Fatality Rate, in Andrew Carnegie's Steel Mills?

Fatality Rate, in Andrew Carnegie's Steel Mills?

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Between 1885 and 1900, what percentage of Andrew Carnegie's steel workers died on the job annually?

the Economist.
Fatal accidents in the steel mills, he calculates, accounted for 20% of all male deaths in Pittsburgh in the 1880s. Newspaper lists of men killed and wounded each year were as long as a casualty list for a small battle in the American civil war.


"Labor and Steel".
In 1920 the mortality rate in iron and steel was nearly twice the rate in general manufacturing, according to the Prudential Insurance Co. of America.

for laborers the most important occupation aumerically it is more than twice the average.*

The sickness risk in steel is bigger than the accident risk. Excess deaths from pneumonia alone were nearly as numer- ous in the industry in 1929 as all deaths from accidents ; and the severity rate for non-fatal cases of sickness has been higher than the severity rate for non- fatal accidents in the only steel plant which is known to compile sickness severity rates, Middletown plant of the American Rolling Mill Co. 18

What percentage of their work force did they lose annually?

( I chose those dates because they represented to my mind the most dangerous period in one of the most dangerous industries. As labor was loosing what little influence they had and before modest reforms began after 1907. )

Steel workers industry wide 1898, 9% died on the job annually. I found this on a history channel production.

From “The Men Who Built America”, S01E07 “Taking the White House”. Counter 00:03:48


90% of Americans survive on less than $100 dollars per month. Average American worker earns barely $1 per day, well below the poverty line. In a single year one out of eleven steel works will die on the job.

Biography of Andrew Carnegie, Steel Magnate

Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835–August 11, 1919) was a steel magnate, leading industrialist, and philanthropist. With a keen focus on cost-cutting and organization, Carnegie was often regarded as a ruthless robber baron, though he eventually withdrew from business to devote himself to donating money to various philanthropic causes.

Fast Facts: Andrew Carnegie

  • Known For: Carnegie was a preeminent steel magnate and a major philanthropist.
  • Born: November 25, 1835 in Drumferline, Scotland
  • Parents: Margaret Morrison Carnegie and William Carnegie
  • Died: August 11, 1919 in Lenox, Massachusetts
  • Education: Free School in Dunfermline, night school, and self-taught through Colonel James Anderson's library
  • Published Works: An American Four-in-hand in Britain, Triumphant Democracy, The Gospel of Wealth, The Empire of Business, Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie
  • Awards and Honors: Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Glasgow, honorary doctorate, University of Groningen, the Netherlands. The following are all named for Andrew Carnegie: the dinosaur Diplodocus carnegii, the cactus Carnegiea gigantea, the Carnegie Medal children’s literature award, Carnegie Hall in New York City, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
  • Spouse(s): Louise Whitfield
  • Children: Margaret
  • Notable Quote: “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

How Did Andrew Carnegie Treat His Workers?

Many accounts of Andrew Carnegie state that he exploited his workers, subjecting them to long hours, a dangerous workplace, and low pay. Many workers in his steel mills worked for 12 hours per day, seven days a week, and were cast aside when they were no longer physically able to meet the demands of the workplace.

Andrew Carnegie made his fortune through the production of steel. He was the first manufacturer to control every aspect of his product's development, from the raw materials to the technology used to refine it. Because of this, he was able to build a large number of factories and supply jobs to those willing to work. However, laborers that worked for Carnegie Steel often received low pay and had a tough time keeping a decent standard of living. These workers also worked extremely long hours in dangerous factory conditions where injuries were common.

The working conditions in Carnegie's mills were so dangerous that 20 percent of deaths among men in Pittsburgh during the 1880s were due to steelwork accidents. Carnegie came across as uncaring when casualties happened. When a machine exploded, killing several of his workers, he expressed more concern for the loss of production caused by the incident than for the loss of life. Despite these tough working conditions, his employees faced a 30 percent pay reduction in 1892.

Many of Carnegie's employees worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Despite this, Carnegie would push for them to work longer hours, while trying to lower their wages. Those who were unable to meet the physical demands of the job had their employment terminated.

These working conditions led to the Homestead Strike, during which many of the strikers expressed their opposition to the working conditions and low pay in Carnegie's steel mills. This violent strike ended in a dozen deaths and helped Carnegie and other business tycoons maintain control over workers by denying them the right to unionize. Carnegie chose to fight unions and collective bargaining because he earned more money by maintaining control over the wages of his workers. The workers' rights movement suffered greatly because of Carnegie and his work.

