On Aug. 11, 1919, a remarkable philanthropist and industrialist went to his reward. Andrew Carnegie, the king of steel and architect of the second Industrial Revolution, made the equivalent of many billions of dollars… and then gave it all away.
Born in Scotland, Carnegie immigrated to America at the age of 13 and went to work as a “bobbin boy” in a cotton factory. A frugal Scotsman, he saved every penny he could, invested heavily in railroads, then used the dividends from his railroad stocks to build a steel mill. By the 1890s, his Carnegie Steel Co. was the largest and most profitable industrial enterprise in the world.
By the time he was 40 Carnegie was worth some $400 million—the equivalent of nearly $20 billion today.
He vowed to spend the second half of his life giving it all away. He sold his interests to J.P. Morgan and used his wealth to fund schools and universities and to construct 2,509 public libraries. Carnegie later heeded his lifelong urge to return to Scotland, where he died of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 83.