Andrew Carnegie | David Nasaw

Summary of: Andrew Carnegie
By: David Nasaw


Explore the engrossing life of Andrew Carnegie, a transformative figure in the world of business, philanthropy, and 19th-century capitalism. Rising from humble beginnings, Carnegie became a powerful railroad tycoon and conquered the steel industry, amassing an enormous fortune along the way. Witness his determination and cunning business practices, as well as his ardent advocacy for world peace and philanthropy. Delve into Carnegie’s dreams, failures, and contributions as you journey through this intriguing summary of David Nasaw’s comprehensive biography, Andrew Carnegie.

The Rise of Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie, a young Scottish immigrant, rose from a bookkeeper to a railroad magnate and one of the wealthiest men in America. While his business practices were often cunning and ruthless, they were legal under the doctrine of “survival of the fittest” and the emerging theory of “Primitive Capitalism.” Carnegie’s entrepreneurial ventures included oil drilling, metal bridges, and a manmade lake for storing oil. Despite criticisms of his treatment of workers and his power as a robber baron, Carnegie became known for his philanthropy and support of education.

Carnegie’s Rise to Wealth and Success

Andrew Carnegie, an American tycoon, became a Scottish laird, making his mark as a wealthy, cultured, and patriotic man. After his father’s death, he returned to Scotland, eager to show off his success. Despite the Homestead scandal, Carnegie lived a leisurely life, believing success came from being the right person in the right place at the right time. He meddled in business deals and separated warring companies to his benefit, ultimately merging them into a profitable enterprise. Although he made some costly decisions, such as purchasing worthless English patents and engaging in stock speculation, Carnegie was committed to funding schools for working people, regardless of race. Carnegie’s special talent for sleazy money-making involved floating stocks and bonds on “paper entities” guaranteed to fail and selling US railroad bonds to Europeans. Despite lawsuits for fraud, Carnegie beat the rap and continued gambling in stocks. Through it all, he remained dedicated to the steel industry, which he later transformed and ruled.

The Rise and Fall of Carnegie’s Legacy

Andrew Carnegie, drawn by Congress’ new tariff on imported steel to protect the U.S., invested in a steel plant after an examination of Bessemer-converter plant and other furnaces convinced him this was the wave of the future. He named his plant ET and recruited a high-quality board to make it profitable. However, labor problems struck, and his handling of the Homestead mill union-busting caused bloody battles, ruined his worker-friendly image, and hid huge profits from the public. Despite his Spencerian beliefs that the nations and people of the world were becoming more civilized, his actions showed his beliefs had been spectacularly misplaced.

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