The Gilded Age
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Gilded Age industrialist, the owner of the Carnegie Steel Company, and a major philanthropist. He epitomized the Gilded Age ideal of the self-made man, rising from poverty to become one of the wealthiest individuals in the history of the world. Born into a humble family in Scotland, Carnegie came to the United States with his impoverished parents at the age of thirteen. He worked as a bobbin boy and a telegraph messenger before taking a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the age of eighteen. By the Civil War, he held an administrative position with the railroad. At the war's end, Carnegie entered the iron industry, and recognizing that steel rails would soon replace iron rails, he invested in the steel business.
Carnegie utilized the newest technologies, such as the Bessemer blast furnace, to expand his steel company. He also employed "vertical integration"—control over every aspect of the industry from the mining of iron ore through the production and distribution of steel—to increase his control over the industry and the profitability of his firm.
By the turn of the century, Carnegie Steel was the largest steel company in America. In 1901, financier J.P. Morgan acquired Carnegie Steel in the process of building U.S. Steel. Andrew Carnegie retired to Scotland and dedicated his time and money to various philanthropies consistent with the philosophy that he had advanced in "The Gospel of Wealth." Among these philanthropies were the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.