Confusingly, Carnegie was also a philanthropist. In addition to being remembered for his tough working conditions and unfair treatment, he was also known for establishing 2,811 libraries in his lifetime, giving to many charitable foundations, and providing 7,689 churches with organs to accompany their services. All told, Carnegie gave away the majority of his fortune, which today would be worth over 100 billion dollars.

Carnegie, Louise (1857-1946)

The success of the public Carnegie Libraries played a great role in encouraging the development of libraries nationally, and many of the nation’s largest systems owe something to the Carnegie’s generosity.

Courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Biographical Introduction

What a story! The wife of the richest man in the world, Andrew Carnegie, owner of the Carnegie Steel Corporation, enthusiastically advised her husband to stop making money and to start giving away his fortune by helping communities in America and beyond to build free public libraries. Andrew Carnegie and Lousie Whitfield were married in her home by the Rev. Dr. Charles H. Eaton, minster of the bride’s family Universalist Church of the Divine Paternity in New York City.

Louise advised Andrew as they jointly helped the creation of more than 2,500 libraries between 1883 and 1929. 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, and Fiji. The first of these free libraries was built in Scotland, where Andrew was born. A motto was carved at the entrance, “Let there be light”.

All these libraries’ architectural style was determined by local residents, but all of them had the innovation of open stacks that encouraged browsing. 31 of the 39 buildings of the New York Public Library are still in operation. These Carnegie free libraries reportedly led to the establishment of at least 75% of all of the free libraries in America. Among their strongest supporters were local women’s clubs.

If a town or city wanted to establish a Carnegie Library it had to meet four requirements:

  1. Demonstrate the need for a free public library
  2. Provide a site for the building
  3. Provide 10% of the cost of construction
  4. Provide free service to all

Obituary of Louise Carnegie

When Louise Whitfield Carnegie, who was born March 7, 1857, died on June 24, 1946, the following obituary was released by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The text is included here courtesy of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

On Tuesday, June 24, Mrs. Andrew Carnegie died at her home in New York City, in her eighty-ninth year. This brought to an end a long and exceptional life of great distinction and fine living. Although since the death of her husband in 1919 Mrs. Carnegie had seldom visited Pittsburgh, she was known to many here for her high purpose, kindliness, and nobility of character. Notwithstanding the great wealth and prominence of her husband, she played her individual part in all his philanthropies as a counselor and an enthusiastic co-planner in his hopes for the betterment of the human race. She was self-effacing in her own benefactions, which were many, but fully lived up to what she felt to be the responsibilities placed upon her by her opportunities for service. A true lady in the old fashioned sense of the word, she was most gracious and kindly to all with whom she came in contact and could well be taken as an outstanding example of American womanhood.

Mrs. Carnegie Dies at 89 in New York.

Mrs. Andrew Carnegie, 89, widow of the steel maker and philanthropist, died today at her Fifth Ave. mansion in New York City, according to an Associated Press report. A retiring woman, whose philanthropies always were conducted quietly, she had been in failing health for more than a year. A daughter, Mrs. Roswell Miller of New York, was at her bedside. A granddaughter, Mrs. Gordon Thompson, flew from England May 12 to be with her.

Visited Pittsburgh.

During her last public appearance in Pittsburgh, years ago, Mrs. Carnegie looked at the institutions of learning and culture her husband had given the city, and declared: “Here is the best conception of the idea of the brotherhood of man. I have never enjoyed a visit to any part of the world as I have this visit to Pittsburgh.” The former Louise Whitfield of New York, she had married Mr. Carnegie in 1887󈞒 years after he came to Pittsburgh from Scotland to work as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory. He had hitched his wagon to the rising stars of iron and steel and was a wealthy but lonely man. Gave Away Half Billion.

Soon after their marriage he became the richest man the world has ever seen and one of the happiest. Speaking of his life with his ‘beloved Lou,’ Carnegie said: “Why, oh why, are we compelled to leave the heaven we have found on earth and go we know not where?” With his wife’s help Carnegie also became a great philanthropist. In the 18 years from 1901 to 1919 he gave away the bulk of his fortune of half a billion dollars at the rate of $25,000,000 a year.

Many Beneficiaries.

