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Andrew Carnegie, who was an extremely astute businessman, founder of a great steel empire, and a very generous philanthropist, was born in Dumferline, Scotland on November 25, 1835. His father William Carnegie was a weaver in his cottage. His mother Mary Morrison was a housewife. Because of the growth of textile mills, William Carnegie found it very difficult to earn money, so he decided at this time his family would emigrate to the U.S., settling in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Andrew Carnegie was forced to work at the age of 13 because his father was earning a small income.
Carnegie had no formal education; however, he gained most of his education by observing and experiencing almost everything around him. For instance, Carnegie learned how to use the telegraph by playing around with it when nobody was near. He became so good at working the telegraph, he actually was able to decode the messages by ear. At the sight of this, Thomas A. Scott, his boss promoted him to a clerk and telegraph operator. Later Mr. Scott promoted him to Vice President of the Western Division because of his zeal, honesty, loyalty, and conscientiousness. The promotion was the result of these qualities and Carnegie bringing Mr. Scott’s attention to the sleeping car, a very profitable investment for Pennsylvania Railroad. He began to invest in property where there might be oil with some of the citizens in Homewood, the city to which he had moved. It was very profitable; one deal results in a $40,000 purchase price turning into $3,000,000 two years later.
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Andrew Carnegie’s character determined his business practices, which were most specifically characterized by kindness, loyalty, and honesty. When making a new business he brought in investors who had either showed him an act of kindness or for whom he had worked for. This was shown when he started his first steel mill. He brought together a group of investors including his former boss Thomas Scott, and David McCandless, a neighbor who had offered a loan to the poor Carnegie family years ago. His family declined it, but Carnegie never forgot that act of kindness. As a partner McCandless became a millionaire. He also trusted his employees very much. The head of one of his mills; Charles told Carnegie there was a problem and that the mill would have to be torn down and rebuilt to rectify it. Scwab said it would save a dollar a ton of steel. Without asking what the problem was Carnegie told him to rebuild it so it could be done.
His business practices made people offer him shares in new companies. This eventually brought him wealth, which led him to be a great philanthropist. At age 33 he wrote a memo of what he thought of money and what he would do with any surplus income over $50,000. “Beyond this…make no effort to increase fortune, but spend the surplus each year for benevolent purposes. Cast aside business forever, except for others whatever I engage in I must push inordinately, Therefore should I be careful to choose that life which will be most elevating in character…taking a part in public matters, especially those connected with education and improvement of the poorer classes.
Carnegie put the memo into practice. He gave away $350 million to various causes. He gave the money to create 2,500 libraries in the U.S. and Scotland. He founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which provides funds to educational institutions. He created one of the largest steel empires. He founded the Carnegie Mellon University. He built the Brooklyn Bridge, which is the world’s first suspension bridge.
Any man or woman who desires to be a successful entrepreneur should read a biography about Andrew Carnegie. It will help them learn what good business is, that a person can be highly successful and honest, shows them the importance of loyalty and friendship, and finally that great wealth has a responsibility to give his/her excess away and not worship the amassing of wealth. If every student then practiced this the world would have many more millionaires who are truthful, honest, and generous.