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Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie


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What's inside?

Meet "Saint" Andrew Carnegie in the first historically thorough biography of the robber-baron philanthropist.

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On Feb. 4, 1901, Andrew Carnegie sold his steel-making business for an unprecedented $400 million (worth about $120 billion now). With that sale, he became "The Richest Man in the World," according to J.P. Morgan, who bought Carnegie's company and used it as the basis of U.S. Steel. But if you want to learn how to become the richest person in your part of the world, that's not the purpose of this biography. Instead David Nasaw minutely depicts an authentic tragic comedy in more than 800 pages, the life of an impoverished, painfully short immigrant lad who succeeded during the Gilded Age of capitalism, becoming a robber baron, philanthropist and "peacenik." The author uncovers many of the secret operations Carnegie used to exploit his early employers and, later, his gullible investors. This account corrects biographies that omit Carnegie's shady railroad bonds and union busting. The author also explains how Carnegie used his wealth to become one of the world's greatest philanthropists, a significant legacy that endures through the institutions and libraries he endowed. getAbstract highly recommends this detailed history for its iconoclastic scholarship, profound soul-searching and fascinating portrait of a unique, contradictory person.


Rising from Tough Roots

The "survival of the fittest" doctrine of evolution blazed the way for the emergence of "Primitive Capitalism," a theory that supposedly justified the cruel British business practices of the Industrial Age. These tactics suited the 19th century robber barons, especially Andrew Carnegie.

He came from the impoverished masses, one of the troubled children of an unsuccessful weaver and a heroic mother, who worked hard so her family could just "get by." She borrowed money to enable the family to flee a Scottish depression and migrate to the U.S. in the early 1800s. They arrived almost penniless but anxious to work. "Andras" Carnegie might have been just one more teenager among the hordes of immigrants seeking the American dream but for his exceptional memory and math skills. He began as a fellow Scot's bookkeeper and became his business partner.

By age 24, he was helping his boss administer sectors of the Pennsylvania Railroad ("the Pennsy"), getting his first shares as an insider and "bagman" in a legal but "immoral" financing deal. On his own, he judged incompetent workers and summarily fired the worst ones. He declared he felt so confident...

About the Author

David Nasaw, a history professor at the City University of New York, won the Bancroft Prize for The Chief, his biography of William Randolph Hearst. His work has appeared in major magazines.

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