His beneficiaries included old employees, old friends, educational institutions, organizations for world peace, several nations, a United States President, three President’s wives, a British prime minister and the City of Pittsburgh.

The various money-giving corporations which he established still pour out from four to five million dollars a year.

One night in August, 1919, after Mrs. Carnegie had said good night to her husband, he sank into his last sleep. He was buried on top of a small hill in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery near Tarrytown, N.Y.

Lived in Scotland.

During the last 27 years, Mrs. Carnegie led a quiet, retiring life in New York and Scotland. She met annually with the members of her late husband’s corporations, made suggestions, and took great pride in their work. Meanwhile, she kept giving away sums of her own money. On the occasion of the Carnegie Centennial in 1935, a little gray-haired lady with a kindly voice, she reminisced:

“Pittsburgh has a warm place in my heart. I have so many recollections of the lovely, affectionate friends whom I knew there.”

Her last public appearance with Andrew had been in Pittsburgh. He had said of her: “Peace and good will attend her footsteps wherever her blessed influence extends.”

A Brief Note on Unitarian Connections

According to church records, Louise Carnegie was a member of the Fourth Unitarian Society in the City of New York. She and her husband, Andrew, donated an organ to Fourth Unitarian. Following Andrew’s death, Louise made significant donations to charities including many liberal religious institutions.

Slideshow of the Carnegie Library Project

Andrew and Lousie Carnegie began the Carnegie Library Project when there were fewer than 1,500 libraries in the United States. The first library was commissioned in Mr. Carnegie’s hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland. A first generation Scottish immigrant who rose out of poverty to become one of the richest men in the world, Andrew Carnegie believed in the importance of providing an equal opportunity educational system in the US. In total, 2,509 libraries were built both in the US and across the world, the last library being built in 1919. The project, over a span of less than four decades, doubled the amount number of libraries in the country and provided many Americans, who otherwise would never have laid hands on a book, access to a vast collection of scholarly texts. At the end of this presentation which celebrates Louise and Andrew’s crusade for educational equality in the US, is a collection of a few of the country’s largest libraries. Louise and Andrew Carnegie’s extraordinary philanthropic act influenced the later production of public libraries in the United States.

Andrew Carnegie

For years, every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles (cemetery and/or tombstone enthusiasts) out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use. See all the Grave Sightings posts here.

For a guy worth about $310 billion, Andrew Carnegie’s grave is pretty modest—but that’s fitting for the man who gave away the vast majority of his fortune while he was still alive.

A (very) quick overview of Carnegie’s storied life: Born in Scotland in 1835, Andrew and his very poor family moved to the U.S. in 1848 and settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. His family’s poverty stuck with him, and he vowed to help others when he was in the position to do so. “It was burnt into my heart then that my father had to beg for work,” Carnegie later wrote, “and then and there came the resolve that I would cure that when I got to be a man."

He made good on that promise, or at least tried. After a bunch of small odd jobs—changing spools of thread in a cotton mill, serving as a telegraph messenger boy—young Andrew began rising through the ranks of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and made a series of good investment decisions, including establishing a steel mill. He opened his own steel plant in 1875 and continued to grow his businesses and holdings over the next 26 years. In 1901, he sold Carnegie Steel for an absolutely unprecedented $480 million, making him (at the time) the richest man in the world. But he didn’t believe in keeping that money, and in fact wrote “The Gospel of Wealth” that explained his beliefs on how wealthy people could and should use their fortunes for the betterment of society.

Among other things, Carnegie’s money built 2509 libraries worldwide, founded or established large trusts at several universities, constructed Carnegie Hall in New York, funded 7000 church organs, and started a $10 million pension fund for teachers. Which is not to say that Carnegie didn’t have his faults. According to various accounts, he was needlessly cruel to people, valued efficiency over the safety of his steelworkers, and authorized Henry Frick to do whatever was necessary to squelch a labor strike at one of his mills in 1892. Nine workers ended up being killed by Pinkerton agents.

Joseph Wall, one of Carnegie’s biographers, theorized that "Maybe with the giving away of his money, he would justify what he had done to get that money." And he certainly did give it away. By the time Andrew Carnegie passed away from complications from pneumonia at the age of 83 in 1919, he had given away about 90 percent of the wealth he had amassed over the years. His headstone at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is made of stone from Skibo Castle, Carnegie’s home in Scotland.

