Antique Critique: Carnegie
Nearly 245 years ago, someone named George Washington was the CEO of a little startup. It was called the United States of America (ever heard of it?). And as soon as he and his co-founders signed its articles of incorporation on July 4th, 1776, it created opportunity for others. Andrew Carnegie was someone who seized said opportunity...
Carnegie was born into a poor immigrant family, yet throughout his life he would forge his own path to absolute business savagery. He left Scotland and arrived in Allegheny, PA with his family at age 12, where—at a textile mill—he began working for near nothing as a bobbin boy. As he aged, he strung together opportunity after opportunity and eventually found himself in the railroad industry. Smart and observant, he saw the future need for iron and steel in the industry. He started his own company. It was an iron bridge building company that would eventually become a steel manufacturer.
He poured money into innovation to make his factories more efficient and ruthlessly cut costs. This mindset was responsible for horrible working conditions and greatly under-payed employees, which inevitably led to strikes. Ironically, Carnegie was a very vocal advocate for blue-collar workers and workers rights throughout his life.
Carnegie Steel dominated the steel industry. He became the richest American in 1901, when JP Morgan, a financier (you recognize the name) bought him out for $303 milly (that's not adjusted for inflation). He used his deep pockets for philanthropy, and he ended up donating a overwhelming majority of his wealth, which in today’s money would have been worth more than $5 billy.
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