Andrew Carnegie passed away in 1919; however, his position as one of the most successful business men and philanthropists remains today. Both because of his work in business and in philanthropy, Carnegie was able to make a long lasting impact. Best known for his investments in the Pennsylvania railroad and Pittsburgh steel company, Carnegie actually had a wide variety of investments including: in railroad technologies, bridges and the oil industry. Yet, despite a wide variety of business accomplishments, Carnegie spent the latter half of his life donating to libraries, education, scientific research and world peace. In fact, many of the philanthropic institutions he birthed remain in place today.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania specifically has hundreds of bridges that were made possible in part because of his contributions to the steel and bridge industry. Similarly, focusses such as the Carnegie Institute for Science, the Carnegie Hero Fund are still intact. In Pittsburgh, there is an entire connected network or libraries, museums and educational centers that are named after this influential man. Carnegie Mellon University, arguably one of the best colleges for technologically related fields in the country, continues to thrive (Harvey, 2011).

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Carnegie was not always widely successful. He began his career as a hard working telegraph messenger in Pittsburgh before eventually becoming involved in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. While a leader in this company, he even assisted in Civil War efforts by providing transportation for soldiers and other government officials on the railroad. As his investments grew, he was eventually able to sell the company for an obscene amount of money making him one of the richest men in American History. Subsequent holdings in steel companies fostered his inventiveness in new techniques and taught him about the importance of education and innovation in entrepreneurship. While his actions largely benefit the United States and, most particularly Pittsburgh, his leadership was also affected by floods and union protests (Harvey, 2011).

Not a perfect man, Carnegie’s faults are largely outweighed by his commitment to learning and helping others with his wealth. This is particularly evident when his past is compared to some of the other wealthy people (deemed the term Robber Barrons) of his time. His legacy is intact today and should remind any businessman about the relationship between business and community.

  • Harvey, Charles, et al. “Andrew Carnegie and the foundations of contemporary entrepreneurial philanthropy.” Business History 53.3 (2011): 425-450.