The Gilded Age Family That Gave It All Away: The Carnegies

Before Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates began pushing the world’s billionaires to give away at least half of their fortunes, one of the wealthiest men of the 19th century penned an essay with the hopes that he would inspire other industrialists to do the same.

It was the height of the Gilded Age in 1889, and Andrew Carnegie, a pioneer in the steel industry, laid out why he would be donating the bulk of his wealth – an estimated $350 million (worth about $4.8 billion today). The work, called “The Gospel of Wealth” was published 125 years ago this summer, and still undercuts the wobbly balance Americans walk between capitalism and social responsibility.

“The man who dies rich, dies disgraced,” he now-famously wrote.

That’s the reason the Carnegie clan isn’t on the new Forbes list of America’s Richest Families. When Andrew died in 1919, he left his wife her personal assets, a small cash gift and their property, which was a Manhattan townhouse and their holiday home in Scotland, Skibo Castle. His only daughter, Margaret, received a small trust, and eventually they had to sell the townhome due to its costly upkeep, biographer David Nasaw said.

“He left them enough money that they would be comfortable, but never as much money as the children of his fellow robber barons, who lived in enormous luxury,” Nasaw said in a phone interview. “Money and power were handed down from generation to generation. That wasn’t going to happen with the Carnegies.”

It was a deal they had agreed to long before he died. In fact, the Carnegies signed one of America’s first prenuptial agreements, which detailed the terms of the inheritance. That paved the way for Andrew to endow 200 libraries, the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Barely anything is left of Andrew’s fortune, which was once valued on par with the oil tycoon Rockefellers and the banking Morgan family. The 13 fourth-generation members of Andrew Carnegie’s lineage now have the self-made wealth of white collar professionals. Their children and grandchildren make up a large fifth generation and a growing sixth.

Linda Thorell Hills, one of Andrew Carnegie’s great granddaughters, said her family has “lived conservatively and privately,” noting that it is easier to blend in since they are all descendants of his only daughter and none live with the Carnegie last name. Still, she said they’re emboldened by his legacy.

“Making one's own way in life is a healthy way to be,” Thorell Hills said. “Our family has been very much raised with the philosophy that our own individual lives are what we make of them.”

Born in Scotland to poor weavers, Carnegie immigrated with his parents to an impoverished town in Pennsylvania in 1848. His story starts out sounding eerily similar to countless immigrant tales of his time: According to his autobiography, at 13 years-old, he begun his first job, earning $1.20 a week to change spools of thread in a Pittsburgh cotton factory. He worked six days a week, and times were still hard.

Soon, that story took a turn that would soon make him one of the richest in America. He invested in the railroads, and spent time as a bond salesman. He then formed Carnegie Steel, and sold it to JP Morgan in 1901 for $480 million (what today would be nearing $13 billion).

The same year, J.P. Morgan founded U.S. Steel, and it became the world’s first company to have a market capitalization of more than $1 billion. Yet unlike many on Forbes’s Richest Families in America list, Carnegie did not leave his descendants with a stake in the company he helped build. It now trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ironically, Andrew’s brother Thomas went with a more traditional approach to inheritance. When he died at age 42, his will divvied up his multimillion-dollar industrialist fortune between his wife and nine children. Each received a trust fund of about $10 million, several descendants say.

But that wealth has now also dried up, the descendants added. The crown jewel of Thomas’s estate was Cumberland Island off Georgia’s coast, which Thomas bought in the early 1880s. It was there that the extended family lived and the rest came to vacation in large wooden mansions filled with antique furniture and fine china. Some Rockefellers lived there as well, after a few Carnegies married in.

Thomas Carnegie, age 12, with his older brother, Andrew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the second generation, the remnants of the Gilded Age were just about gone. Now the relatives have had to say goodbye to the island. Many began donating their land to the National Park Service in the 1970s because, in part, they did not have the money to continue the upkeep.

“We had the island and that’s it,” said fifth-generation descendant Lucy Foster Flight. “The money isn’t there. We’ve all done our separate things, and made our own money or not.”

A few dozen still live there, and their plots will go to the government when they die. Despite the ominous phasing out, it continues to be where the family congregates for reunions and holidays like Thanksgiving. “There’s this misnomer that we’re this really rich family and feel that we’re owed the right to be on the island. It’s really hard because that’s our home,” Foster Flight added.

