Andrew Carnegie
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Andrew Carnegie

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  843 ratings  ·  116 reviews
In this magnificent biography, celebrated historian David Nasaw brings to life the fascinating rags- to-riches story of one of our most iconic business legends-Andrew Carnegie, America's first modern titan. From his first job as a bobbin boy at age thirteen to his status as the richest man in the world upon retirement, Carnegie was the embodiment of the American dream and...more
Paperback, 896 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 2006)
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This is a solid biography that raises a crucial question that it never answers. As a result it has a very interesting subject but for the wrong reasons.

I will declare an interest. As a little lad every Saturday morning I'd shoulder my satchel and set off to my nearest library to exchange my borrowed books. My nearest library then was the Lambeth Carnegie library endowed by the subject of this book and still standing in red brick and yellow stone. I'll come back to the libraries later.

The questio...more
Carl Rollyson
Why did Andrew Carnegie give away all of his money? This is the question that Carnegie's biographers have to confront. David Nasaw's authoritative new biography goes a long way toward answering the question, even if he cannot—perhaps no biographer can—ultimately fathom Carnegie's complex motives and temperament.

Mr. Nasaw deftly dismisses the conventional explanations. Carnegie did not feel guilty about accumulating a vast fortune. He did not feel he had earned his wealth immorally, let alone ill...more
I rarely read anything that's not about early 19th Century, but, on a whim, I bought this recent biography about Andrew Carnegie;philanthropist, steel king and robber baron.
Carnegie was the proto-typical "poor boy made good" and was one of the richest men in the world. and he was a true conundrum; filthy rich, yet he thought it was his duty to give away as much as he could before he died to philanthropic causes. and, even though he did give away millions to those less fortunate, he had a general...more
There is nothing more fascinating than a life story. The dice are doubly thrown when sperm meets egg, first in the combination of genes through heredity, and at the same time in the time at which a life comes into being. At birth such powerful factors as temperament are already set, but what tests will temperament meet? Would the great people of one century be great if they were born in another? Almost certainly not. We are the result of our ancestry and also of our time.

There are some character...more
During the second half of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, Horatio Alger's rags-to-riches fanned the flames of the national myth that any person, no matter their economic background, could make it rich in the free market and opportunity-prone economy of the United States. While many scholars have focused on how mythical this was--the rich and privileged had obvious head starts and unique advantages over lower class Americans and less well-connected immigrants--Andrew...more
Bill P.
while watching a history channel series on industrial titans of the 19th and early 20th century, it occurred to me that I owned a copy of this bio of Andrew Carnegie as they interviewed the author, David Nasaw as one of their talking heads. While my lasting impression of the history channel series was that it deserved very low marks,(they also used Donald Trump as one of their modern day talking heads, that alone disqualifies the series as any serious review of history)David Nasaw's book was pre...more
Good and very comprehensive biography of Andrew Carnegie.

It kind of ran out of steam for me after he retired from the steel business to focus on his philanthropy, especially the world peace bit.

I wanted to hear more about his disagreements with Frick, and would have also liked the book to focus more on his legacy for labor, steel, Pittsburgh, philanthropy etc., instead of just stopping when he died.
Brian Lutz
When I started this time, I had a vague who Andrew Carnegie was, and knew little about his legacy. Seven hundred and eighty-some pages later, I am now intimately familiar with the man, and legend, behind Carnegie Steel and one of the largest philanthropic undertakings of modern mankind.

I certainly won't call him a nice person until we meet on the other side, but until then Nasaw gives an excellent view into the lifestyle of Andrew Carnegie. While some elementary grammar mistakes find their way...more
Mary Pressman
Read Samuel's review... I do not need to repeat what he said. I found this book to be a fascinating look into a time in our country that tended to be glossed over in my school time history classes. We studied all the wars and did not focus much on the amazing growth of the American industrial sector after the civil war. Andrew Carnegie was a man full of contradictions. There is much to admire in his story, but there is much to be disgusted by as well. However, after reading this biography, I do...more
Joel Arnold
Very long, very interesting, sometimes highly entertaining, and occasionally a bit tedious. I liked this book, but there were times in the middle when I wondered if it would ever get done.

