1908: Andrew Carnegie

From a June 1908 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine:


Owners of America
I. Andrew Carnegie

by Alfred Henry Lewis

Editors Note.—The series, “Owners of America,” of which the first article is here presented, will be found one of the most interesting that has ever appeared in any American magazine.

Senator La Follette has recently published a list of one hundred financiers who are the real owners and rulers of the United States with various degrees of power in the control of industries.

The personalities of these men are undoubtedly as interesting as those of any group of individuals in the history of the world, but many of them are quite unknown to the public.

It is the plan of the Cosmopolitan to treat of these men and their influence upon the country in an entirely new and original manner.

Once upon a no very remote time, a wise man, looking ahead, declared that children then alive would see a day when the entire population of the country would be helpless and obedient, beneath the dominating thumbs of one hundred men. This wise man gave his prophetic sight too much of elevation; he overshot the mark. The day he threatened has arrived, and not one hundred menu but a half-score may be named who hold practically the whole wealth of America in the controlling hollows of their hands. It is here proposed to write serially and biographically — and as far as may be remedially — of these men, and to begin with Andrew Carnegie, who is a Caesar of Steel.

Of all who ever went to sleep at the switch of their own interests, the public is most somnolently thick. Of all the inane lambs that ever gamboled in plain sight of the wolves, the public is the most bleatingly witless. As exhibiting to the public lamb, in something of its size and fangy strength, one of the many lions with which, in advance of the millennium, it is pleased to lie down, I give here a handful of figures by which to measure the Steel Trust.

The Steel Trust stock and bond issues, in a recent year, amounted to nearly $1,436,722,135. The whole debt of the United States was but $901,470,950. In interest and dividends for that year, the Steel Trust paid out $58,748,392. The interest payments of the government during the same period were but $28,556,438. That year the gross earnings of the Steel Trust were $536,572.871. The income of the government, slightly topping it, was $560,396,674. The operating expenses of the Steel Trust during those twelve months were $409,268,599, while the expenses of the government were $477,542,659. The Steel Trust surplus at the close of that year was $12,304,916; the surplus of the government was, roundly, $14,000,000.

These figures should give the public some notion of the size of at least one of the lions that live in the same cage with it. If gold be power — and I think no one doubts it — what a black world of harm, whether latent or active, resides with such a colossus of money! And yet it is but one of many; the woods are full of its gigantic kind. There is a downright peril that ever lurks in strength. Weakness, no matter how vicious, is seldom a threat. One need hardly fear a tabby-cat, even in its hour of anger. When the tabby swells to royal size and becomes a lion the case is different. There are trade lions, just as there are trade tabby-cats. The public is safe from the little iron-monger, though he yearn never so hungrily to swindle it. It would be widely another business if the Steel Trust turned man-eater, with teeth and talons to carry out its fell design.


Andrew Carnegie dominates and directs the Steel Trust. Every day he receives the totaled story of its doings. He assumed to “retire,” but it was only the polite fiction of a gentleman who, living elegantly in these his latter, leisure days, would rid himself of smudge of forge and dust of mill. Since Mr. Carnegie intended thereafter to inhabit the drawing-rooms of existence, where trade is the thing rude and undesirable, he defied a proverb and invented a method by which he might both eat his cake and have it, too. He called that method “retiring”; and, in pursuance thereof, he “retired” from the Steel Trust, just as Mr. Rockefeller “retired” from Standard Oil; just as some captain “retires” to his cabin and by messenger sends his orders to the bridge.

Not only does Mr. Carnegie dominate the Steel Trust, but he claims credit as its creator. His original investment was $250,000. That is the whole measure of what capital he has contributed during his forty years of steel. Now his annual income, per word of Mr. Frick — who ought to know — is, roundly, $25,000,000; which is more than the aggregate incomes of all the sovereigns of Europe, including King Edward and barring the Czar.