ON THIS DAY: August 11, 1919, Andrew Carnegie dies of pneumonia

Heartbroken over his failed efforts to stop World War I, Andrew Carnegie, a noted Pittsburgh industrialist and the “Father of Modern Philanthropy” died of pneumonia at his estate in Massachusetts on August 11, 1919.

The start of Carnegie’s life gave little indication of the influence and wealth he would eventually attain. His was truly a “rags to riches” story.

Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland, just as the town’s linen industry collapsed. His father was a weaver who also busied himself in local politics. With strikes and machinery interrupting his father’s pay, his mother repaired shoes and opened a grocery store that was soon struggling as well.

Carnegie's Birthplace The birthplace of wealthy American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie on the corner of Moodie Street and Priory Lane in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, January 1940. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

As the grip of poverty began to strangle the family, they were encouraged by his mother’s sister to come over to America, where the opportunities were better. The Carnegies auctioned everything they owned and still had to borrow money to get passage for the whole family. After 50 days at sea, they arrived in America and settled in Pittsburgh in 1848.

Pittsburgh’s industrial might was written in smoke and soot. While downtown was full of new buildings as the city rebuilt itself from the Great Fire of 1845, they were already so blackened that old and new looked alike. The city may have sold its purity for purpose, but it was paying off. Pittsburgh was a place where fortunes were being made and was one of the centers of the industrial revolution.

Carnegie spent his early years working in a cotton mill and for telegraph and railroad companies. His duties took him all over the city and he memorized the streets and addresses of important people. In his downtime, he studied at a small library provided by a retired local merchant and absorbed Shakespeare at a local theater. Eventually, Carnegie’s work ethic caught the eye of a young railroad executive, Thomas Scott, who hired him as his private secretary and personal telegrapher.

As Carnegie’s paychecks grew, he put his savings to work with astute investments. Leveraging his skills and railroad connections, he was instrumental in the successful merger of two sleeping car manufacturers. He also advised his younger brother, Thomas, on stocks to buy, and Thomas made a lucrative living in the shadow of his big brother.


By the time the Civil War broke out, Scott was hired to supervise military transportation for the North, and Carnegie was his right-hand man.

Carnegie was deployed to rebuild destroyed rail lines and reconnect telegraph lines when he found himself in the proximity of the Battle of Bull Run. He set up a telegraph office in Washington and wrote in his autobiography of how President Abraham Lincoln would sometimes sit at his desk waiting for dispatches from the front.

After the war and the rapid pace of innovation in the iron industry that arose in its wake, Carnegie resigned from the railroad and again leveraged his knowledge and connections to start a bridge company. The Keystone Bridge Company specialized in replacing wooden bridges with iron ones, which was a lucrative business in post war America.

In concert with his brother Thomas, Carnegie built the company’s first enormous “Lucy” blast furnace along the Allegheny River near 51st Street. The furnace was named for Thomas’ wife, Lucy Coleman, the daughter of Pittsburgh iron manufacturing magnate William Coleman. Thomas would go on to co-found the Edgar Thomson Steel Works with Coleman and others, building the plant in Braddock, which is still in operation.

Andrew Carnegie Bain News Service, Publisher. A. Carnegie. , 1913. [date created or published later by Bain] Photograph. (Library of Congress)

By 1868, Carnegie was a wealthy man, but troubled by his wealth. At the age of 33 and living in New York City, he wrote a letter in which he vowed to quit his businesses in two years so that he could spend his time pursuing a life of good works. It was a noble sentiment, but the pace of innovation prompted Carnegie to defer his “retirement” for a few years longer than that.

New methods of refining steel caught Carnegie’s eye and, in 1875, he poured his fortune into a new steel plant. The Homestead Steel Works plant used a process invented by Henry Bessemer to convert huge batches of iron into flexible steel and Carnegie incessantly drove down costs while scaling up production.

Carnegie brought Henry Clay Frick on as a partner in 1881, and within a few years Carnegie was one of the wealthiest men in America.

Mr And Mrs Carnegie Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919) with his wife Louise Whitfield Carnegie (1857 - 1946), circa 1905. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

By this time, Carnegie was living in New York City much of the time. He was devoted to his mother, but the 45-year-old industrialist was also attracted to 23-year-old Louise Whitfield. Whitfield’s mother required constant medical attention but supported the courtship, while Carnegie’s mother actively worked to undermine it. They secretly became engaged in 1883, but it was not until six months after his mother’s death in 1886 that Carnegie consented to marry in a private ceremony.

