Andrew Carnegie: The Man Behind the Steel

Andrew Carnegie: The Man Behind the Steel

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Andrew Carnegie: The Man Behind the Steel


I chose to right about Andrew Carnegie for the two following reasons. The first
being his Scottish heritage, and second being his close ties with the city of
Pittsburgh. I happen to have some Scottish blood in me but more importantly I am
from Pittsburgh.

Andrew Carnegie’s story of rags to riches is slightly more inspiring than that
of Henry Clay Frick, his partner. As a Scottish immigrant Carnegie made his
ways through the ranks of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Upon passing on an
offer for the superintendent of the Pittsburgh division of the Pennsylvania
Railroad; Carnegie and his brother Thomas purchased an already running mill
(Burgoyne 6). From here Carnegie built up the largest and most lucrative iron
and steel works in the world. His character was often challenged by certain
individuals and defended by others. It is common knowledge that Carnegie viewed
himself as a man of the people since he came from humble beginnings. Conversely
labor historian Harold Livesay was quoted in saying, “that certainly by the
standards of ethics and conduct to which we would like to hold businessmen
today, he indeed operated extremely ruthlessly (www.pbs.org).” Carnegie’s
character, views on labor and actions regarding Homestead will be discussed
more in depth further.

The Homestead Strike of 1892 is known as one of the bloodiest and most bitter
labor strikes in American history. Many though would consider it to a necessary
progressive movement even taking into account the many lost lives. In order to
understand what exactly occurred in Homestead during the summer of 1892 it is
first necessary to understand the town of Homestead itself. It is important to
point out the fact that without the mill there would be no Homestead, therefore
making the mill the nucleus of the town. The mill was located along the
Monongahela River in the south of Pittsburgh. Not having seen the mill myself
I’m sure that it would have been a beacon to Pittsburghers, encompassing 600
acres of the river’s bank (Burgoyne 1-2). The entire of economy of Homestead
was centered on the mill with all other businesses depending on the revenue
dispersed by the mill. Store owners, bartenders, and seamstresses all alike
depended on paychecks from the mill to spend at their respective
proprietorships. There for the lockout of the mill did not simply affect the
mill workers but rather all 12,000 residents of Homestead (Burgoyne 1).

As for Andrew Carnegie, well he became the richest man in the world. In the
year 1900 Carnegie sold the company to J.P Morgan for $480 million.

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Now
Carnegie is regarded as one of the biggest philanthropists in modern history if
not the biggest. In the ten years following his payment he gave away nearly
$350 million to charitable organizations. Many, including myself argue that he
had sizeable feelings of regret for what he had done to his workers and was
somehow trying to payback his debt to society, or he may have simply done it to
feel good about himself. When being interviewed by a biographer Margaret
Carnegie Miller (Carnegie’s Daughter) spoke of her father in a good light.

However off the record she told him to, “Tell his life like it was, I’m sick of
the Santa Claus stuff” (www.pbs.org). If the man’s own daughter does not think
highly of his actions I seriously question anyone that does. Many of th
luxuries such as libraries that we now have provided by Carnegie as certainly
nice to have but they cannot possibly make up for the hardships endured by the
tens of thousand employed by the Carnegie Company. Myself and surely many
others would sacrifice our use of facilities provided by Carnegie’s money inorder for the workers to have had better lives.

I feel that I can speak for most Pittsburghers in that people have not forgot
about Carnegie and the legacy or mess that he left behind. His mark was
certaintly left on the city. The common question though is whether or not he
should be remembered for his philanthropy or his cruel labor practices as an
industrial titan.

Works Cited

Edwards, P.K. Strikes in the United States 1881-1974 .New York: ST. Martin’s
Press, 1991.

Brecher. Jeremy. STRIKE!. Cambridge: South End Press, 1997.

Burgoyne, Arthur. The Homestead Strike of 1892. Pittsburgh: University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1914.

Vorse, Mary. MEN AND STEEL. London: The Labour Publishing Company, 1922.

Carnegie, Andrew. “Results of the Labor Struggle.” The Forum 1886: 538-551.

The American Experience. “Andrew Carnegie.”
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carnegie/filmmore/description.html
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