If I were asked—“Who was the most com petent, generous, original and independent man in the world?” I would be obliged to answer, “Andrew Carnegie.”
He would also have been the richest, if he had not given away $300,000,000.
All through his long life, Carnegie’s motto was — MORE. HE MADE more — GAVE AWAY more — DID more, than any one else, with the possible exception of Mr. Rockefeller.
Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1835, in a wee cottage. His father was a weaver — poor and discontented — a sort of local labor leader.
When he was a little chap of ten, he saved enough to buy half a box of oranges which he peddled profitably from door to door.
When he was thirteen, lack of work com pelled the whole family to go to America. They set sail on a tiny schooner and made the voyage in forty-nine days.
Little Andy at once found a job as bobbin- boy at $1.25 a week. His father went to work in a cotton mill; and his mother took in washing. They lived in a back street which was known as Barefoot Square.
In a few weeks Andy was promoted to be a stoker, at $1.75 a week. A year later he became a telegraph boy at $3 a week.
He had little or no schooling, but he was keen on reading. His eagerness for books attracted the attention of a kindly man named Colonel Anderson, who offered the use of his library to the young Scottish boy.
That library was the making of Carnegie. It developed him from an errand-boy into a leader of men.
When he was seventeen, he had taught him self telegraphy. One day when the operators were absent an important message came in, and he jumped to the instrument and took it. This was against the rules, but he was promoted at once to be an operator at $6 a week.
Two years later, he jumped in again and cleared up a railway accident. This was also against the rules, but he was promoted to be the secretary of a railway manager.
He saved his money and bought shares in all sorts of companies. For ten years he was a clerk—an assistant to the head of the railway.
He was full of initiative. While others deliberated, he acted. When the Prince of Wales visited Pittsburgh, for instance, young Carnegie jumped forward and said to the Prince—“Would you like a ride on the en gine?” So the future King of England and the future King of Steel had a gay ride together in the cab with the engine driver.
At twenty-seven, Carnegie made his first $1,000 in an oil venture. He made more by backing the Pullman Company, which origi nated sleeping-carriages on railways.
Then, when he was twenty-nine, he bought a one-sixth interest in a little iron company for
$9,000. It was a miserable little iron company. It paid no dividends. It wobbled about on the verge of bankruptcy.
The other shareholders lost hope, so Carnegie bought them out. He hung on. “What we need,” he said, “IS MORE BUSINESS.” So he gave up his railway job and became a salesman of iron products.
He got larger orders at better prices. He put in better machinery. He worked like a demon. Very soon he became what most of us would call rich. But he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more.
At thirty-one he visited England and saw a steel rail at Derby. At Sheffield he saw a Bessemer converter for the first time, and it fascinated him.
He rushed back to America and built a Bessemer steel works. He borrowed from everybody he knew. He staked all he had on steel.
In 1881 he had become the greatest steel- maker in the world. He had 45,000 workers.
By 1889 he was willing to sell out, and offered his company to his own partners for $155,000,000. They were not quick enough, so Carnegie offered it to Rockefeller for $250,000,000.
Rockefeller said, “Too much”; so Carnegie started a selling campaign. Once again his motto was “more.”
He made war on his competitors until they decided to buy him out at any cost. They paid him $450,000,000 in bonds and shares.
At once he became the richest man in the world. He had a pension of $15,000,000 a year. “Hurrah,” he said, “I’m out of business.”
In general his policy as a businessman was as follows: —
(1) Mass production.
(2) The most improved machinery.
(3) Concentration. “Put all your eggs in one basket,” he said, “and watch that basket.”
(4) Avoidance of details. He usually man aged his business from a distance.
(5) Travel. He believed in keeping in touch with outside influences.
(6) Daily reports from all managers.
(7) Giving managers small salaries and large commissions, payable in stock.
(8) Reinvestment of profits in the business.
(9) Appreciation of chemistry and machinery.
(10) High wages, high profits and low costs.
In his philanthropy, too, Carnegie always had one fixed policy—help the man who is trying to help himself. He never gave anything to help the “submerged.” He did not believe in charity, in the ordinary sense.
He built 3,000 libraries, so that people can read books, as he did, and improve themselves. On these libraries he spent $60,000,000. No wiser or nobler act was ever done than this—the opening of the doors of knowledge to millions of people in all English-speaking lands.
He gave $50,000,000 to scientific research; and $25,000,000 to Technical Schools, and $10,000,000 to the Scottish Universities.
He built the Temple of Peace at the Hague—a snow-white building which the world has not deserved.
His only extravagance was travel; and he always regarded travel as a business necessity.
He had the simplest of tastes. He was a featherweight man, only five feet four inches high. He weighed no more than four feet of steel rail.
From the first, he always regarded business as a game. He never let his money master him, as most of us do.
He was a boy-hearted man, always keen, enthusiastic and quick to act. His brain was always bubbling over with new ideas for the improvement of the human race.
He had far less dignity than the average clerk. I have seen him squatting on the floor of his library, in his New York home, arranging charts and papers on the floor.
He didn’t care a ha’penny for looks. He wanted to play the game and win.
His hobbies were steel; libraries; peace; democracy; and—to a certain extent—sci ence and music.
He had a passion for books. Once he said—“If I had my life to live over again, I would prefer to be a librarian.”
He detested starched clothes and fashionable society. He avoided the society of the rich. He married when he was fifty-two, and his wife devoted herself to housekeeping. They had one daughter—a delicate girl who, at twenty-two, married a young American railway man ager. Carnegie would have been heartbroken if she had married a Duke.
He was a good employer—always first to raise wages. He was not to blame for the Homestead strike. He never economized by cutting down the pay of his workers, but by improving the machinery.
He made tons of money, but it was all clean money. He made nobody poorer. He earned it, as the fee of leadership. When he was born, steel was twenty-five cents a pound. He reduced it to one-and-a-half cents.
He was a capitalist; and his career is a com plete answer to Bolshevism. He robbed no one. He raised wages. He made the work easier. He made more jobs. He lowered prices. He built up a great trade for the benefit of the whole world.
And he began life in a wee cottage in Dun fermline. Such is the Epic of Carnegie—the greatest of all industrial Scots.
Andrew Carnegie Quotes