There is no guessing at Mr. Carnegie’s riches; he himself couldn’t count them. Mr. Morgan, he whom his intimates call “Ponty,” described him as the “richest man in all the world.” Mr. Frick, more conservative, put him down for half a billion. And what is half a billion? If the salary of Pilate, when he sat in Roman judgment on the Saviour, had been $250,000 a year, and if he’d lived until now and drawn and saved every dollar of that salary, he wouldn’t be worth, by many millions, as much as Mr. Carnegie. Such as Mr. Carnegie therefore are worth reading about; his story should show much to copy, and perhaps much to avoid.


In figure Mr. Carnegie is five feet four inches in height — a short, thick, tough, stocky, hickory-knot of a man. His head is round and big and hard and Scotch, and full of brains. He is active, keen, urbane, aggressive, ambitious, affable, selfish, friendly, cautious, never forgets, seldom forgives, helps others, helps them the more readily when it helps Carnegie, keeps his right hand posted as to what his left’s about, has no spun-glass sentimentalities, would like to get back a dollar for every dime put out, and is not wholly decided whether he would sooner be rich than be right. He is against rascality. Emphatically he is against rascalities that spell a personal loss. He prefers to do right and win. Also certain hairsplitting moralists and ethical carpers aver that he would sooner do wrong than lose.


Going to his inner consciousness, Mr. Carnegie thinks rather of this life, being sure of it, than of the next life, of which he is not sure. Being somewhat scant of imagination, he has no superstitions, and makes a specialty of giving no money to a church. And yet in his own fashion he follows the mystical and leans toward Swedenborgianism, the religion of his father. By the same token, he never crosses the outstretched palm of any foreign mission with silver, holding Mohammed and Buddha and Confucius and Christ to have been equally good teachers, each in his own day and way, and discovering no differences in religions not traceable to temperaments and temperatures.

Mr. Carnegie’s eye is bright, his face full and vital, his nose upturned and eager, as though somewhere in advance it sniffed an orchard. His beard and hair are white as milk; he suffers not from baldness, and in beard matters, eschewing the rabbinical, follows Van Dyke. He has thoroughness, energy, courage, luck. He believes in education, and has an affectation rather than an affection for books.


Inclined to the showy, with a strong albeit amiable tincture of the band-wagon in his composition, Mr. Carnegie reads a great deal, since he likes to display a great deal. He aims at being thought learned, and hungers to become of the pundit caste. He is honest, in the sense commercial; that is to say, it is a civilized not a savage honesty, for he holds that a man should as much guide his integrities in business, guarding against overflow, as guide his manners in society, repressing and preventing every vulgar excess. As stated, he believes in education with an energy of heat found only in Jews and Scotchmen; and, because his own labor-smothered childhood went un-illuminated of school, he surrounded himself with tutors after he was thirty-three.

Going forward a descriptive step, Mr. Carnegie likes good eating, good drinking, good music, good pictures, good weather, good fishing, good clothes — all of which argues the physical rather than the mental or sentimental. The good clothes, in their immaculate emphasis, may be born of an instinctive anxiety to shine in the favorable and favoring eyes of women. Every Scotchman loves the fair, as he loves the product of Glenlivet; and Mr. Carnegie is Scotch.


Being Scotch, Mr. Carnegie is obstinate — when obstinacy doesn’t mean expense — and revels in contradiction. Thus he is a great Scotchman while in America, and a great American while in Scotland, where they call him the “Star-Spangled Scotchman.” At Skibo, he flies, along with the Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes; which is flattering to the United States and a protective tariff. He likes coaching, since it provides not only for seeing but for being seen. Besides, timid folk get out of your way, which is ever in the line of compliment and perfume.

Like Mr. Rockefeller and many another money-eminent, Mr. Carnegie plays golf. There is this — to me — suspicious feature to golf: the common every-day urchin of the streets never plays it. Only folk who have money, or who hope to have money, play golf. I sometimes fear, too, that the lust for coaching, so often witnessed among our exclusives, hath a fashionable smart-set flavor; for, when all’s in, coaching, as mere coaching, should be about as inherently enjoyable as trucking or driving a dray.

