Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry

When reading about Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry in USA, you might think he actually came from America and not realise that he was born in Dunfermline in the Kingdom of Fife, in Scotland, (the same town incidentally as the singer/actress Barbara Dickson.

What you probably DO know is that it was through his hard work and innovative business approach within the steel industry that he went on to become the 'richest man in the world'. Although I knew ABOUT Andrew Carnegie, I have now become fascinated with his story. Known as a 'man of steel', it has been clear by his unbelievable philanthropy that he also had a 'heart of gold'.

Bust of Andrew Carnegie at the Museum.

Bust of Andrew Carnegie at Museum

I spent a wonderful few hours at the Carnegie Birthplace and Museum in Dunfermline, near the Abbey. After a nice cup of fresh coffee, the extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide transported me back to Andrew's upbringing in that wee cottage.

Seeing the wee room in which he was born and brought up, the working loom, and moving on to the incredible journey across the Atlantic (not exactly QM 2 standard) was amazing.

It really is well worth a visit if you can spare the time! You'll find a great deal of information about Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry, but you might know like me, that he was a great philanthropist, but what I didn't realise was how many people benefited from his Trust Fund TODAY! I was particularly moved about the "Hero Fund Trust" which was displayed in a short 10 minute movie.

Me outside Carnegie's birthplace in Dunfermline.

Outside Carnegies birthplace in Dunfermline

He was born on November 25, 1835. The son of a poor jacquard loom weaver. But work became scarce, with the weaving industry in decline, and the family looked at beginning a new life in America.

Andrew Carnegie and his brother Thomas

Andrew and Thomas Carnegie

Andrew entered into self-education which, following his emigration with his family to the United States in 1848, helped him to go on to make millions in the Steel Industry. At age thirteen, Carnegie went to work as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill. He then moved rapidly through a succession of jobs with Western Union and the Pennsylvania Railroad.
In 1865, and fiercely ambitious, he resigned to establish his own business enterprises and eventually organized the Carnegie Steel Company, launching the steel industry in Pittsburgh. The Industrial Revolution had arrived; and Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry became a formidable combination.

At age sixty-five, he sold the company to J. P. Morgan for $480 million and devoted the rest of his life to his philanthropic activities and writing, including his autobiography.

He had married a young American woman, Louise Whitfield, and brought her to Scotland for their honeymoon. They visited Scotland regularly over the next ten years. In 1897 Louise gave birth to their first and only child. Carnegie was overjoyed at becoming a father and made an immediate decision. "Margaret must have a Scottish home!" It was suggested that Andrew buy Skibo Castle, but he wasn't very convinced, as it was in a dilapidated state, but driving up the beech-lined avenue, he was captivated. Skibo would be his “Faery Glen”, his own place of peace.

Andrew Carnegie at Skibo Castle

Andrew Carnegie at Skibo Castle

The purchase price was £85,000 and over the next few years a further £2 million was spent, creating a majestic baronial mansion house featuring towers, turrets and battlements, with one hundred rooms. The very latest domestic appliances and modern technology from America were installed including up to date bathrooms and plumbing systems, an electric lift (installed personally by Mr. Otis) and a glass roofed swimming pavilion, beside the loch, with a full length, Olympic size heated indoor pool.

There was a vast estate of 20,000 acres on the shores of Loch Evelix and the Dornoch Firth. Louise was particularly interested in planning a beautiful garden and no expense was spared to create a series of rolling lawns, herbaceous borders, orchards, woodland walks, greenhouses, ponds with, of course, a waterfall, all in true Scottish country house fashion. For the next twenty years, until his death in 1919, he enjoyed the happiest years of his life at Skibo, which he described as "Heaven on Earth".

Skibo Castle received much publicity when Madonna marrried Guy Ritchie there in the Carnegie Club in December 2000.

Although he enjoyed his wealth, Andrew Carnegie declared publicly that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes. In 1889 he wrote The Gospel of Wealth, in which he asserted that all personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community. He famously said:-

"No man can become rich

without himself enriching others."

Carnegie set about disposing of his fortune through innumerable personal gifts and through the establishment of various trusts. In his thirties, Carnegie had already begun to give away some of his fast-accumulating funds.

Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry might be how he is known throughout the world, but he is also seen as a brilliant industrialist, a generous millionaire, a great philanthropist.

But what is special for us here in Fife is that although he made his fortune being known as "Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry", he NEVER forgot Dunfermline, the town of his birth, which he described as "the most sacred spot to me on earth" and his first large gifts were given to Dunfermline. In 1903, he founded the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust “to bring into the monotonous lives of the toiling masses of Dunfermline, more of sweetness and light.”

He made funds available for workers’ pensions, church organs and the building of libraries, and well as buying Pittencrieff Estate (where he had been refused entry as a child) for the people of the town. The estate now forms Pittencrieff Park just west of the Abbey and Palace, and Pittencrieff House has become a well-known and fascinating museum. Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline hosts many cultural activities.

So the work of Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry and his philanthropic spirit left a real and lasting legacy for his home town.

In 1895 the Birthplace Cottage was bought as a surprise 60th birthday present for Andrew Carnegie by his wife Louise and then let out to tenants.

With the creation of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust in 1903, a caretaker was installed and in 1908 it was first opened to the public.

In 1909 Andrew Carnegie wrote in the visitors book 'First visit to my birthplace. The humble home of honest poverty... Best heritage when one has a heroine for a mother.' In the following year, formal title to 'Carnegie's Cottage,' as it was then known, was transferred from Mrs. Louise Carnegie to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust.

So from his humble beginnings, Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry changed not only his own fortune but the lives of many other people even after his death.

Carnegie Museum in Dunfermline

Carnegie Museum, Dunfermline

Later he created seven philanthropic and educational organizations in the United States, including Carnegie Corporation of New York, and several more in Europe.

One of Carnegie's lifelong interests was the establishment of free public libraries to make available to everyone a means of self-education. There were only a few public libraries in the world when, in 1881, Carnegie began to promote his idea. He and the Corporation subsequently spent over $56 million to build 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world. During his lifetime, Carnegie gave away over $350 million. He died in Lenox, Massachusetts, on August 11, 1919.

Although Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry influenced the whole industrial revolution, today he is remembered as an industrialist, millionaire, and philanthropist. Andrew believed that the wealthy had an obligation to give back to society, so he donated much of his fortune to causes like education and peace.

If you have enjoyed reading 'Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry - See also the following pages:-

Alexander Fleming - His discovery of Penicillin changed the world.
Barbara Dickson - The famous singer and actress from Dunfermline.
Ian Rankin - The novelist and author of the famous Inspector Rebus Books.
Jack Vettriano - The painter from Methil in Fife has reached international fame with his wonderful art.
Jimmy Shand - The famous Band Leader, also from Auchtermuchty. The legend of his music lives on.
The Proclaimers - The twin brother singing duo from Auchtermuchty, who made famous the song 'if I could walk 500 miles'.
Gordon Brown - Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was raised and educated in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

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