The Carnegies signed one of America’s first prenuptial agreements. The arrangement set the stage for Carnegie’s plans to give away his fortune, but also provided for Louise and their only daughter Margaret. Unlike other family dynasties and “old money” from that time, all of Carnegie’s lineage are self-made professionals and none live with the Carnegie last name.

Homestead Steel Strike (1892) The First Troops in Homestead. The Eighteenth Regiment passing the Office and Works of the Carnegie Company. , 1892. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Library of Congress)

Carnegie’s reputation for benevolence towards his workers became tarnished during the Homestead Strike of 1892. After his brother Thomas died a month before his mother, Carnegie began to lean more heavily on Frick to manage his plants. Frick was working as his plant manager as he hired 300 Pinkerton guards to intimidate the strikers. The tension soon shattered into violence, resulting in the deaths of nine strikers and seven guards. The strike ultimately failed and the union lost much of its power, with the company quickly raising production quotas and working hours, while also lowering wages and Carnegie’s personal reputation simultaneously.

By 1900, Carnegie Steel was making more steel than all of Great Britain. Carnegie, now 64 years old, was well past his avowed retirement date, and rather than fight the competition from J.P. Morgan’s company, he decided to sell to Morgan. He wrote an asking price for his business on a small piece of paper and sent it to Morgan, who accepted it without hesitation. The $480-million deal created Morgan’s new empire, the United States Steel Company, and instantly made Carnegie the richest man in the world.

Estimates vary, but Carnegie’s fortune is valued at about $419 billion today—over three times as much as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is currently the world’s richest man.

Carnegie Filming Scottish-born US industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919) (centre) during the making of a film in the grounds of his home. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Finally freed of his business obligations and living mostly at the 13th-century Skibo Castle in Scotland, where every day was started by the resident bagpiper, Carnegie fervently pursued what he considered to be his redemptive works of philanthropy in an age largely defined by robber barons. He wrote of his intentions to give away his fortune in “The Gospel of Wealth” in 1889, proclaiming that the rich should live without extravagance and use their finances to promote the happiness of others, such that “the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”

The first recipients of Carnegie’s generosity were the mill workers of Homestead. The establishment of a pension and relief fund was “an acknowledgment of the deep debt which I owe to the workmen who have contributed so greatly to my success.”

Carnegie believed that people should spend the first third of their lives becoming educated, the middle third making money and the final third giving it all away for the betterment of mankind.

Carnegie Library on North Side Detroit Publishing Co, C. C. & Detroit Publishing Co, P. (ca. 1905) Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, North Side, Pa. Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Pittsburgh. United States, ca. 1905. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Library of Congress)

One of Carnegie’s most visible efforts was to build free libraries. Remembering the education he’d acquired from that retired merchant’s free library in Pittsburgh as a boy, Carnegie founded 2,509 libraries around the world (1,679 of which were built in the U.S.). The first library to open was near his mill in Braddock, but the first to be commissioned by Carnegie was in his adopted hometown of Allegheny City on the North Side. The building, dedicated by President Benjamin Harrison, served as a library until it was damaged by a lightning strike in 2006 and has since reopened as the home of the New Hazlett Theater.

In 1895, Carnegie began making substantial investments in Oakland. The Carnegie Institute included a natural history museum, art museum, music hall and an adjoining library. Carnegie was fascinated by the idea of having a dinosaur in the museum, and after failing at efforts to purchase one, he assembled his own team to find a suitable fossil. They succeeded, and found enough differences with prior species to name a new one after their benefactor the Diplodocus carnegii (though it was recently rejected). The original “Dippy” has been on display in the museum ever since and casts of the skeleton can be found in museums around the world.

Carnegie Library Oakland Carnegie Library Main Branch, Oakland.

Interested in elevating working-class men and women through the practical learning of trades, Carnegie funded the Carnegie Technical Schools in 1900. Booming enrollment led to more programs and the school outgrew its original two buildings, leading to a massive expansion and a completely new campus to go with its new name: Carnegie Tech. The school

would go on to merge with the Mellon Institute in 1967 to become Carnegie Mellon University.