Mr. Carnegie was an overly confident man that had his already ample ego augmented by a lot of money. Probably the second-richest man in American history, Carnegie's is the ultimate rags to riches story.

For me the most interesting part of the was the end. Carnegie passionately took up several causes during his l...more
I've long been fascinated with the Gilded Age and this book has been a great treasure trove of information. It was surprisingly readable for a biography, though I do have to complain about the way that the timeline seemed to jump a bit. It didn't detract too much from the overall reading experience, but when one seeks out to have a clear timeline, one is forced to read some things over again. (And I also had a hard time dealing with the fact that I feel as if the Johnstown flood thing wasn't giv...more
I found this to be an enlightening biography of a fascinating man. I want to meet this guy and share a Dewars at Skibo. His happiness, humor, intellect and pursuit of peace defied my prejudice of the robber-baron type. The book triggered more reading to understand his guiding spirits (e.g., Swedenborg, Spencer and Social Statics).
I was born in the steel town of Gary, grew up in Pittsburgh and even worked for US Steel at a former HC Frick mine. But I had no idea about this man who gave birth to a...more
Carnegie, gone for almost a century, continues to touch the lives of millions of people. He did not just build libraries, he solidified the public library movement by the requiring that cities tax themselves to maintain the gift. The landscape of Carnegie libraries across the world is stunning. While the buildings today are all but obsolete for library service, one wonders how this institution might have developed without his initial impetus. Carnegie made wise investments in the future. He left...more
why are all bios over 600 pages? is it REALLY necessary? Still, trudging along...
Okay, I finished, though I freely admit I skimmed many sections to get to the ones I was interested in. Here's how to make money in America, the Andrew Carnegie way. Work hard, ride the coattails of important people via toadying and then employ crony tactics with secret groups and coalitions until you have built a ginormous fortune. Luckily, he was just as interested in giving away his fortune as he was amassing it....more
I had no idea how integral Carnegie was in building the infrastructure of America..Back in the days of the good ole boys where there were no laws for insider trading..I grew up in the town where his first public library was built and it saved my life. My father was a steelworker at his ET works for 40 years..The steel mill touched every part of our lives..If you want to see the results of the town with the mills gone or operating very lightly, read the article in May's Rolling Stone "The mayor o...more
Michael Gerald Dealino
An exhausting biography of one of the titans of American industry, a billionaire who made his fortune on the backs of the toil of his workers he exploited, but also one who opposed his country's dalliance with imperialism.

And he would have been a dumb beauty pageant contestant in another life for trying to make one thing possible: world peace. Too bad he didn't get the Nobel for it. But seeing your name on numerous institutions and leaving a legacy of philantrophy? Not bad.
I am consistently fascinated by this era in American history. It was an interesting book, nothing terribly salacious or taboo that one usually comes across in regard to the extreme rich. It is interesting how literally became the richest man in the world, especially since all the anti-trust laws weren't in place then. But it was a thorough book about an honest man who used his wealth to enhance the lives of others.
Cheryl Gatling
Was Andrew Carnegie a bad man or a good man? Yes. Was Andrew Carnegie a really savvy businessman, or just lucky? Yes. Was he a champion of the common man, or completely out of touch? Was he an influential adviser to heads of state, or an annoying pest who liked to hear himself talk? Yes, yes, and yes. These and other contradictions make Andrew Carnegie an interesting study. He was born relatively poor in Scotland. His father was a skilled weaver, but when the bottom fell out of the hand-weaving...more
Steven Peterson
801 pages of biography. This is what David Nasaw has produced--a massive biography of Andrew Carnegie. Well known as a philanthropist, he gave away much of his fortune. For instance, one accounting notes the following (page 801): ". . .at the time of his death, Carnegie had given away more than $350 million (in the tens of billions today). There remained but $20 million of stocks and bonds. . . . In the seventh paragraph of his last will and testament, Carnegie directed that it be bequeathed, in...more
Dan Walker
This book should be required reading. Not because it is so brilliant or enthralling, but really for the opposite reason: it is a simple rehearsal of a man's life who earned more money, and saw and did more than most of us ever will. And yet at the end of his life he was faced with a reality so completely antipathetic to what he had spent decades trying to achieve, that it literally shortened the book. There is very little to say about Andrew Carnegie in the last four years of his life because th...more
Frank Stein
The reader gets a real sense of Carnegie's personality from this book. Carnegie was extremely sociable, intelligent, funny, unassuming, and, in a less flattering light, repetitive and stubborn. Nasaw plumbs countless letters, diaries, newspaper articles, and business papers to come up with this complete and extensive picture of one of the most important personalities of the nineteenth century, and I'm glad he did.

