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Was Andrew Carnegie a Hero?

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Was Andrew Carnegie a Hero? When you think of a hero what comes to your mind? Superman? Batman? What about a person who changed history? Andrew Carnegie was a man who was self-made and one the wealthiest people in the 19th century. When the civil war ended one thing started booming which was the American industry and demands for railroads were increasing. They were faster, able to cross almost any terrain and were possible to operate in severe weather. Railroads were built all around the continent, this was not possible by having the help from Andrew. He developed a strategy where manufacturing steel was easier, faster and more productive. He had all the materials to do so; raw materials, ships, railroads for transporting good from one place to another; even have coal fields to fuel the steel furnaces. He was a hero in many different ways. His experiences, providing jobs, and giving back to the community. He was born on November 25th, 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland. When he went to school at eight, they crammed 150 students in one room. One of the hardest decisions was made when his family and he moved to the US. He had to work to help support his family. He started working at the age of 12. Can you imagine working that young? Well back then it was common. His family needed $7.25 each week just to make ends meet. His first job was at a local textile mill setting and removing bobbins as they filled it with spun yarn. Over the years he worked his way up from being the young boy working at the textile mill to decoding messages in telegraphs to finally work to be the supervisor of Penny’s entire Western Division. While working for the railroads Andrew started to make investments. Later on, he had left the working railroads to pursue his own interests of other businesses. He established the Carnegie Steel Company, which revolutionized steel production in the United States. This was when he built plants around the country, that were using technology and methods that could make manufacturing steel easier and faster. His business had helped fuel the economy and shape the nation into what it is today. By 1889, Carnegie Steel Corporation was the largest of its kind in the world. He wouldn’t have made it without the help of his workers. An average person’s daily salary wages were from $1.00-$1.50 working little over 10 hours a day. In the 1900s that was a lot of money. Now you can work certain amount of hours but get paid $7.25 an hour. $600 could support a six member family easily. Just shows how much things changed over the years. As Andrew Carnegie Company grew the need of workers was a demand. He employed over 2,000 people. Paying them $1.85 daily. Key to success in this generation was education. Some families couldn’t afford education or can’t go because they had to help support their family. While he was retired, Carnegie began to set up trust funds to "r the improvement of mankind." He built public libraries all. In 1895, the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh was opened. Which future the housing an art gallery, a natural history museum, and a music hall. Andrew also built technical schools that make up the present-day Carnegie Mellon University. In 1902, Carnegie Institution of Washington was set up to encourage research in the natural and physical sciences. Andrew Carnegie Corporations is giving out estimated about $100,000,000 a year mostly in donations to education in 2005. Heroes can’t be forced upon a person. They are made by the actions and the path they choose. Andrew Carnegie was a hero. His experiences, providing jobs and giving back to community was his way of leaving a mark in history. He was the one who brought a new industry era in the US economy. His struggles got him here, knowing what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet or having to give up stuff for his family. He’s truly a remarkable person but he could also had not done it without the help of his employees. He said “no men will make a great leader who wants it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.”

Chart created from Joseph Frazier Wall, Andrew Carnegie, New York, Oxford University Press, 1970
Adapted from Historical Statistics of the United States, Part 1. Bureau of the Census Washington D.C., 1975
Andrew Carnegie. [Internet]. 2014. The website. Available from: [Accessed 19 Nov 2014].
Livesay, Harold C. Andrew Carnegie and the Rise of Big Business. Boston: Little, Brown, 1975.

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