Andrew Carnegie: The Father of Middle-Class America
For decades Americans couldn’t help but love the red-headed, fun-loving Little Orphan Annie. The image of the little girl moving so quickly from poverty to wealth provided hope for the poor in the 1930s, and her story continues to be a dream of what the future just might hold. The rags-to-riches phenomenon is the heart of the American Dream. And few other people have embodied this phenomenon as much as Andrew Carnegie did in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His example and industry caused him to become the father of middle-class America. Andrew Carnegie can be looked to as an ideal example of a poor immigrant making his way up to become leader of the capitalist world. Carnegie was born into a poor working-class family in Scotland. According to the PBS documentary “The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie,” the Industrial Revolution was difficult on Carnegie’s father, causing him to lose his weaving business. The Carnegie family was much opposed to the idea of a privileged class, who gained their wealth simply by inheritance (“Richest”). This type of upbringing played a large factor in Andrew Carnegie’s destiny. In order to appease his mother’s desire for material benefits, and perhaps in an effort to heal his father’s wounds, Carnegie rejected poverty and cleaved to prosperity. Carnegie’s character was ideal for gaining wealth. His mother taught him to “look after the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves;” he later turned this proverb into “watch the costs, and the profits take care of themselves” (“Richest”). Such thrift was integral to his future success. He also believed that “all is well since all goes better” (“Richest”). His theory General note: the paper heading, the title, and body text of the paper (including
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of an “industrial utopia” proves his optimistic outlook of both capitalism and the laboring class. Optimism is what pulled him through his difficulties at Homestead and empowered him to withstand competition. Carnegie didn’t let the Industrial Revolution, which so damaged his father, destroy him. As a young boy in Pittsburgh, he began working in a factory. He hated this position, and even had terrible nightmares, but he still endured. In so doing, he was able to secure a different position in a telegraph office. From here, he developed a skill that is priceless to capitalist America—he made connections. Memorizing faces and facts, he was able to win the sympathy of elite customers. This, in turn, led to his acquaintance with Thomas Scott (“Richest”). Scott secured Carnegie a job with Pennsylvania Railroad. This position was pivotal in his career. His ability to take risks enabled him to move ahead in the business. When a Pennsylvania Railroad train crashed, Carnegie took a risk and boldly ordered the workers to burn the cars. Such a bold and risky statement later became standard procedure (“Richest”). Perhaps the most controversial of Andrew Carnegie’s...
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Carnegie, Andrew. “Wealth.” North American Review CXLVIII (1889): 653-64. Furman: Andrew Carnegie, Wealth. Ed. Katie Morgan and T. Lloyd Benson. Furman U. n.d. Web. 3 Aug. 2009.
Kent, Zachary. Andrew Carnegie: Steel King and Friend to Libraries. New Jersey: Enslow, 1999. Print.
McCloskey, Robert Green. American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise, 1865-1910. New York: Harper, 1951. Print.
“The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie.” Dir. Austin Hoyt. Narr. David Ogden Stiers. The American Experience. PBS. WGBH, Boston. 1997. Television. Walton, Gary M., and Hugh Rockoff. History of the American Economy. 9th ed. New York: Thomson, 2002. Print.
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