Sentimentally Mr. Carnegie is eager for a world’s approval. To this laudable end he builds libraries, and has piled up nearly seventeen hundred of them in England and Scotland and America. Nor does he build them under an alias; one and all they are carefully “Carnegie Libraries.” His is no light to be hidden, whatever the accumulation of bushels. Besides, they are to be his monuments, his gravestones, and to be sure he writes his name on them.

There be ones envious and narrow who scoff at the Carnegie libraries. I shall not emulate their jeering example, for, laying aside that the upbuilding of these arsenals of learning pays current wages to what stone and iron and plaster and paint and lumber artisans are employed thereon, it does not become one who writes books to rail at him who provides shelves for them. I go further; I should be blithe were Mr. Carnegie to toss up one of his bookhouses at every crossroad in the country.


In manner Mr. Carnegie is plausible, pleasant, insinuating, suave, and has a talent for the blind side of folk whom he wants to hypnotize and use. This genius to flatter, while not seeming to do so, was and is the corner-stone of his success, the keystone of his arch of personal triumph. It taught him at the age of fourteen how to please and use Col. Tom Scott, and later Mr. Edgar Thomson, both controlling spirits of the Pennsylvania Railroad. By them he planted the seeds of his subsequent millions, which seeds he watered with loans from them and with rebate privileges which they granted through their railroad. It taught him in middle life how to please “statesmen,” and use them in throwing tariff walls about his business of steel. It taught him in Mr. Cleveland’s second term how to please and use that rotund executive in cutting down, to a comparative nothing, that fine of several hundred thousand dollars which a House had sternly imposed as a rebuke to peculiar armor-plates.

In a sense of what is known as “society,” Mr. Carnegie likes the drawing-rooms. Most of all, however, more than golf or coaching or anything else, he likes to make money. Wherefore he — politely and unobtrusively of course — took his business into society with him. He carried business into society, society into business, made one deft hand wash the other, did not forget a coke-oven in a conservatory, and while admiring a Corot failed not to book heedfully a steel-contract.

Not only does Mr. Carnegie delight in society, but he is more or less a wanderer in the world of letters. He makes friends with Herbert Spencer; and although he may not understand — who could? — every thought our synthetical one puts forth, he feels a Scotch joy in such thought, none the less. Besides, the thoughtful Spencer likes to fish; and so, in a way Waltonian, they find ground in common.


Like Caesar and Napoleon, Mr. Carnegie has written books. He has written, among others, “An American Four-in-Hand in Britain” and “Triumphant Democracy”; in both he shows himself equal to epigram like a Highland Rochefoucauld. He is fond of whacking accepted aphorisms over the snout, as in “Put all your eggs in one basket, and watch the basket.” To be sure, he waited in his own case until his hair was white before he said this; his eggs had all come safe to market, and were off his hands. A proverb of his youth was, “Break orders to save owners,” and it was by acting on it he won the Tom Scott heart. One of his latest and most democratic of epigrams ran, “I should sooner my niece wed a worthy workingman than a worthless duke,” its only drawback — if it be a drawback — being that the wedding was over when he said it.

Mr. Carnegie was born in 1837. In his later years he has congratulated himself on this. Had he arrived thirty years earlier, he would have been too soon for what millions lay buried in the stomach of steel, not yet ready to come forth. Had he waited thirty years, he would have been something more than a day behind the fair.

Father Carnegie lived in the little Scotch hamlet of Dunfermline when our Andy was born. The elder Carnegie was a weaver, and clashed out his bread and a little butter at a hand-loom. One day they invented machinery to do the weaving; Father Carnegie went on the industrial warpath, and made incendiary speeches in favor of destroying inventors and inventions.

There has ever been some pipe-line of sympathy between Scotland and France, and the ground-swells of French revolution would at this time just about be reaching Dunfermline. They rocked the elder Carnegie into many oral extravagancies of a half-treasonable kind. As to Andy’s uncle, in a fit of political giddiness, incident to such revolutionary rocking, that relative became a mob leader and got himself rocked into as well as locked in jail. This so affected Andy’s oratorical father that, with his wife, little Andy, and Andy’s little brother Tom, he took the schooner Wiscasset for America. They were forty-nine days in crossing; for the Wiscasset was a deliberate tub, and not one to be hurried.

