Teaching Students About Andrew Carnegie
Introducing students to pivotal historical figures can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Andrew Carnegie, one of the most influential business magnates during the Gilded Age, is a figure whose story offers lessons on perseverance, philanthropy, and the pursuit of the American Dream. This article provides a guide for educators to teach students about the life and accomplishments of Andrew Carnegie.
Begin by offering some context on Andrew Carnegie’s early life. Born in 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland, Andrew was forced to immigrate to the United States at age 13 due to his family’s financial struggles. They settled in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, where Carnegie began his first job as a bobbin boy in a textile factory. Discuss how these early experiences shaped his work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.
Carnegie’s Rise to Fortune
Discuss how Andrew Carnegie entered the steel industry and gradually built his empire after working various jobs within Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Explain how he and his partners created their own steel manufacturing business using technological innovations such as the Bessemer Process for mass-producing steel. Ultimately, Carnegie’s company would transform into the United States Steel Corporation after its sale to J.P. Morgan in 1901.
Philanthropy and the “Gospel of Wealth”
Carnegie believed that wealthy individuals had a responsibility to use their resources for the greater good of society. Teach your students about his essay “The Gospel of Wealth,” which outlined these beliefs and introduced the concept of philanthropy to many people.
Discuss some examples of his philanthropy, such as funding public libraries (2,509 libraries across multiple countries), donating millions of dollars towards education (i.e., establishing what is now known as Carnegie Mellon University), supporting scientific research (i.e., founding the Carnegie Institution), and promoting world peace (such as contributing to the construction of the Peace Palace in The Hague). These examples highlight Carnegie’s commitment to using wealth for social advancement.
The Labor Issue
Though Andrew Carnegie is well known for his philanthropic efforts, it’s also crucial to address the controversies that surrounded his business practices. The Homestead Strike of 1892, which occurred at one of Carnegie’s steel mills, remains a dark moment associated with his legacy. Discuss the events leading up to the strike and the violent conflict that transpired as a result. This will allow students to get a comprehensive understanding of Carnegie’s life and consider both positive and negative aspects of his legacy.