Carnegie: A devil in the workplace but a good man where it counts

This is a cartoon of Carnegie that satires his idea of the "vertical monopoly", in which one controls all aspects of a particular industry.

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish immigrant who came to America in relative poverty. His humble origins lay in factory work; however, he quickly gained promotions to messenger boy and ultimately telegraph operator at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, where he made connections with many powerful businessmen. Here, he studied hard gained a substantial amount of knowledge on the industry. He also starting investing his capital, and with the help of his superiors was able to make quite a few good investments. For some time, he invested in railroads and even became Superintendent of the Military Railways; however, he became more interested in the manufacturing of iron and opened his own company. Quickly enough he progressed to the manufacturing of steel, and he either swallowed smaller companies or integrated them into his own. He invested his money to vertically integrate his company; in other words, he aimed to own every single aspect of the steel industry, including refinery, production, shipping, etc. Eventually, Carnegie became the richest man of his time. However, the majority of his money went toward philanthropy; he is credited with the building of multiple parks, libraries, and other public institutions.

The answer to why Carnegie was so determined on making something of himself may lie in the fact that his family was so poor. They lived in a one-room cottage in Scotland, and upon moving to America he discovered the opportunity to break free of his poverty. He was extremely hard working, reading volumes upon volumes of books on industry and learning many valuable lessons from his mentors. He used his charm and charisma to his advantage, gaining the trust of businessmen that could lead him in the right direction. However, it is obvious that all along he had his humble origins at heart and in mind; after all, most of the money that he rightly earned went to benefit the general public which he had once been a part of. It is clear that he was compassionate and benevolent because he had such a desire to give back to the community.

If Carnegie showed up in class this Tuesday, I would probably ask him what really gave him the huge motivation he had to work so hard. Was it a particular event? Were his parents insistent that he worked hard? Or was it just his desire to break free from the chains of poverty? I’d also ask him to name some of his more lavish expenditures, just to get an idea of what he really valued and to understand what his personal life was really like.

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