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Andrew Carnegie was born in November 1835 in Dunfermline to William (a weaver) and Margaret. Both his parents were interested in politics and attaining decent working and living conditions for the poor. William was involved in the Chartist movement which advocated political change and fought for the rights of people of all classes to vote and become members of parliament.
William Carnegie made the decision to move to America because he could see that a huge country, far from Scottish shores, could be a land of opportunity at a time when many people practising traditional Scottish crafts were losing business. The Carnegies moved to Pennsylvania in 1848, where Andrew soon found work in a cotton factory as a bobbin boy, acting as a runner by providing and collecting bobbins as needed for workers in the factory. Andrew soon changed jobs, finding posts as a messenger boy and a telegraph operator before joining the Pennsylvania Railroad Company where he quickly climbed the ranks.
The Carnegie family believed in hard work and the importance of learning. Although Andrew had little formal education most of his learning came from books, entrepreneurial intelligence and life experience. Thus whilst working at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company he started investing in companies he believed would prosper, including building and manufacturing companies. From the start he had a gifted touch with investment, and saw excellent returns on his money - enough to start to invest in his own companies, including a steel works in which lay the foundations for the building of an extensive fortune.
Carnegie’s main money was made through steel and iron. His philosophy and daring attracted highly skilled workers who appreciated Carnegie’s offer of shares in the company they worked for; this also ensured they were deeply committed to the success of the company, for they knew that working productively together could bring them shared reward.
Carnegie’s philanthropy started with providing funds for libraries – the first of these was in his home town of Dunfermline, Scotland. Self-taught Carnegie was giving back some of what he had gained, for as a teenager he had benefited from the philanthropy of a local man who had let working boys use his library. Carnegie set up trusts and foundations in America and Britain, many of which still survive today. He contributed money to churches, education and causes which chimed with his philosophy on life and giving. His book The Gospel of Wealth promoted the idea that riches are for giving, not hoarding.
Andrew Carnegie bought Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands in 1898, pouring huge amounts of money into renovations and expansion of the property. Although Skibo Castle, now an upmarket hotel, no longer belongs to the Carnegie family, it still remembers Andrew Carnegie’s name. Access to hotel and services is limited to those who belong to an exclusive private members’ club - The Carnegie Club.
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