Andrew Carnegie: His Contribution to Society Today

After death, Andrew Carnegie left neither a company nor a fortune to his heirs. However, his legacy is used all over the world. This legacy includes an opportunity to create a company with the full cycle, which is tried to be recreated by many modern businesses. For example, the world-famous Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which appeared much earlier than the League of Nations, and it was created by Andrew Carnegie before the First World War; a great number of libraries that have been built around the world; the Carnegie Institute, which has many branches around the world; the Carnegie Mellon University, which still produces students in Pittsburgh, etc. In general, the influence of Carnegie on the level of education in the world is difficult to assess. After all, due to the fact that Carnegie was a self-educated man, he decided to give this opportunity to all other inhabitants of the planet Earth. One of the most important legacies of Andrew Carnegie is a famous Carnegie Hall in New York, which is one of the major concert halls of the world. Charity, which was spontaneous and random before Carnegie, became organized and popular. Moreover, the richest US families were infected by Carnegie’s idea of charity. Rockefeller, Ford, Reynolds, McCormick, a total of 12 dynasties had their own charitable foundations by 1940.

At the age of 33, with an annual income of 50 thousand dollars, Carnegie wrote, “Beyond this, I need ever earn, make no effort to increase my fortune, but spend the surplus each year for benevolent purposes!” (cited in Lagemann 13). Carnegie was engaged in charity after retiring from business. The first large donation to his hometown was a bath, built in 1873. He developed the theory, according to which one should devote the first part of life to gathering money and the second to giving this money away. The total amount of donations spent by Carnegie was about $350 million. 62 million were donated to the British Empire, and 288 million to the US (Nasaw 42).

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The main field of charitable investments for Andrew Carnegie was construction of public libraries

In his youth, he spent much time in the free Library, established by Colonel James Anderson in Pittsburgh, because gaps in education were a major difficulty in Carnegie’s life. At that time, there were only a few public libraries throughout the world. In 1881, Carnegie began to implement his ideas. The result of his activity was 2811 public libraries, constructed by him and named after him. Today, 40% of the US population uses his libraries (Nasaw 43). According to his words, “there is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank office nor wealth receives the slightest consideration” (Carnegie). He invested money into the construction of concert halls (in 1891, Tchaikovsky was the conductor on the official opening of the future Carnegie Hall), the creation of research and training centers, supporting students and teachers. Global science is strongly connected with the name of Andrew Carnegie. Major charities established by Carnegie were:

  • The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland (Edinburgh), founded in 1901 and designed to improve four Scottish universities and provide financial assistance to students of the university;
  • The Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, founded in 1903, is used for creating and improving educational and cultural institutions of Dunfermline;
  • The Carnegie UK Trust, founded in Dunfermline in 1913, designed for a variety of charitable purposes, including construction of libraries, theaters, free children’s centers, etc.;
  • The Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, founded in 1896, was designed to improve and promote cultural and educational institutions of Pittsburgh;
  • The Carnegie Institute, which was opened in 1901 in Washington, DC with the support of the US President Theodore Roosevelt, was conceived as a research center to help university education with its research development. In ten years, Carnegie granted a total of 22 million dollars to this Institute. It is possible to assume, that this money was used to discover the expansion of the universe, to prove the essence of DNA as the genetic material, to develop radar, and to find the ruins of the Mayan civilization;
  • The Carnegie Hero Fund (Pittsburgh), founded in 1904, was intended to promote people who had dedicated their activities to peacemaking, who had risked their lives in heroic circumstances, and had saved the lives of others to recognize their deeds by awarding such people medals, material grants, pensions, money for education, etc.
  • The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (New York), which was founded in 1905. The Foundation was initially intended to pay pensions to the teachers (Andrew Carnegie was indignant with the fact that most teachers are paid like clerks in his office), but then it was engaged in the creation of educational standards and uniform national texts.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910, was intended (in a broad sense) to establish mutual understanding between the peoples and dissemination of information (mostly in the form of publications) in order to preserve peace. It received a total of $10 million during its creation, but now it is considered to be the oldest non-governmental organization specializing in issues of war and peace. This fund finances international conferences, publications and scientific investigations of young researchers (for example, one of them was Sigmund Freud).

Carnegie Corporation of New York, the biggest Carnegie Foundation, was founded in 1911, and initially was intended for the development and dissemination of knowledge and understanding among peoples in the United States. Since 1917, it also included Canada and the British colonies. This fund helps colleges, universities and libraries, as well as funds research and training in the fields of law, economics, and medicine. The Corporation was entrusted with $150 million.

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He was a patron of the Tuskegee Institute. He donated funds to build the House of Peace in the Hague, the Netherlands, which at present represents the International Court of the United Nations. Carnegie spent huge sums to prevent the World War (unfortunately, he failed). Throughout his life, Carnegie was respected around the world.

Due to his responsibility and the desire to improve the world, people can use the schedule of trains that arrive in time. Strange as it may seem, but there was no schedule before Carnegie. He was the first to propose a train’s schedule. This was a very important development considering numerous single track accidents with trains. Introduction of schedule contributed to the fact that the trains moved in one direction between stations and collisions became rare.

However, the major achievements in Andrew Carnegie’s life were not associated with charity. After all, the charity was merely the result of his business activity. He is famous as the founder of the first major steel industrial company in the US. The company was named Carnegie Steel Company, and it appeared to be the biggest steel company ever (Resetar). Carnegie’s success as an industrialist and businessman owns much to his curiosity. He often read the newspapers and was interested in new inventions. One day, he read about the production of coke from coal waste. Coke was not produced in the US, but its use was much more efficient than coal. Also, Carnegie emphasized production and promotion of steel instead of cast iron, which was widely used by the railroad at that time. Cast iron was used in the production of rails and bridges, but the strength of cast iron was significantly lower than the strength of steel. Also, the use of cast iron was much more expensive for consumers. The fact that the Carnegie Steel Company took more care of its customers than of its own welfare is quite notable. Carnegie did not sell steel bars elsewhere but sold finished products for specific purposes. He sold the rails, but his company installed them. Carnegie Steel Company manufactured railroad bridges and many other finished products, which required steel for production.

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Carnegie managed to do what few people can. He built a vertically integrated company in the industry. Today, these companies are almost nonexistent (Whaples). Andrew Carnegie introduced a full production cycle in his company from mining of iron ore and coal to the production of rails and railway bridges. Carnegie parted his company by the end of his life. He sold it to several bankers, which gave rise to the world-famous United States Steel Corporation. This allowed Carnegie to do charity work. He spent all his fortune, received after the sale of the company.


Andrew Carnegie marked the advent of a new force that would be called “philanthropy” in this and previous centuries. Modern philanthropy owes much to this person. His influence is apparent, for example, in the modern American foundations. Together with some other philanthropic pioneers of his generation, who took his example, he contributed much to this new form of generosity. A lot of the foundations bearing his name still actively help people all over the world. His peculiar vision of a life led to the appearance of thousands of libraries around the world as well as many revolutions in their functioning. During his life, he has contributed more than $350,000,000 to numerous educational causes around the world, and managed to change people’s attitudes toward education. His ideas continue to thrive even today.

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