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Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw

Andrew Carnegie (2006)

by David Nasaw

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A well written, well researched book spanning Andrew Carnegie's entire life. Had read about the Homestead problem and about his gift of public libraries, but book went far beyond those two areas. Although long, the book covered apparently all facets of his life. Carnegie claimed to be a friend of labor and pro -union, but his actions often seemed contradictory. A multifaceted individual. - one has to wonder how much was an act and how much was the real person that you saw. Definitely worthy of the accolades this book received. ( )
  busterrll | Dec 17, 2014 |
Outstanding writing and story telling and a remarkable person ( )
  ibkennedy | Jun 7, 2014 |
David Nasaw, author of the much-honored biography of William Randolph Hurst, "The Chief," sets his sights on another rich titan of the Industrial Age, Andrew Carnegie. The resulting biography, simply titled "Andrew Carnegie," is a massive work, measuring over 800 pages, with another 50 pages of notes and bibliography.

Nasaw presents Carnegie as an almost indomitable force of nature, confident of his own abilities and point of view even as a young man. An immigrant to the United States as a child, along with his mother and brother, Carnegie seems a precocious teenager, eager to work, impressing his bosses with his abilities and work ethic, and evidently invited by them to begin investing in their ventures. Soon enough, Carnegie owns his own company, which he parlays over time into the massive Carnegie Steel empire.

Having achieved this vast fortune, Carnegie focused his energies on two other goals, even as he oversaw his industrial company. First, Carnegie desired to become a man of letters, admired for his published writings and sought after for his opinion on economic and political issues. Second, and perhaps as a consequence of the first, Carnegie dreamed of becoming a great philanthropist who, before his death, would give away his entire fortune to benevolent organizations.

Using these three overarching aspects as the framework for Carnegie's biography, Nasaw details the complex relationships he had with many people, including his mother, his brother, his wife, his daughter, and his main business associates, particularly Henry Clay Frick. The portraits of these relationships, and his nuanced presentation of Carnegie as a man who desires to be both esteemed as a colleague and respected as a father-figure, is probably the most successful part of Nasaw's biography.

In addition, Nasaw offers an exhaustive look at Carnegie as a would-be man of letters, drawing not only on Carnegie's published pamphlets and newspaper columns, but on his extensive correspondence, particularly with political leaders in the United States and England. From Nasaw's treatment alone, it would seem that Carnegie achieved the status and respect he craved.

Less successful is the description of Carnegie's rise from immigrant poverty to wealthy industrialist. While Nasaw focuses several chapters on this, it seems unclear how Carnegie actually achieved such wealth. There is an explicit suggestion that his infant iron company benefited from price collusion agreements with Pennsylvania railroad companies, but no real presentation of how Carnegie acquired the capital to start an iron company in the first place. Later stories about how Carnegie relied on the business and technical expertise of those who worked for him suggest that Carnegie's financial success was a result of the decisions of his underlings -- but certainly Carnegie must have possessed significant understandings of both his industry and of the world of finance. Nasaw's treatment is inadequate, to say the least.

It also should be noted that the biography, well written though it is, becomes rather tedious at points. For a while, it felt like the book would never end, and that Nasaw was chronicling a never-ending cycle of Carnegie giving interviews and essays to the press, writing presidents and prime ministers, giving away libraries and church organs, and summering at his Scottish estate.

In the end, Nasaw's biography is a competent, but uneven book. It is detailed, but for its successes in drawing a psychological portrait of Carnegie and his relationships it leaves some important questions about Carnegie's business acumen unanswered. It is at points an enjoyable read, but then also a frustrating and exhausting one. ( )
  ALincolnNut | Nov 9, 2010 |
Carnegie was born in Scotland; migrated to the US in his teenage year with his parents. He knew Rockefeller. He lived mostly in Pittsburg. He had one daughter. Make his fortune in steel manufacturing. He was a partner with Frick who owns a coke mining company. Carnegie was short in height, married late. He travelled often to Scotland and Europe.
His goal was to give away all of his fortune before his death. He funded many library throughout the country. He was self-educated. He was against war and worked tirelessly against war and imperialism.
He was against the occupation of the Philippines. He worked closely with President Roosevelt and President Wilson for an international peace league.
  amadouwane | Jul 9, 2009 |
Nasaw took on a difficult personality for a book. He struggles to maintain the humanity of Carnagie in the face of numerous displays of indifference towards others' suffering. Nasaw's subject gets away from him.

This is the story of the American hyper-rich and price others paid on their behalf. It is also the tale of the mess that the good-intentioned rich can make. Many of our current foreign policies have their source in Carnegie's vision of world peace.

An important, but difficult read. ( )
  chriszodrow | Jul 8, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143112449, Paperback)

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 the prototype of today's billionaire. Drawing on a trove of new material, Nasaw brilliantly plumbs the core of this fascinating and complex man, at last fixing him in his rightful place as one of the most compelling, elusive, and multifaceted personalities of the twentieth century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:50 -0400)

Chronicles the life of the iconic business titan from his modest upbringing in mid-1800s Scotland through his rise to one of the world's richest men, offering insight into his work as a peace advocate and his motivations for giving away most of his fortune.… (more)

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