The philanthropy of Carnegie

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In my study and lecturing on world religions, there is one belief that is practiced and emphasized in all of them. Compassion for and helping the needy. The poor; those who thirst for knowledge; those that labor under bad circumstance.

Islam makes it one of their basic beliefs. Jesus made it one of His commandments. Judaism is strong in its belief. I can personally vouch for the Christian faith. The early settlers-Pilgrims-initiated public education. The Salvation Army is a very good example.

For this article, I prefer to concentrate on one individual rather than institutions. On one man in the history of the USA, rather than world-wide. And in eliminating government programs like Medicare and Social Security. Purely the efforts and contributions of one known from the many examples.

None is more important than Andrew Carnegie. In a nutshell, one historian says of him, “Andrew Carnegie was a self-made steel tycoon and one of the wealthiest businessmen of the 19th century. He later dedicated his life to philanthropic endeavors.” A complete eulogy.

Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, In Donfermline Fife, Scotland. He died on August 11, 1919 at age 83. A rather short man at 5 feet 3 inches but a giant among businessmen.

Andrew married Louise Whitfield in 1887 when he was 52 years old. They had one daughter, Margaret Carnegie Miller. They are all buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Sleepy Hollow is a village in the town of Mount Pleasant, New York. The author, Washington Irving, made the village famous. In addition to Carnegie and Irving several other famous people are buried there: Walter P. Chrysler, Brooke Astor, Elizabeth Arden, Thomas Watson of IBM, Samuel Gompers plus many others.

His early life was rather inconspicuous. Carnegie had very little formal education. At age thirteen, he and his parents came to the United States in 1848 and settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Almost immediately after arrival in the U.S.A. he went to work in a factory, earning the awesome amount of $1.20 a week. The next year at age 14 he found a job as a telegraph messenger.

However, in 1851 at age 16 he took a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad, as the assistant to his mentor, Thomas Scott, a top Railroad official.

His grit, enthusiasm and aggressiveness was showing. He quickly learned about the railroad business and about business in general. NOW GET THIS. Three years later in 1856, at age 21, he was promoted to Superintendent.

Again, his intuition and aggressiveness. He started making investments and many wise choices, especially those in oil. In 1865, at age 30, he left the railroad to focus on his other business interests, including the Keystone Bridge Company.

By the time he was 40, the steel industry consumed him; the Carnegie Steel Company. He revolutionized the steel industry. His methods made manufacturing steel “easier, faster and more productive.”

By that time, he owned what he needed. The raw materials, transportation-railroads and ships-and even coalfields to fuel the steel furnaces.

By 1889-he was 54-the Carnegie Steel Company was the largest of its kind IN THE WORLD. However, many historians began to say that Carnegie’s growth was at the expense of its workers. The most vital case occurred in 1892 when he tried to lower wages. The employees objected and started the Homestead Strike. It caused a violent conflict between the managers and the union workers.

At the time Carnegie was in Scotland on vacation but the publicity held him accountable for his manager’s actions. The conflict was called the Homestead Massacre after several deaths. The battle upset Carnegie. He was recorded as saying, “No steel mill is worth a drop of human blood.” He subsequently sold his company to J.P. Morgan for $480,000,000 dollars. That amount in today’s economy would be over 5 billion dollars.

Andrew Carnegie’s philosophy of life was twofold. The first objective was to accumulate as much wealth as possible. He had ably done that; being one of the wealthiest men in the world. The second was equally important. To distribute the money to benevolent causes, which he did.

He chose philanthropy in donating his money to the benefit of the masses of humanity.

He did this by giving grants to the establishment of libraries throughout the U.S.A. and Scotland; to the tune of 2,800 libraries. Also donating funds to schools, music halls, hospitals and newspapers around the world.

For the Inland Empire, he donated considerable money for a library in San Bernardino and Colton. The latter is still in business. He also established the Carnegie-Mellon University in 1904.

His philosophy of life and compassion for a faith stopped at the door of religion. He completely rejected Christianity and sectarianism. In his autobiography, he wrote; “Not only have I got rid of the theology and the super natural, but I have found the truth in evolution.”

He completely rejected missionaries as “a waste of money.” He also objected forcing other religions (Christianity) upon other people against their wills.

A cursory study of missions reveals the sad picture of destroying the culture of so-called heathens.

The following paragraph is graphic in revealing Andrew Carnegie’s views. “The whole scheme of Christian Salvation is diabolical. . . An angry God, I can’t imagine such a Creator of the universe. I decline to accept Salvation from such a fiend.”

TO SAY THE LEAST, I DISAGREE WITH HIS THEOLOGY.

Amen. Selah. So be it.


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Doc Abersold is a 87 year old man who has his Ph.D. in two emphases: Behavioral Medicine and Humanistic Psychology. He has been on 130 cruises – many as destination lecturer and has visited 84 countries.

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