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The Many Legacies of Andrew Carnegie

Philanthropist and businessman Andrew Carnegie left a lasting impression on the American landscape. Correspondent Paul Solman looks at Carnegie's life, including how he made and gave away his money.

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  • PAUL SOLMAN, NewsHour Economics Correspondent:

    'Twas some nights before Christmas at the Carnegie Deli, pastrami and pickles aimed right at the belly. The salamis were hung by the counter with care, hoping the revelers soon would be there.

    OK, it's the holiday season, but why, you may wonder, the Carnegie Deli? Well, it was a stop on our Carnegie tour of New York. Landmarks named for the robber baron philanthropist which we visited with historian David Nasaw, author of a new book on Andrew Carnegie, about whom Nasaw remains ambivalent.

  • DAVID NASAW, Biographer:

    He did a lot of things I applaud; he did a lot of things I abhor. I'm here, and what I tried to do in my biography is to tell the story, the full story.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The story of Andrew Carnegie, as he pronounced it, a man who in his lifetime gave away more money in proportion to the economy as a whole than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined, yet squeezed his workers to the breaking point and still makes us uncomfortable almost a century after his death.

    But let's start our tour at a more obvious Carnegie venue than a deli: a library.

  • DAVID NASAW:

    Whenever anyone from anywhere in the country I've been hears that I've written about a biography of Andrew Carnegie, the first story they want to tell me is about the story of the library in their hometown.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Carnegie built more than 2,500 libraries, culminating with a multimillion-dollar grant, worth several billion today, to build 65 here in New York City.

  • DAVID NASAW:

    He wanted people to be able to lift themselves, to educate themselves, to train themselves. And there was no better way to do that than with libraries.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    No better way, he thought, for certain people, that is, those like Carnegie, eager, willing, and able to make something of themselves and lead society forward. As preached by his philosopher guru, Social Darwinist Herbert Spencer, who coined the term "survival of the fittest."

  • DAVID NASAW:

    Carnegie believed in the survival of the fittest. He believed in Social Darwinism. He believed that you had to give an opportunity to the fittest, who were going to survive, to the fittest to rise themselves as high as they could.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And pull us all along with them.

  • DAVID NASAW:

    And pull us all up with them, right.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The library benefactor goes from pauper to prince in a hurry. His struggling family moves from Scotland to bustling industrial Pittsburgh in 1848, when Andra is 12.

  • DAVID NASAW:

    Pittsburgh is as smoky, as dirty, as filthy, as soot-filled as any European manufacturing city.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Andra went right to work, as a bobbin boy in one of the city's cotton mills. He quickly moved up, becoming a telegraph messenger and then operator for the Pennsylvania railroad, soon running one of its branches and investing in sweetheart deals.

  • DAVID NASAW:

    By the time he's in his middle 20s, he's beginning to make big money. By the time he's 30, he is a millionaire. And most of that money comes from the kinds of insider trading that today might put him on the other side of bars in a jail.

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