Carnegie Technical Institute Detroit Publishing Co, C. C. & Detroit Publishing Co, P. Carnegie Technical Institute from bridge, Pittsburgh, Pa. Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Pittsburgh. United States, None. [Cbetween 1910 and 1920] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Library of Congress)

Many of Carnegie’s greatest contributions were to the furtherance of education and educators. “Of all professions, that of teaching is probably the most unfairly, yes, most meanly paid, though it should rank with the highest,” wrote Carnegie in his autobiography. He was bothered by the lack of retirement security for professors, to whom endowed the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which would later spin off the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) to provide fully funded pensions for educators. TIAA is now one of the world’s largest financial services companies.

But despite his proficiency at disbursing his wealth, there was still so much left that Carnegie grew weary of managing it. At the suggestion of a friend, he founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1911. The corporation was the largest single philanthropic charitable trust ever established at that time. It has since woven its philanthropic efforts into history, supporting everything from the discovery of insulin to Sesame Street. Carnegie’s directive was that the foundation would continue his work in perpetuity, so that “even after I pass away the [wealth] that came to me to administer as a sacred trust for the good of my fellow men is to continue to benefit humanity for generations untold.”

Andrew Carnegie Bain News Service, Publisher. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Carnegie on street. , 1910. date created or published later by Bain. Photograph. (Library of Congress)

With international agitations rising, Carnegie called for a “league of nations” to prevent all future wars. To facilitate his hopes for a civilized world of peace, he was persuaded to fund the creation of a world court. The Carnegie Foundation was created to build the Peace Palace at The Hague, and he also created the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1910 with the hope of averting war.

Believing he had a personal promise from the German leader, Kaiser Wilhelm II, not to go to war, Carnegie was so optimistic in a Utopian future shaped by education that he (naively) wrote in 1912: “The safest occupation in the land today, either in Britain or America, is that of a soldier, who rarely or never sees a battle or fires a hostile shot, but marches from youth to age in perfect safety, unmolested. … We cannot imagine that many students who have received years of precious education will hereafter dedicate themselves deliberately to this profession.”

When World War I broke out in 1914 despite his efforts, he was described by Louise as “heartbroken” and that he felt he had been personally betrayed. Carnegie, who had been writing his memoirs, made his last entry on that day, writing: “The world convulsed by war as never before! Men slaying each other like wild beasts! I dare not relinquish all hope.”

Carnegie lived another five years at his estate in Massachusetts, called Shadowbrook. The 100-room mansion reminded him of Scotland and he was said to have enjoyed fishing on the nearby Lake Mahkeenac (now known as the Stockbridge Bowl).

In the spring of 1919, haunted by years of ongoing war news, he became ill and bedridden. It is said that throughout that summer his voice could be heard daily calling for Louise, “Wife, has the war stopped yet?” He died of pneumonia at 7:10 in the morning of August 11, at the age of 83 and just two months after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Carnegie’s body lay in state in Shadowbrook’s oak ballroom and there was a small private funeral. Twenty years older than his beloved wife, Carnegie assured her after his death that his only wish was to be buried beside her. Louise purchased a plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and followed him there in 1946. The gravestones were hewn from a quarry on the grounds of Skibo Castle, now a private club.

Shadowbrook became a seminary for Jesuit priests in 1922. It was destroyed by a horrific explosion and fire in 1956, which killed three priests and a lay brother.

Today the property is home to a health and yoga retreat center that sits just a few hundred yards from where the mansion stood.


Carnegie, Andrew. Triumphant Democracy or, Fifty Years’ March of the Republic. New York: Scribners, 1886.

Carnegie, Andrew. Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920.

Hughes, Jonathan R. T. The Vital Few: American Economic Progress and Its Protagonists. Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1965.

Livesay, Harold. Andrew Carnegie and the Rise of Big Business. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975.

Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Wright, Gavin. “The Origins of American Industrial Success, 1879-1940.” American Economic Review 80, no. 4 (1990): 651-668.

The Homestead strike, 1892

An account of a militant strike of steel workers of the Carnegie company in the US defending their organisation and conditions against the bosses, the police and hired armed mercenaries.

The Robber Baron Andrew Carnegie precipitated the Homestead Strike of 1892 with his attack against the standard of living of the workers and his bid to break the union representing the highest skilled workers. Carnegie announced his intention to impose an 18 percent pay cut and issued a statement saying that the real issue was whether the Homestead steel workers would be union or non-union. He ordered a 12 foot high fence to be built around the plant – 3 miles in length – with 3 inch holes at shoulder height every 25 feet, signalling preparation for an armed fight with the workers. At the same time Carnegie hired the notorious Pinkerton company to provide armed thugs for the upcoming struggle. An ultimatum was issued for workers to accept the wage cut by June 24th or face mass layoffs.