Being landed, the hand of history next seizes the Carnegies in Barefoot Square, Slabtown — a suburb of Allegheny. Carnegie père, now in classic Slabtown, found work in a linen-mill. Here Andy joined him as bobbin-boy. The latter had arrived at the unripe age of eleven, and they gave him twenty cents a day. A bit later he ran a stationary engine; deserting which, he became a messenger-boy in the office of the Ohio Telegraph Company.

As messenger-boy Andy got three dollars a week, and was correspondingly puffed up. Andy’s chief was one Larcombe. To Larcombe, old now but much alive, Mr. Carnegie gives a pension of seventy-five dollars a month.

“Larcombe was always kind to me,” explains Mr. Carnegie, in seeming apology for this largess.

The world will condone Mr. Carnegie’s liberality; the more readily since, remembering that income of $25,000,000, it does not threaten our philanthropist’s bank-balance with a mortal stab.

Andy as a lad was quick to learn, and never shirked a duty. Like begets like; the way to get more than you give is to give more than you get. It sounds like a paradox; but never mind, it works. This was Andy’s rule, a rule somewhat abated, possibly, as the years rolled on. He got three dollars a week, and, by heaping up the measure of his week’s work, he gave the company four dollars’ worth of work. And so the pleased company reached out for Andy one day, and brought him up higher. As a telegraph messenger-boy Andy had mastered the “machine” in odd hours, and was the third on earth who learned to take a message by ear. Observing this, his company promoted him to the rank of operator; now he took messages, but did not carry them.


Col. Tom Scott was a division superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Because Andy was bright and quick and liberal as to services rendered, Colonel Scott made him a railroad telegraph operator. He received twenty-five dollars a month — a mighty stipend! One day there came a smashup; the road was blocked, and Colonel Scott nowhere to be found. Whereupon Andy did a revolutionary thing, one that would have got him court-martialed and shot in the army. He faked a half-dozen messages, signed them “Tom Scott, Div. Supt.,” and unlocked traffic all along the Pennsylvania. Colonel Scott, when he discovered what had been done and had recovered his breath, made Andy his private secretary — where he could watch him. A few years went by, and Andy succeeded Colonel Scott as division superintendent. In time he resigned this berth, and has been doing business on what is colloquially called “his own hook” ever since.

While Andy was performing as private secretary for Colonel Scott, that prince of business gave Andy his baptism of gold. He told him to buy ten shares of Adams Express Company stock for six hundred dollars, and helped him find the six hundred. The month following, a dividend check reached Andy. It was like a firm drink of rum, and Andy reeled with the tingling joy of it. It fixed his appetite; from that moment he has felt a profound thirst for gold.


When Carnegie the elder labored in the linen-mill, and Andy was slave to a bobbin, his mother, Scotch-fashion, cast about to swell the family income. Cobbler Phipps, working with awl and wax-end, was the shoemaker of Slabtown. Mother Carnegie went to Cobbler Phipps, and brought home shoes to bind. Between Carnegie père and Andy in the linen-mill, and Mother Carnegie binding shoes, the family bought a small frame house, a little larger than a dry-goods box. Going every Sabbath to the Swedenborgian church, owning their own cottage, the Carnegies were much looked up to in Slabtown first circles, and among the elite of Barefoot Square.

Cobbler Phipps had a son; his name was Henry. Andy and young Phipps became chums. Sundays they drank in Swedenborgianism; week-days they borrowed books of Mr. Anderson, and studied them evenings. The Anderson library contained four hundred volumes, and Andy and young Phipps all but read them to flinders. That library became the book-acorn of suggestion from which have grown those Carnegie seventeen hundred.

As Andy grew in years he and young Phipps grew in friendship. Another lad, Tom Miller, was taken into the friendly coalition. The boys had no secrets from one another; and when one made a dollar the others knew it, and sometimes borrowed it.


