How Andrew Carnegie became one of the richest man ever in America

Portrait of the late great Andrew Carnegie

Image:  Cliff / CC-BY

Andrew Carnegie was the son of a Scottish handloom weaver. Despite not having received formal education, he was taught by his own parents, and was surrounded with good books to read. His family moved to the United States when he was only 13 years old, and took up residence in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

The first job Carnegie took was in a factory, and that earned him $1.20 a week. The following year, he became a telegraph messenger and two years later, in 1951, became a telegraph operator. One would never imagine that a wage earner in a company would later become one of the wealthiest person in America. 

The Steady Climb to Success

Andrew Carnegie was an ambitious man. He wanted to make advancements to his career, and in 1853, he got that chance when he started working at the Pennsylvania Railroad. He became the assistant to one of its top officials, Mr. Thomas Scott, and also worked as his personal telegrapher, earning him $35 a week.

It was here that his knowledge about the railroad industry expanded, and how he learned about the business. With his humble savings of $217.50, he invested in the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company, a financial move that brought him $5,000 annual dividends. And all that when he was only in his twenties!

No doubt about it, Andrew Carnegie wasn't only hardworking, he was also willing to learn. Because of his great potential, he became Scott's successor as superintendent after 3 years working as his assistant, with an annual salary of $1,500. 

The Keystone Bridge Company

His big move was when he stepped into his thirties and started the Keystone Bridge Company with the financial assistance of his mentor, Thomas Scott. 

Carnegie believed that steel can go a long way when it comes to construction, and his goal was to replace wooden spans with newer ones made of steel and iron to fortify a structure and make it last longer.  He focused on construction of steel mill, and devoted a lot of his time to accessing raw materials. 

Keystone Telegraph Company

When Andrew Carnegie received permission from the Pennsylvania Railroad that he can establish his lines along their tracks, he started another company he called the Keystone Telegraph Company. He made more investments, most of them in railroad ventures with J. Edgar Thomson. 

The Carnegie Steel Company

The Carnegie Steel Company, a consolidation to all Carnegie's primary holdings, was established in 1892. To say that his company revolutionized the production of steel in the United States was an understatement. He built plants across the country, combining it with the latest technology at that time to make sure production was made faster. 

After only 9 years after it was established, the Carnegie Steel Company was bought by banker John Pierpoint Morgan for $480 million and this cemented Carnegie‚Äôs place in society as one of the richest men in the world. 

It was also in 1901 that Carnegie Steel was merged by Morgan with other steel businesses in the U.S., and named it U.S. Steel, the first billion-dollar corporation in the world. 

Retirement and Philanthropic Work

Carnegie gave away various gifts in cash and kind. One of them was the donation of $1.1 million for the construction of the legendary concert venue in New York City, the Carnegie Hall, which was named after him. It opened in 1891. 

Carnegie was able to fund over 2,500 public libraries all throughout the world. He also donated thousands and thousands of piano organs to thousands of churches in different countries. He supported research organizations in the name of world peace, education, science, and other good causes. 

Carnegie lived a long and happy life. He married at the age of 51 and had one child. At the age of 83, he died and was buried at New York's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. His net worth at the time of his death adjusted for inflation is a whopping $300 Billion!

Lessons From This Great Pioneer

  • It is never too early to start investing
  • When you are young, learn all you can about an industry
  • Be willing to take calculated risk and try out new things
  • When you are successful, be generous and give back to society
  • And's never too late to find love : )

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"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

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