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Andrew Carnegie Brief Bio

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Andrew Carnegie was once claimed the richest man in the world. He built a fortune from a meager beginning. Carnegie was a hard working man who refused to quit. He was dedicated to perform well and held respect for quality work. However, Carnegie faced a constant challenge through his success; his values often conflicted with his success. Carnegie was able to offset this conflict through his donations to the public after his retirement from the steel industry. He has been better remembered for his donations than his ethics as an employer.

Andrew Carnegie traveled from Scotland to America with his parents when he was thirteen years old. The family moved to Pittsburg in 1848, which Carnegie described at the time as unpleasant to say the least writing, “"The smoke permeated and penetrated everything.... If you washed your face and hands, they were as dirty as ever in an hour. and for a time ... life was more or less miserable."(Richest PBS) Here begins the conflict Carnegie displays throughout his life; while he is disgusted with the effects of industrialized society he also builds an empire from the same means.

Carnegie’s father was able to gain employment for himself and Andrew at a cotton factory, Carnegie’s wage was a meager $1.20 a week at this time.(Andrew Wikipedia) While at the cotton factory Carnegie was able to move into better paying positions although the advancements he earned had drawbacks. In one position he controlled a boiler he was always worried might burst, another oiling spools, which often made him sick and both very trying for him at such a young age. He states in his autobiography, “at this date I was not beyond asking myself what Wallace would have done and what a Scotsman ought to do. Of one thing I was sure, he ought never to give up.” ( Carnegie Auto) His perseverance was one of his positive attributes that helped him succeed. Three years after arriving in America, Carnegie gained employment from the Ohio Telegraph Company with a wage more than double that at the cotton factory. At $2.50 a week Carnegies was raking in the big bucks at his new job and he was excited to learn more about the industry. While employed with the telegraph company Carnegie became one of only a few people in the country who could decipher the message of the telegraph strictly by sound.(Andrew Wikipedia) His capacity to learn quickly and the energy he was willing to put into any job he had defiantly paved the road to his wealth. His skills with the telegraph opened the doors for his next major advancement.

Thomas Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad company took notice of Carnegie’s work ethic and telegraph skill. Scott hired Carnegie on as a personal telegrapher and secretary for $35 dollars a month.(Richest PBS) Later his advancement to superintendent of the Pittsburg division placed him as Scott’s right hand man throughout the Civil War. The Civil War caused a boom in the iron industry at which Carnegie took notice and at the same time, he went to work in Altoona Pennsylvania where the Pennsylvania Railroad company was converting a wooden railroad bridge into stronger iron.(Richest PBS) These two components lead Carnegie to take his first major step as an entrepreneur. Carnegie organized together the designer of the bridge in Altoona as well as two business partners and his good friend Thomas Scott to develop the Keystone Bridge Company, with the intention of replacing wooden bridges in Pennsylvania with stronger and more modern iron. Keystone exceeded those first expectations and the company chartered projects as far as St. Louis. (Carnegie Auto) Keystone Bridges carried an excellent reputation, as Carnegie stated, “even in these days of the fiercest competition, when everything would seem to be a matter of price, there lies still at the root of great business success the much more important factor of quality.” (Carnegie Auto) While writing his autobiography Carnegie noted that not one Keystone bridge had fallen or suffered some other disaster, this dedication to quality work is yet another factor to his success.

The Keystone works was Carnegie’s first investment in iron production. He held a one sixth interest in Keystone for an eight hundred dollar investment.(Richest PBS) He then began investing in other iron works. He soon hit a roadblock in the industry. Carnegie was disturbed by the lack of information gather to calculate loss and waste. He spent several years creating a detailed accounting system for his works that allowed him to see not only what was produced but also measure each individual worker’s performance. (Carnegie Auto)While perfecting the information system of his iron works Carnegie discovered a new process being used by Henry Bessemer, this process of steel refining would convert huge batches of iron into steel. (Richest PBS) Carnegie invested heavily into the new technology with his own money and borrowed large sums to support the new process.

By the late 1880s, Carnegie owned several steel works; he owned more steel and iron production than any other person in the country. All the works were consolidated under Carnegie Steel Company. He attained several existing steel and iron works one in particular would cause him quite a bit of trouble.

The Homestead strike of 1982 was a disaster that tainted the image of Mr. Carnegie. Although the workers in Homestead were handled by Carnegie’s partner Henry Clay Frick, a known anti-unionist, it is documented that Carnegie communicated with Frick throughout the Homestead strike. Union workers refused to resolve the union at Homestead and accept pay cuts. The tension began with Frick’s lockout of union workers to the works on June 30, 1892. ( Homestead) It is obvious that neither Carnegie nor Frick foresaw the power behind the few union workers locked out considering those workers were in the minority at the Homestead mill. However, this oversight lead to one of the most serious labor disputes in American history. Again, with the Homestead strike we see another conflict Carnegie displays; while he spoke of union labor rights he was quick to dissolve unions in his own works as well as cut pay and force long hours on employees. The outcome of the Homestead strike was bloodshed. The strikers were able to stop scabs from entering and maintain control over the town of Homestead for more than a week. Frick resorted to bringing in private security to attempt control over the plant. It is unknown who fired first but ten men died during the shooting.(Homestead ) Carnegie was conveniently out of the



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