Andrew Carnegie: One Of The Greatest Rags To Riches Story Ever

by Paul Hudson

We have all heard the success stories of poor folk, born into poverty, making a great wealth for themselves. These Rag to Riches stories are popular and plenty- but are any of them true? Or do they belong only in the fairytales which many of them seem to originate from?

The truth is, although it is not common for the dirt poor to become ridiculously wealthy, it does happen. In fact, most of the richest men in the world were born into middle and lower class families. One of the greatest Rag to Riches stories ever is that of Andrew Carnegie who went from extreme hunger and poverty to being the richest man in the world.

-Andrew Carnegie was born in this small house in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1835.

-For generations the Carnegies had been master handloom weavers. But as the industrial revolution introduced steam-powered looms, the family business collapsed.

-Carnegie's family became so poor they'd go to sleep early to "forget the misery of hunger." He later wrote "It was burnt into my heart then that my father had to beg (for work). And then and there came the resolve that I would cure that when I got to be a man."

-At age 12, Carnegie moved with his family to Pittsburgh, where his two aunts lived. All of them slept in one room.

-At 13, Carnegie started working in the boiler room of a textile factory. At night he had nightmares about the boiler exploding.

-Soon he took a job as a messenger at a telegraph office. During the several years he worked here, the teenage Carnegie made an effort to get to know important people around town.

-At age 17, Carnegie took a job as a telegrapher and assistant to a local railroad man for an impressive salary of $35 a month. Over the next decade, he became essential to running the profitable railroad.

-Carnegie also started investing. A $217 investment in a sleeping car company soon paid $5,000 a year. He helped form a pig iron company to build railroad bridges. His investments became so profitable that his $2400 a year from the railroad amounted to only 5 percent of his income.

-In 1865, Carnegie left the railroad and moved to New York, where he and his mother took a suite at the fashionable St Nicholas hotel.

-In 1873, Carnegie organized the first of his steel works. Over the coming decades, Carnegie Steel would grow into an empire — thanks to the early adoption of the new Bessemer process for steel and other innovations.

-"I think Carnegie's genius was first of all, an ability to foresee how things were going to change," historian John Inghan told PBS.

-In 1897, Carnegie returned to Scotland and bought the 40,000-acre Skibo Castle estate. He called it "heaven on Earth."

-By 1900, Carnegie Steel produced more steel than all of Great Britain.

-In 1901, Carnegie, 66, sold his steel company to JP Morgan for $480 million, half of which went to the Carnegie. The combined company was called United States Steel Corporation.

-"Congratulations, Mr. Carnegie, you are now the richest man in the world," Morgan told him. And Carnegie said, "I wonder if I could have gotten $100 million more. I probably should have asked for that." And Morgan said, "If you had, you would have gotten it."

-"The man who dies rich dies disgraced." Living by this motto, Carnegie devoted the last 18 years of his life to philanthropy. He donated to nearly 3,000 libraries, parks, education, arts, and world peace. He said candidly of philanthropy "and besides it provides a refuge from self-questioning."

Paul Hudson | Elite.