How Did Andrew Carnegie Spend All of His Money?

In the life of any performance musician, the name Andrew Carnegie is well-known and respected. The largest music halls in the world are named after this great philanthropist and visionary.

Andrew Carnegie became one of the wealthiest men of his day, all through industrialism.

What made Andrew Carnegie unique, however, was how he handled his wealth and his money.

At that time, the gap between the wealthy and the poor was severe. Many wealthy people kept their riches, lived lives of luxury, and never gave a second thought to others.

Andrew Carnegie was different. Like John D. Rockefeller, he donated large sums to good causes.

In 1911, Andrew Carnegie funded and established the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This foundation was a philanthropy organization that funded everything from dismantling nuclear weapons to Sesame Street.

Andrew Carnegie used his money for the good of mankind rather than solely for himself.

How did Andrew Carnegie make his fortune?

Andrew Carnegie made his fortune by investing in the steel industry. In 1892 he started the Carnegie Steel Company, whose sale made him one of the richest men in history.

But let’s take a step back.

Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 in Scotland. His father was a worker in a weaving factory. Their hometown, Dunfermline, was known for making fine linen.

When industrialism came to Scotland, work became scarce, and many families suffered. Andrew’s father, Will, and his grandfather, who was a shoemaker and political reformist, joined a local movement called the Chartist movement.

The people in the Chartist movement were fighting the government for more work and better working conditions. It was not long before this movement failed, leaving Andrew’s family with no choice but to move to a place with more work. In 1848, Will Carnegie moved with his wife and two sons to America.

After arriving in America, the Carnegie family settled in Pennsylvania. Will Carnegie took a job in a family member’s weaving shop, but that ultimately failed as well. As a 13-year-old, Andrew Carnegie was put to work.

He became a bobbin boy, working in a cotton factory. A year later, he moved into a role at a telegraph company. He then was promoted to telegraph operator, which gave him the skills to eventually work with the Pennsylvania Railway.

As a 24-year-old young man, Andrew Carnegie was promoted to superintendent of the railroad as he helped provide for his family. With the drive to learn and grow, Andrew Carnegie’s ambition led him to opportunity after opportunity.

A retired local merchant, Colonel Anderson, loaned his personal library to working boys, and Andrew continued to learn and grow on his own in his free time.

While he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Andrew Carnegie’s boss let him know that the Adams Express Company was selling ten shares of their company. The Carnegies mortgaged their home to buy these shares and thus started their wealth.

During his time working with the railroad, Carnegie continued to invest in many business interests. By the time Andrew Carnegie was thirty years old, he had business interests in steamers on the Great Lakes, sleeper cars on trains, ironworks, railroads, and oil wells.

When steel production became an available avenue of work, Andrew Carnegie jumped at the opportunity, beginning the Carnegie Steel Corporation and kicking off his career and wealth to the next degree, although often on the expenses of his workers.

"The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket."
Andrew Carnegie

How did Andrew Carnegie spend his wealth?

Andrew Carnegie spent almost all of his fortune for good causes, with a strong focus on promoting education in the US. Later in his life, Carnegie used his remaining wealth for the cause of world peace.

When Andrew Carnegie, at the age of 35, looked back on his life, he remembered the moment that made all the difference to him as a young boy. When Colonel Anderson opened his library to the local working boys, he opened the door to learning for a boy who did not have access to education.

Andrew Carnegie was incredibly appreciative of the library he was given access to as a boy. With many investments in his career and wealth to spare, Andrew started to consider what he could do to give back to the world around him and to communities with great need.

Around the year 1870, Andrew Carnegie started his philanthropic career. He supported so many different causes and projects, but he is best known for his support of public libraries. As a boy who needed to learn, Andrew wanted to give back so others could learn, too.

Andrew Carnegie has supported libraries all over the English-speaking world, from the United States to the United Kingdom, from Australia to New Zealand, and even to his hometown, Dunfermline, Scotland.

About 17 years into his philanthropic career, Andrew married a woman named Louise Whitfield. Even though she was marrying a very wealthy man, Louise Whitfield signed a prenuptial agreement. This was quite rare in those days. Louise knew that Andrew intended to give away his entire fortune by the time he died.

After marrying Louise, Andrew Carnegie wrote a book titled “The Gospel of Wealth.” In this book, Andrew outlined his views on wealth. He believed that those blessed with wealth should choose not to live extravagantly but should provide for their families and then give their wealth away to benefit others. That is exactly what Andrew Carnegie did with his wealth for his entire life.

In this book, one well-known quote is, “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.” Andrew Carnegie believed that wealth after death was not wealth at all. Wealth should be used to benefit the world.

In 1901, Andrew Carnegie sold his steel company. J.P. Morgan bought his company for $480 million. This makes Andrew Carnegie one of the wealthiest people of all time. In modern-day terms, Andrew Carnegie was worth around $309 billion. That is triple the wealth of Bill Gates in 2022.

At this time, he retired from working and focused entirely on his philanthropic work. He continued to fund various libraries all over the English-speaking world. He also bought organs for churches all over the world.

Carnegie’s name is now on hundreds of school campuses and nonprofit organizations, as he helped establish schools, associations, colleges, nonprofits, and more all over the United States. He funded trusts and scholarships as well. He is known as “The Patron Saint of Libraries” for his extensive gifts to libraries, spending about $55 million of his wealth on this cause.

When reflecting on Colonel Anderson’s gift to his own life through his library, Carnegie stated, “This is but a slight tribute and gives only a faint idea of the depth of gratitude which I feel for what he did for me and my companions. It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive of good to boys and girls who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it, as the founding of a public library in a community.”

In 1911, Carnegie established his philanthropic organization, the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Here, he became the first president of the corporation and invested in the long-term progress of society as we know it. He changed the world with this scientific philanthropy. Only $135 million of his fortune remained at this point, and he used it for the corporation.

During those years, Carnegie focused on the people of the United States, and he promoted education. He also designated some of the money for the British Overseas Commonwealth.

As he got older, he placed some of his trusted advisors and friends into trustee positions, ensuring that his vision would continue to go on after he was gone. He knew these individuals would continue to honor his wishes with his fortune.

When Andrew Carnegie passed away in 1919, he had $30 million left of his fortune. This went towards the corporation. At the time of his death, Carnegie was focused on using the remaining wealth to achieve world peace. He worked continuously for the cause of world peace, but he never got to see his efforts rewarded. Two months after the Treaty of Versailles, he passed away.

"Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community."
Andrew Carnegie


Andrew Carnegie’s contribution to society as a whole is vast and impressive. A man of great wealth, Carnegie easily could have taken his money, lived in luxury, and passed that wealth down to his children and grandchildren. Instead, Andrew Carnegie went on a mission to use all of his money for good before he died.

Even though he did not get to see world peace achieved at the end of his life, as he hoped to, Andrew Carnegie honored the world through the choices he made with his money. By funding scientific research, peace projects, schools, universities, and many, many libraries, Andrew Carnegie made education more accessible for many people all across the globe.

About the Author
Hi there, I'm James, founder of Melbado. I have over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. Recently, I turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me via our contact page.


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