Andrew Carnegie was a great example of the myth that man can go from rags-to-riches. He arrived to America with practically nothing in his pocket and retired with more money that anyone could ever imagine at the time (58). As he began to make money, he became very brash, self-confident, and a little hypocritical, but as his life advanced, he gave away ninety-five percent of his fortune. His contributions to society still have an impact in our modern day lives in what we see and use. Andrew Carnegie is truly the perfect example of the American Dream, to travel there, find new opportunities, and work all the way to the top.
“Where he had got all that money was indeed a legendary story, for even in an age known for its acquisitive triumphs, Carnegie’s touch had been an extraordinary one.” (Oates 58).
Andrew Carnegie was the richest man in America at one point of his lifetime. When one looks at his life, they notice an unequal struggle between a man that loved money—loved making it, having it, and spending it—and a man that was even later ashamed of his greedy desires (59). Carnegie began to make his fortune by investing and buying stocks in multiple companies, and by creating joint-companies to gain a huge profit (62). After working for a little while in the railway business, Carnegie moved onto steel, in fact, he became known as the “Steel King”. Carnegie was able to expand his steel industry through three facts: First, getting steel to replace iron and finding new uses for steel. Second, was the personal talent that Carnegie surrounded himself with, and third, the expansion occurred through the personal salesman talents he possessed (65). Carnegie eventually wrote the Gospel of Wealth, in which he described how to become rich and what to do with one’s money after achieving that (66-67). Carnegie was considered the greediest man alive by many, but if thy only knew what he later does with his money.
“‘I remember as it was yesterday…being awakened during the night by a tap at the back window by men who had come to inform my parents that my uncle, Bailie Morrison, had been thrown in jail because he dared to hold a meeting which had been forbidden…It is not wondered at that, nursed amid such surroundings, I developed into a violent young republican whose motto was ‘death to privilege’.” (Oates 65)
Carnegie’s youth experiences shaped the way he conducted his business every day (61). His republican view represented what man young men were dreaming and believed in during these times. While in the steel business, Carnegie used every aspect of being successful, including acquisition and merger, pools and commercial piracy, and even once a fraud in selling the United States government overpriced and overdone steel armor plates (64). Another reason for Carnegie’s success in the steel business was his political ties with the European leaders. In his visits with them he tried to explain that a democracy was better than a monarchy (67). He believed that America ad a better political system than Europe, which was a reason for his and others personal success.
“As an enormous money maker Carnegie was a flashy, but hardly a profound, hero of the times; and the attitudes of Earnestness and Self-Assurance, so engaging in the young immigrant, become irritating when they are congealed in the millionaire.” (Oates 58-59).
Many people in the world do not know that Carnegie, unlike his self-made peers, who also rose from poverty, was the product of a very radical environment. In Dunfermline, Scotland, where Carnegie was raised, was considered as the center of revolutionary activity. Carnegie’s family was caught up in the radical movement of the time, including his uncle who was an orator for the rights of the working class to go on strike. Carnegie’s family moved to America because there were no more working opportunities where they lived, so like other European families seeking new work, they left Scotland (61). Carnegie eventually worked his way to the top of the social class pyramid in America through investment and purchasing stock in many booming companies. As an owner of a corporation, he understood some of the problems in America with “labor issues”. Carnegie was a fair leader coming down hard on his employees when they worked well and he rewarded them when they worked hard (65). All through his life, Carnegie fought for equal “privilege”, which he felt was only limited to the old fading aristocratic vestments, and not himself and the new hierarchies of wealth (67). Even though many thought of him as greedy, he gave much of his money to libraries and schools to promote societies well-being (68). Carnegie started off a practice in which wealth accumulated by the rich should eventually find its way to the populace, which many thought was eccentric and generous at the time.
Andrew Carnegie was a great American who was the perfect example of how a poor immigrant arriving in the U.S. could achieve the rags-to-riches status in life. He helped benefit society with his improvements on joint-companies and his expansion of the steel industry. He believed in equal working opportunities for everyone and gave practically his entire fortune to society before his death after a long life. In Carnegie’s failures we see America’s failures, and in his successes we see America’s success.