It was Tom Miller of the trio who started off first and fastest in the gold-getting; Andy, however, was not far behind. While working for Colonel Scott as secretary, a lean, hungry, lunatic-seeming individual sought Andy. His name was Woodruff, and he had invented the first sleeping-car. Andy showed it to Colonel Scott, who took it up; a company was formed, and Andy got a handful of shares. It wasn’t much, no more than a thin slice off a huge loaf; but is was nicely buttered, and Andy swallowed it gratefully and gracefully.

Somebody said “iron bridges,” and Andy took the hint. He started the Keystone Bridge Works, into which he soft-soaped Colonel Scott and Mr. Thomson. The two latter furnished most of the money; not much, but enough. Also, what was more important, they hauled the bridge product of the Keystone works at a dangerous per cent, less than their usual freight rates. This gave Andy the rebate high ground on all competitors; it put money in his purse, and landed him financially where we shall soon have to quit calling him Andy. It is not meet that you identify a money-monarch by his first name.

The war broke out, and Colonel Scott became a junior war secretary under Secretary Stanton. He called Andy to the head of the military telegraph and railway lines. Andy served through the first battle of Bull Run. Then his ”health” gave way, and he went to Europe to recuperate. I do not blame him; that first battle of Bull Run made a number of people sick.

When Andy returned, he did not again join the serried ranks of war. Such peaceful bashfulness was to have been expected; Andy was born to be rich, and war therefore was not his forte. It is ever thus. Show me a natural-born soldier, and I’ll show you a natural-born poor man. What? Who among our gray multimillionaires ever shouldered an Enfield or buckled on a blade? No, war and commerce are as oil and water; the great shopkeeper is never the great soldier. The differences between sabers and yardsticks, cannon-balls and pound-weights, are congenital and not to be reconciled. Andy, the born gold-gatherer, found nothing alluring in carnage, preferring bank-accounts to wounds and martial glory.

From the Keystone works, Mr. Carnegie — from now we abandon the Andy — started the Union Iron Works. He took with him thirteen partners — an ominous number. Among them were Tom Miller and the son of Cobbler Phipps, his chums of Slabtown. Only recently I was reading how the granddaughter of Cobbler Phipps was setting the aristocracy of England aghast by the rents she was paying for her house in Melton Mowbray. Which is evolution of a certain sort.


Oil began to flow, and Mr. Carnegie scalped in and out, and quit richer by one hundred thousand dollars. Colonel Scott sent him to England to sell a block of railroad bonds, and his happy commissions mounted to $250,000. The bonds, as time went on, turned worthless as October’s leaves; which in no wise hurt Mr. Carnegie, who had only sold them. He put the $250,000 into iron, and the iron — in spite of those Elizabethan failures of Doctor Dee and Sir Edward Kelly — under the magic of rebates and the spells of “protection,” turned into gold.

About this time Mr. Carnegie received a blow — a sentimental one. While a most indomitable squire of dames, he had never thought to marry. Now he fell in love in earnest. In a weak moment he presented Colonel Scott to the lady of his soul. Mr. Carnegie said he wanted to get Colonel Scott’s opinion of the lady. This was fiction; what he really wanted was to show Colonel Scott what a wonder he had won. Colonel Scott’s opinion of the lady was high; so high in truth that he shoved his vainglorious subordinate aside and married her himself. This, and give it a best description, was hardly clubby, and Mr. Carnegie ceased to call the perfidious Colonel Scott his friend. He still bristles resentfully whenever the affair is recalled. Mr. Carnegie, jilted, went back to his furnaces, and sadly put off orange-blossoms for twenty years.

In his iron beginnings Mr. Carnegie often needed money. Mr. Phipps, who went with him to a steel trust last and was as his other self, used to do the borrowing. Mr. Carnegie knew nothing of steel; neither did Mr. Phipps. An overalls sort of German, with oil on his hands and coal-smudges on his face, furnished the steel knowledge. Mr. Carnegie was a drummer, a salesman, a contract maker; Mr. Phipps hammered down expense. Mr. Carnegie made the money, Mr. Phipps saved it, the overalls German did the work.

