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Biography

Andrew Carnegie working at a desk

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born in Scotland on November 25, 1835 and immigrated to America with his parents and brother at age 13. He educated himself by using public libraries, a rare opportunity at the time, and amassed a fortune in the steel business.

Carnegie has been criticized for being stingy with the workers who earned his fortunes for him. Some may have considered him to be a ruthless cost-cutter and union buster. The Homestead Steel Strike, occurring at one of Carnegie’s facilities as a result of a wage dispute, left 10 people dead. Although Carnegie was not found to be responsible for the incident, it helped to shape union families’ distrust of Carnegie and that distrust extends to this day. Moreover, Carnegie left the same business partner from the Homestead strike in charge of a dam in Johnstown and the resulting flooding in that incident killed over 2,000 people and maimed countless more.

Key Contributions

Philanthropy was of central importance to Carnegie, and he spent a significant part of his adult life giving away his large fortune to numerous causes. In addition to the numerous public libraries he has funded, his legacy also includes a multitude of foundations and universities which are still in existence today.

Although he was not considered an abolitionist during the civil war, he donated substantial sums to historically African American universities rather than schools such as Harvard or Yale. Carnegie is a role model for immigrants, and his legacy is generally considered to be positive.

Individuals with diverse backgrounds look up to Carnegie for his business acumen and his philanthropic ventures. His donations have funded medical research (leading to the discovery of insulin), supported children’s early learning (the creation of Sesame Street), and provided the impetus for a basic form of college financial aid (the Pell Grant).

Carnegie lived in the north at the time of the Civil War, but rather than enlist, he hired a substitute. Although this practice was common for wealthy men at the time, it may draw ire from those who examine Carnegie’s life now.

Relevant Historical Context

The school was built in 1958. At that time in Tulsa, citizens were turning their focus toward the city’s culture and seeking to make Tulsa a better place to live. Carnegie’s contributions to education for all are consistent with that goal.


References

Andrew Carnegie. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.history.co.uk/biographies/andrew-carnegie

Carnegie Corporation of New York. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.carnegie.org/

Schwartz, S. (2017). Andrew Carnegie - Steel Magnate and the Richest Man in the World. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/andrew-carnegie-p2-1779857

Tulsa History. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tulsahistory.org/

1892 Homestead Strike. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aflcio.org/about/history/labor-history-events/1892-homestead-strike