.

Personal Life

Carnegie was so close to his mother and wanted to look after her failing health that he did not even married during her life. He married Louise Whitfield at the age of 51 and went on to have a daughter with her. He was very passionate about education and turned a philanthropist after selling his business. He donated 90% of his wealth for various charitable purposes.

His main thrust of philanthropic activities was his focus on establishment of public libraries throughout US, Britain and Canada. He is said to have funded some 3000 libraries. He also donated to help set up University of Birmingham in 1899. In 1900, he gave $2 million to start Carnegie Institute of Technology. He also funded Carnegie Institution at Washington D.C., Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and Carnegie United Kingdom Trust.

Carnegie died on August 11, 1919 in Massachusetts due to pneumonia. Before his death he had donated $350,695,653 (approximately $76.9 billion in 2015). His rich philosophy to the life was:

  • To spend the first third of one’s life in getting all the education one can.
  • To spend next third life making all the money one can.
  • To spend the last third in donating it all away for worthy causes.

Related article: Rags To Riches – Oprah Winfrey

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