Andrew Carnegie is the excellent biography of empire builder and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie written by history professor Joseph Frazier Wall.
Carnegie represents a classic rags-to- riches story. Born in Scotland in 1848, his family were forced to immigrate to the US as they could not find work in Scotland. After the death of his father, Carnegie became the main family breadwinner at age 20. He avoided fighting in the civil war by sending a replacement to fight for him which was quite common among the rich.
Carnegie later went on to lead the massive expansion of the steel industry in America making him a self-made tycoon and one of the wealthiest businessmen in the US in the 19th century. Many of his business dealings are summarized and explained in the biography with the motives for his decisions clearly observed. Wall omits the very technical aspects of the business dealings which make the book accessible to all readers.
He continued to become richer by selling his business interests in 1901, and much of his early life was entirely consumed by his work and business leaving little space for personal life details. His contradictory decisions included supporting workers’ rights while simultaneously destroying unions.
Following the sale of his business to the United States Steel Corporation, Carnegie then devoted much of his life to philanthropic causes making a huge impact on international peace.
“I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.”
Libraries were one of his favorite causes, creating over 2,500 libraries and donating over $5 million to the New York Public Library. Unfortunately, World War I came as a massive blow to him and he passed away in 1919.
Striking the perfect balance between personal life and his financial achievements, Joseph Wall’s biography ‘Andrew Carnegie’ is a well-researched and well written account of the life of one of the wealthiest people in the US.