Industrialist, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist
You’ve probably heard of The Giving Pledge, where extremely wealthy people commit to donating over half of their wealth by the time they die. Andrew Carnegie, perhaps the most famous American philanthropist, can take credit for making it cool to give your money away.
He once said: “No man can become rich without himself enriching others; the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835, and moved to the United States with his parents when he was thirteen years old. They had no money.
He started working as a telegraph messenger boy for $2.50/hour and later went to work for the railroad, where he learned from a mentor how to manage a business, and how to invest his money. Through his investments, he made enough money to open a steel rolling mill, which helped meet the great demand for iron products generated by the Civil War.
He sold his steel company in 1901 for $480 million ($370 billion in today’s dollars) and spent the rest of his life giving his money away.
Education was important to Carnegie, and he funded over 3,000 public (free) libraries and several universities. He also loved music and the arts — he funded 7,000 church organs and a place to listen to music – Carnegie Hall in New York City. By the time he died at age 83, Carnegie had given away $350,695,653 (approximately $76.9 billion in today’s dollars). Not bad for someone who started as a penniless immigrant.