After Colonel Scott so nefariously stole from him his Phyllis, Mr. Carnegie devoted himself to Mr. Edgar Thomson — the Jove of the Pennsylvania. Mr. Carnegie needed the railroad; he needed money; the great Thomson had both. Some folks you must bully, some you must bamboozle, some you must blarney. There be those who yield most quickly to a brickbat — a brickbat well aimed and low. There be others who surrender to a bouquet. The great Thomson was most softened by blarney, most amenable to bouquets. Mr. Carnegie, who could throw either brickbat or bouquet with equal accuracy, blandished the great Thomson by a dedication. He named his pet steel-plant for him — the Edgar Thomson Steel Works. After that there was no trouble; the complacent Mr. Thomson, with check-book and name and credit, was at the Carnegie beck and call.


Then came the Homestead Works; then came the Lucy Furnaces. In 1888, at the age of fifty-one, Mr. Carnegie cracked the whip of his domination over seven huge plants, all within street-car distance of the heart of Pittsburg. And so he has gone forward with his gold-gathering, growing bigger and bigger financially, like the oft-quoted snowball.

What skills it tracking our Steel Caesar, step by step and up and down, through all those avenues wherein he conquered gold? His system was simplicity itself. He made a profit off everybody, permitted nobody to make a profit off him. He needed iron-ore, wherefore he owned iron-mines. He needed coal, wherefore he owned coal-mines. He needed coke, wherefore he owned coke-ovens. He needed money, wherefore he owned banks.

While Mr. Carnegie never really needed protection, he was none the less sedulous in seeking it. He contributed to the treasure-chests of political parties. This was as bread cast upon the waters of politics, which presently returned in the favorable guise of tariff legislation. Mr. Carnegie traveled to Washington, and laying the finger of his suave policy on senators, Ways and Means committees, and presidents, took what protection he pleased. He asked for armor-plate contracts, and received them. He was paid three hundred dollars, four hundred dollars, five hundred dollars an armor-plate ton. I know nothing of armor-plates, but I know something — a little — about money. Why should steel armor-plates cost, say, four hundred dollars a ton, and steel rails one-sixteenth as much? Why? Because the public buys armor-plates, while the consumption of rails is altogether a private affair. Also, Mr. Carnegie has ever sold, and still sells, his steel products forty per cent, cheaper in Europe than in Pittsburg at steel’s very back door. This last is one of the mysteries of protection.

Besides rebates and protection, and sixteen prices for armor-plate, Mr. Carnegie had other ways of gathering gold. His steel companies would buy ore from his iron-mines, and coal from his coal-mines, and coke from his coke-ovens — each owned and managed as a separate company — at figures below cost. In each company were little helpless shareholders. Mr. Carnegie was the big shareholder in all — the big toad in every puddle of Carnegie ore and coal and coke and steel. This method of gold-gathering is termed “high finance.” Those little skinned shareholders of coal and coke and iron-ore called it “low finance” — very low finance. Indeed, excited by Mr. Frick’s disclosures, when that sub-chief of steel recently quarreled with Mr. Carnegie, I understand that they are now bringing their scars into court.

The last great coup of Mr. Carnegie’s was the Steel Trust — the “Billion-Dollar Steel Trust,” the elemental figures whereof have already been given.

The Carnegie home life? The very rich are more apt to have houses than homes. Mr. Carnegie’s American home is in New York at 2 East Ninety-first Street. His Scotch residence is Skibo Castle, where he wears kilts instead of trousers. Skibo is seven hundred years old, and was built by a bishop who had trouble with his neighbors. It has stood many a siege.

The father of Mr. Carnegie fled from machinery. Mr. Carnegie has lived by it and made a cult of it; which shows, with the poet Mackay, “how the demons of our fathers become the saints that we adore.” Mr. Carnegie’s motto has been, “Never do by hand what can be done by machinery” — a system businesslike, but not always humane.