Unfortunately the book is simply too long and too suffused with personal details. I...more
Andrew Carnegie’s parents left Scotland due to a severe economic slump when America slid into recession and stopped buying imported Scottish Linen. Linen was the main industry of Dumfermline, Scotland. His father was a handloom weaver who was often out of work. So they decided to move to western Pennsylvania where relatives had emigrated years before in hopes of a better life.

Andrew was thirteen years of age when his family settled in Cresson, PA, near Pittsburgh. He was startled by the bustling...more
An interesting, but extremely long biography (800+ pages of text before all the back matter). Even if you're like me, and want to know every single little thing about a subject you're interested in, you likely still will find this book a bit too detailed. There were several sections where Nasaw gets caught up in trivialities that don't really add to any deeper understanding of the subject matter. Editing these down would have helped significantly. Also, the extreme detail in the rest of the volu...more
It is difficult for me to reconcile all the conflicting emotions I have of Andrew Carnegie, in the end I must conclude that he deserves all of his fame but not all of the corresponding acclaim. The man is admirable, he built a fortune with a combination of hard work, shrewdness, perseverance and luck. However, his fortune came at the expense of laborers exposed to 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, cartels, protective tariffs and false marketing (specific to his inflated railroad bond sales).

It is i...more
A thorough and functional treatment that sometimes falters but never fails. David Nasaw's forte develops slowly in this lengthy volume; Carnegie wasn't one to sit on his hills of cash, and Nasaw devotes most of his very detailed book to what Carnegie did with his fortune. How he made that fortune is somewhat less clear; Nasaw is a bit too eager to watch Carnegie spend it. And spend it he does. Exactly how Carnegie throws his fortune around is detailed with an accountant's precision: remodeling,...more
Sam Dye
I'm glad I finished this book because I would have missed the whole section of his life devoted to peace activities and his relationship with his wife and daughter.

He was prophetic in his discussions of the possibility of war. In 1909 he said "It is true that every nation regards and proclaims its own armaments as instruments of Peace only...but just as naturally every nation regards every other nation's armaments as clearly instruments of war...Thus each nation suspects all the others, an only...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Given the vast subject, critics commend David Nasaw's effort. The author combines thorough and much previously unavailable research in only the second full-length biography of Carnegie in nearly 40 years (Peter Krass's Carnegie, 2002). Despite his talent as a biographer, Nasaw__professor of history at City University of New York and winner of the Bancroft Prize for The Chief, his biography of William Randolph Hearst__at times comes up short in his inability to reconcile Carnegie's contradictory

Excellent biography of Carnegie, steel magnate, philanthropist and peace advocate.

Carnegie lived his own Gospel of Wealth, accumulating a fortune and then giving most of it away in his own lifetime. The contradiction of course is that he made his wealth by brutal treatment of his workers. A 12-hour day in a steel mill hardly encourages one to head to the library after work. Nasaw doesn't attempt to explain the contradiction. Rather he shows the incongruity over and over again through Carnegie's...more
I grew up in a small town with the public library built from Andrew Carnegie's fortune - it's a charming brick building still in use as a library today.

At 800+ pages, this definitely feels very well-researched and thorough. I learned a huge amount about this steel-baron philanthropist. I learned enough about him to know that I probably wouldn't have liked him in person but I can't help admire his desire to give away all of his money - especially to fund libraries. The fact that all his donations...more
’Carnegie,’ by David Nassaw, gives a balanced view of the philanthropist and business legend that is Andrew Carnegie. It starts by tracing his roots in Dunfermline, follows with his move to America, discusses his entrance into business, and examines his rapid rise up the business ladder (which is based on who he knew, his interpersonal skills and insider trading as much as it’s based on his business skills). It finishes by focusing on his post-retirement philanthropy.

It’s a balanced book becaus...more
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