Who was Mr. Carnegie?

Andrew Carnegie’s Story

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born in Scotland and immigrated to America with his family in 1848 with the hope of a better future. The family settled in Allegheny, Pa.

In a rags-to-riches story of the American Dream, Carnegie started working as a bobbin boy, changing bobbins in an Allegheny weaving factory. He soon learned to be a telegrapher and began working his way up the business ladder.

While still a teenager, Carnegie, and other working boys in Allegheny City, was allowed access to the personal library of Col. James Anderson, a wealthy businessman. Carnegie never forgot the opportunity Anderson’s library provided to him in furthering his education and improving himself. It also taught him a valuable lesson: Anyone who works hard can be successful.

Upon his retirement, Carnegie had become the richest man in the world, amassing a $500-million fortune (worth about $200 billion in today’s dollars) through a willingness to work hard and seize opportunities presented to him.

Believing that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced,” Carnegie began giving away his fortune through endowments. Remembering Col. Anderson’s benevolent gesture of opening his library, Carnegie launched a library program of his own.

Between 1883 and 1929, Carnegie’s fortune built more than 2,500 libraries around the world. Forty-one Carnegie libraries dotted Washington State’s small towns and big cities. Six were built in Seattle alone; another four in Spokane. Today, 33 Carnegie libraries survive in Washington State; many are at least 100 years old. Some are still functioning libraries; one is a French restaurant. Others have been adapted as museums, municipal buildings and businesses.