The workers did not take these provocations lightly. They were not about to abandon the union and submit to Carnegie’s dictates without a fight. The Amalgamated Union, which represented the skilled workers, about 750 of the plant’s 3,800 employees, established an Advisory Committee, comprised of five delegates from each lodge, to coordinate the struggle against Carnegie’s attacks. A mass meeting of 3,000 workers from all categories, union and non-union voted overwhelmingly to strike.

The Advisory Committee took responsibility for organising an elaborate network to track the company’s manoeuvres, to monitor the possibility of an anticipated transport of Pinkerton goons by river boat from Pittsburgh. Workers rented their own vessel to patrol the river. Every road within a five mile radius of Homestead was blockaded, and a thousand strikers patrolled the river banks for ten miles. The Committee assumed virtual control of the town, assuming authority over the water, gas, and electricity facilities, shutting down the saloons, maintaining order and proclaiming ad hoc laws. An attempt by the county sheriff to move against the strikers fell flat on its face when he proved unable to raise a posse. The workers offered the sheriff a tour of the plant and promised to guarantee the security of the facility from any trespassers. Sympathy for the strikers was high.

On July 5th a steam whistle sounded the alarm at 4am. Two barges transporting more than 300 Pinkertons left Pittsburgh. By the time the thugs arrived at Homestead, 10,000 armed strikers and their supporters were gathered to "greet" them. An armed confrontation erupted. Thirty workers were wounded, and three killed in the early fighting. Armed proletarians from nearby towns rushed to the scene to reinforce their class brothers. The shoot-out continued throughout the day. Finally the demoralised Pinkertons, trapped in debilitating heat on the barges, outnumbered and outgunned, mutinied against their superiors.

Most were not regular agents, but reservists who had been recruited under false pretences they were prepared to do some bullying, intimidating and terrorising, but did not have the stomach to confront armed, organised class resistance. Once the Pinkertons surrendered, the workers debated what to do with their despised prisoners. Angered by the casualties inflicted by the Pinkertons – a total of 40 wounded, 9 killed - some wanted to execute the thugs, but the Committee reasoned that a mass execution would be used against the strikers by the bosses. Instead the Pinkertons were forced to run a gauntlet. In the end the casualties suffered by the Pinkertons were 20 shot, seven killed and 300 injured running the gauntlet.

In retaliation for the deaths of strikers, a young Russian anarchist called Alexander Berkman attempted to assassinate the Carnegie boss Henry Clay Frick. He shot Frick twice and stabbed him, but Frick remarkably survived. Berkman was subsequently imprisoned for 14 years.

The strike continued for four months. Eventually federal troops were brought in to crush the struggle, and 160 strikers were arrested and charged with murder and assault. But the bosses’ repressive apparatus could not find a jury anywhere in the Pittsburgh region that would convict a single striker. All were acquitted. Hugh O’Donnell, one of the strike leaders, was first charged with treason. Following his acquittal on those charges, he was immediately rearrested and tried for murder. And following acquittal on that charge, he was rearrested and tried for assault – again successfully beating back the state's prosecution.

However, despite beating back the criminal charges, the strike morale was broken, and the union driven out. Throughout the country workers were sympathetic to the struggle at Homestead, and needless to say, the spokesmen of the capitalist class were furious. Strikers were referred to as a "mob." The New York Times granted that the company had provoked the battle, nevertheless maintained solidarity with its class brother and insisted that the obligation of the state was "to enforce law and order at Homestead, to quell the mob, to put the property of the Carnegie Steel Company in possession its owners and to protect their lawful rights."

Despite ending in defeat, Homestead was an important moment in the history of class struggle in America. What happened at Homestead was not a riot. It was organised class violence, consciously controlled by the workers, as part of the struggle. Homestead demonstrated clearly the capacity of workers to organise their struggles, to resist the attacks of the capitalist class, to achieve an active solidarity in struggle, to organise their own power to rival that of the local state apparatus during the struggle, to organise class violence and exercise it judiciously.

Edited and altered by libcom from an article called Historical legacy of the working class - History Demonstrates the Power of Workers’ Struggles by the International Communist Current.

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