Carnegie | Peter Krass

Summary of: Carnegie
By: Peter Krass


Dive into the fascinating life of Andrew Carnegie, a man who played a significant role in shaping the world during the transformative era between 1835 and 1919. In ‘Carnegie’ by Peter Krass, readers will discover the journey of a man who started in relative comfort, only to face hardships that fuelled his radical political activist roots. As you venture through the book summary, you’ll learn how Andrew Carnegie rose from a humble telegraph messenger to an iron and steel magnate, eventually making him a significant figure across various industries and an influential voice advocating for democracy, worker’s rights, and philanthropy.

Andrew Carnegie and the Changing Times

Andrew Carnegie was a man of his times, living through significant events such as the Industrial Revolution, wars, and the rise of democracy. From humble beginnings, Carnegie became a prominent figure in the steel industry, with an evolving business philosophy of cutting costs, prices, and dominating the market. His family’s radical activism and his experiences with poverty shaped his values, leading him to support workers’ rights and unionization. Carnegie aimed to be a progressive capitalist, and his early business ventures were defined by classic traits of a gambling entrepreneur. He eventually joined a group of like-minded individuals, developing lifelong loyalties, and redefined the steel industry’s landscape.

From Rags to Riches

In 1848, Will and Margaret Carnegie, along with their son Andrew, immigrated to America and settled in Pittsburgh. Will lost his job as a weaver, and Margaret began sewing shoes to support the family. Young Andrew started working at a bobbin factory for $1.20 a week and later got a job as a telegraph messenger. He spent his oights memorizing locations and telegraph codes and eventually became a telegraph operator. In 1853, he joined the Pennsylvania Railroad under Thomas A. Scott’s guidance. Scott taught Carnegie how to manage a complex enterprise, and eventually, Carnegie became so confident that he handled emergencies himself, issuing orders under Scott’s name. Carnegie learned to stay true to his destiny, and hard work ultimately bore fruit as he made a name for himself among the lions of Wall Street.

Andrew Carnegie’s Rise to Success

Andrew Carnegie’s journey from a struggling youth to a remarkable business tycoon is filled with perseverance, motivation, and calculated decisions.

Andrew Carnegie’s father passed away in 1855, leaving the young Andrew as the sole provider for his family. He entered the workforce, breaking his first union in 1856 on a tip from a worker he once assisted, resulting in the failure of the strike. In 1869, he joined his first pool for iron beams that ended due to greed and paranoia.

However, his investment in a sleeping car manufacturer with Scott proved profitable, tripling his railway salary within two years. Carnegie’s talents earned him a promotion to superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division at the age of 24, earning $1,500 a year. The move to Homewood allowed him to interact with Judge William Wilkins, who had been President Andrew Jackson’s representative in Russia and President John Tyler’s secretary for war.

Despite his humble beginning, Carnegie’s encounters with influential people and calculated business decisions contributed to his success in becoming a prosperous business tycoon.

Andrew Carnegie: From Railroads to Philanthropy

Andrew Carnegie followed his mentor, Tom Scott, to Washington during the Civil War where they profiteered in the war. Carnegie later took a leave of absence and travelled to Scotland, where he strengthened his resolve to become a man of independent means. The birth of his daughter, Margaret, marked a transitional phase in Carnegie’s life where he began investing in oil, coal, and brick manufacturing, ultimately making his fortune in the steel industry. Despite his success, Carnegie was driven by a desire for respect, power, and glorification. He hired a substitute for the draft in 1864, established the Keystone Bridge Company, and later founded the Keystone and Pacific and Atlantic Telegraph Companies, profiting greatly from their eventual sale to Western Union. Carnegie’s philanthropy was motivated by the desire for recognition, among other rewards.

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