Updated February 5, 2021

Andrew Carnegie was Not a Hero 

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Andrew Carnegie was Not a Hero  essay
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Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 in an attic of a weaver’s cottage in Dunfermline, Scotland. He was born into a poor family with his younger brother, Thomas, who was born in 1843, eight years after Andrew. He got a rough education with packed classrooms and poverty attacking his family from all angles. Carnegie’s first job was working at a textile mill as a bobbin boy. He worked long daily shifts and only earned $1.20 a week. Carnegie “hit it big” when he was 17 years old and got offered a job to work with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Later, he decided to leave the Pennsylvania railroad and move to New York City with his mom.

Carnegie was confused in what he wanted to pursue with his future until he traveled to England and met Henry Bessemer. Bessemer had a special technique of converting iron into steel, which later Carnegie called the Bessemer process. Ten years later he bought the Homestead Steel Mill and later he bought the Allegheny Steel Mills. This is where his company produced tons of steel to be used for hundreds of things. This is when Carnegie became the king of steel. He started a family and decided he was ready to put his business in is past. He sold his company for $480,000,000 to J.P. Morgan, a famous banker.

In 1901, Carnegie was known as the richest man in America after getting his own sale share of $225,000,000. In 1919, he decided his main goal was to give his money away. This can be known as philanthropy which most “heroes” obtain this quality. A hero also has the following traits: courage, intelligence, a good heart, compassion, and selflessness. With regard to Andrew Carnegie’s personal philanthropy, Carnegie was not a hero because he was two-sided, untrustworthy and did not help stimulate the economy.

The first example of Andrew Carnegie not being a hero was that he is two-sided. The Saturday Globe drew a political cartoon regarding the fact that Carnegie is two-sided. The cartoonist clearly split up Carnegie into two people but conjoined at the bottom (Doc D). One side of Carnegie is helping others, while the other side is not helping others. Carnegie is helping those who don’t need to be helped and not helping those who need assistance. On the left side, Carnegie is reducing wages by 20% to his workers. His workers usually come from poor families and work hard for a living and to survive. With Carnegie reducing their wages, he is decreasing the amount of food they get, clothes they can buy and more. On the right side, however, Carnegie is giving out money and education to Scotland and Pittsburgh who are drawn nicely dressed, which means they are prospering (Doc D).

Lastly, the date the cartoon was illustrated has a significant meaning. On July 9, 1892, the date the cartoon was drawn, was only three days after the famous Homestead Steel Strike occurred at one of Carnegie’s steel mills that led to revolts and deaths. This is significant because the cartoon is a response to the strike which was caused by a wage cuts. In other words, the illustrator of the cartoon realizes that Carnegie is two-sided and puts on a facade of assisting others, but in reality he is hindering the lives of workers. These examples of Carnegie being two-sided, reducing wages to those who need it most and benefiting the ones who are already prospering, clearly convey the fact that Carnegie was not a hero.

Another reason that Andrew Carnegie was not a hero was that he was untrustworthy. For starters, in order to be a classified “hero,” that person needs to acquire the trait of being trustworthy, which Carnegie lacks. In William J. Tucker’s, “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie is patronizing society (Doc E). Patronage is when there is a giving of gifts to the poor, which Carnegie partakes in. When patronage occurs, the poor become dependent on the gifts given to them by the wealthy. This could be bad for the society since the poor will start to get acclimated to the situation and then not try to become higher class citizens on their own. Instead, they are being enabled to do nothing to better their community, and the revolving society around them.

Also, it is not fair that Carnegie, and people like him, control so much of the United States. One seventeenth of the population is control of 66% of property; additionally, a close 50,000 families owns half of the wealth of the nation (Doc E). This is clearly unequal and can lead to disputes. Lastly, the distribution of wealth needs to be more appropriate and justified. For instance, if a working family were to think they were getting money from Carnegie, for example, they actually are not. Carnegie is just getting all of his money back with a 20% decrease in wages. These examples of Carnegie using patronage and back-stabbing techniques are obvious reason as to why Carnegie was not a hero and he is untrustworthy.

The final reason that Andrew Carnegie was not a hero was that he didn’t take care of society. As seen with the photos taken by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, a good $10,000,000 was used on renovation costs on the Skibo Castle in Dornoch Firth, Scotland (Doc A). The money he spent to renovate this castle could have been used for better situations to help the society of the time; including, building homes and buying food for the poor, medical care for the people who couldn’t afford it, and research to cure diseases. Now, Carnegie did use a good portion of his money to do those things, but he could have done more. Instead of buying a castle and renovating it for $10,000,000 just for him to go on vacations to, he could have used that money to further those ideas of helping the society.

Keep in mind, a little after this time period, the Great Depression was to occur which led to tons of poverty and famine, which could have been somewhat assisted by Carnegie’s wealth. Also, once the castle was fully renovated, Carnegie would only spend vacations and long weekends at the castle (Doc A). This means that most of the time he wasn’t even living in the castle and he is having to pay yearly payments on it for up-keeping and more. That extra money could have also been used to help the community and society of the time period that was soon to fall to the Great Depression. These examples of Carnegie not taking care of the society is the final reason that he wasn’t a hero.

Nevertheless, some might say that Andrew Carnegie was a hero because he did, in fact, donate money to several companies for various causes (Doc C). Some of this money went to education, the building of libraries, better teaching, religion, and environmental studies. Yet, Carnegie was still known for reducing wages by a good amount which greatly affected his workers negatively. Andrew Carnegie may have been a hero to some, but he was two-sided, untrustworthy and didn’t take care of his society and community which made him not a hero.

Andrew Carnegie was Not a Hero  essay

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