Andrew Carnegie made his millions in Pittsburgh steel. He then sold his company to J. P. Morgan in 1901 and became the richest man in the world with over $500 million dollars, about $10.3 billion in today’s money.
When he retired, Carnegie put all of his energy into writing essays and books devoted to the question of how to improve society.
He was a great believer in education and resources, and he put his money where his mouth was, giving $350 million to various causes and funds. His first public gift was donating baths to his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1873.
After that he decided to give money to help cities all over the world build libraries. In all, 2,500 libraries were built; 1,700 in the U.S.
His generosity continued. Carnegie financed construction of Carnegie Hall in New York City. He began technical schools in Pittsburgh, which formed the core of Carnegie Mellon University.
The Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C., encourages scientific research. He was a benefactor of the African American Tuskegee Institute as well. There are Carnegie funds that reward acts of bravery, works to end war, and research into education and public affairs.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching provides pensions for college professors, and until the government kicked in pensions for presidential widows, Andrew Carnegie’s wealth also supported these former first ladies.
His philosophy was strong: At the age of 33, when he began to earn $50,000 a year, he decided that was enough money for anyone for a year’s work.
He said, “Beyond this never earn, make no effort to increase fortune, but spend the surplus each year for benevolent purposes.”
If only there were more CEOs like him in our time.