In his gold-gathering Mr. Carnegie has sometimes lacked that quality which sporting folk grasp at in the word “game.” When the Homestead strike was inevitable Mr. Carnegie crossed to Scotland, and left Mr. Frick — more the berserker breed is Mr. Frick — to fight it out. Men were slain, troops came, the workmen surrendered, Mr. Carnegie came back, while Mr. Frick called in a surgeon to dig a superfluous, lunatic bullet out of his leg.

Not long ago, in a Homestead speech, Mr. Carnegie spoke regretfully of that Homestead bloodshed. His contrition was received in silence — a silence which matched the silence of those dead, cold, dumb ones under the grass-roots.

It was ever the practice with Mr. Carnegie to recognize merit, not only for the good of the meritorious one, but for his own. He brought about him forty lieutenants of the Frick-Schwab-Lovejoy-Leishman stamp. These lieutenants made hundreds of thousands of dollars by it; Mr. Carnegie made millions. He can drive a bit, too, when it comes to his said lieutenants.

“You can’t imagine,” observed Mr. Carnegie to Manager Bill Jones of the Edgar Thomson Works, while talking of his ocean trips — “you can’t imagine the relief I feel, once I’m outside Sandy Hook.”

“Well,” replied Manager Bill Jones with a sigh, “you can’t imagine the relief we feel once you’re outside Sandy Hook.”


As I’ve before set down, Mr. Carnegie likes music. He now and then gives an organ to a church; he says he’ll endorse all the organ says, though not all the pulpit says. This is one of Mr. Carnegie’s pet outbursts of wit. I understand that he is boomed out of bed in the morning to the music of a great pipe-organ — a turgid fashion, truly, in which to begin the day. Likewise he has the bagpipes played while dallying with the matutinal poached eggs; which is like throwing a gauntlet to dyspepsia.

In those pen-forays into literature, aside from “An American Four-in-Hand in Britain” and “Triumphant Democracy,” Mr. Carnegie has written “The Gospel of Wealth,” spoken pen-fashion most despitefully of “a hoard of miserable dollars,” declared that “He who dies rich, dies disgraced,” and in many other ways demonstrated the vast difference which subsists between saying a thing and doing a thing, feeling a sentiment and putting that sentiment into action.

The only time I ever met Mr. Carnegie was at a dinner to Mark Twain. Mr. Carnegie made a speech — a good one. He dwelt fervently on the honorable fact that, after the publishing firm of which Twain was a member fell into bankruptcy, Twain, following in the wake of Walter Scott, slaved and toiled and stripped himself to the bone, and paid down every dollar. Mr. Carnegie was swept away in a whirlwind of admiration. “It was noble! It was godlike! Mr. Twain has paid every dollar he owed!” And out through that whirlwind of admiration spake the commercialist, the gold-gatherer. The speech, I remember, jarred my soul a bit, since it carried no intimation that a man’s wife and children are preferred creditors, but seemed to place the dollar-and-cent creditor at the unchallenged head of the list.


The Carnegie annual output of steel is eight millions of tons. The selling-price of this is half a billion dollars. If the public bought it all, at the figures it usually pays for armor-plates, the selling-price would be $3,200,000,000. Which shows the difference between a bat-eyed public and a lynx-eyed private consumer, when the two go buying steel.

With his personal income of $25,000,000, and fortune of half a billion, Mr. Carnegie draws the reins of direction over twentyfold that sum. He is a herd-leader of money; ten billions of gold will follow him. The whole wealth of the country is $107,104,211,917; and so you may gain some notion of the Carnegie frontiers. He can make men, break men; feudal in his commercial authority, our gold-baron sits possessed of “the high justice, the middle and the low.” He may not take physical life, but he may take dollar life — he may not take the house, but he may take away the prop that doth sustain the house.

Every man and woman and child between the oceans is serf to Mr. Carnegie, and directly or indirectly must render him tribute. To what end? That he may drink deep and ever deeper of the money-goblet. Does it do him good? No. Does it do us harm? Yes. Is there no remedy, no power of cure? Remedy? There are half a dozen remedies. We pass laws against the man who carries a pistol. Yet far more deadly, as a weapon of offense against the citizen, is the concealed bank-book of a multimillionaire.


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One response to “1908: Andrew Carnegie

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