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Andrew Carnegie: The Richest Man in the World | Timeline

Timeline: Rags to Riches


1835: Carnegie born
Andrew is born in Dunfermline, Scotland, to Margaret and Will Carnegie. Will Carnegie is a skilled weaver, and the Carnegies are one of many working-class families in Dunfermline. A younger son, Tom, is born in 1843.

1847: Steam-powered looms used in Scotland
After steam-powered looms are introduced in Dunfermline, hundreds of hand loom workers are unemployed, including Andrew's father Will.

1848: Carnegies emigrate to US
The Carnegies settle in Pittsburgh, and Andrew begins work as a bobbin boy in a textile mill, earning $1.20 per week. He later takes a job in a factory tending the steam engine and boiler, for $2.00 per week. He impresses his supervisor with his penmanship and is offered the chance to work as a clerk for the factory.

1849: Andrew works as messenger
Andrew works as a messenger boy in a telegraph office, earning $2.50 per week. He memorizes street names and the names of men to whom he has taken messages. This way, he is able to save time by recognizing the recipient of a message on the street. Soon after he is promoted to the position of telegraph operator and begins making $20 per month.

1853: Andrew takes job at Pennsylvania Railroad
Andrew becomes the personal telegrapher and assistant to Thomas Scott, the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad's western division, and is paid $35 per month. He learns the ins and outs of the railroad industry, and makes innovations like keeping the telegraph office open 24 hours per day, and burning railroad cars following accidents, which clears the tracks and gets the trains moving quickly.

1855: Will Carnegie dies at age 51
Although Andrew is becoming successful in America, Will Carnegie has not been able to find work as a weaver. He then tries to produce his own cloth, traveling as far as Cincinnati to peddle it, but can find few buyers. When he dies, Andrew is 20 years old and the only breadwinner in the family.

1856: Carnegie puts down a strike
An informant tells Carnegie of an upcoming strike and gives him a list of the labor organizers. Carnegie passes on the information to Thomas Scott, who fires them. The strike is broken before it begins.

Carnegie invests in sleeping cars
Carnegie takes out a loan from a local bank and invests $217.50 in the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company. After about two years he begins receiving a return of about $5000 annually, more than three times his salary from the railroad.

1859: Carnegie promoted to superintendent
Carnegie becomes the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad's western division. He is now in charge of his own department and earns a salary of $1500 per year. He and his mother move to the upscale suburb of Homewood.

1861: Carnegie works for Union Army
After Confederate mobs in Maryland destroy railroad lines, Carnegie assists Thomas Scott in supervising repairs. While working on the railroad, Carnegie notices that telegraph lines have also been cut and stops to repair them. When Carnegie arrives in Washington, he joins Scott in organizing the railroad and telegraph lines to Virginia.
Carnegie invests in oil
 Using money from his investment in the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company, Carnegie invests $11,000 in an oil company in Titusville, Pennsylvania. He receives a return of $17,868 after only one year.

1862: Carnegie travels to Dunfermline

1863: Carnegie's income is $42,000
About half of Carnegie's salary comes from his investment in oil, and only $2400 from his salary at the railroad. Additional investments in the Piper and Schiffler Company, the Adams Express Company, and the Central Transportation Company contribute over $13,000.

1864: Carnegie is drafted
Carnegie is drafted into the Union Army. His options include paying the federal government $300 or finding a suitable replacement. Carnegie feels he has done his patriotic duty by supervising telegraph communications, and decides to pay a replacement $850 to serve in his place.

1865: Carnegie retires from the railroad
Carnegie founds the Keystone Bridge Company
Carnegie and several associates reorganize the Piper and Schiffler Company into the Keystone Bridge Company. They envision building bridges with iron, rather than wood, to make the bridges more durable. Tom Scott loans Carnegie half of the $80,000 he needs for his investment. 

1867: Carnegie founds Keystone Telegraph Company
Carnegie establishes the Keystone Telegraph Company with several associates from the railroad. The company receives permission from the Pennsylvania Railroad to string telegraph wire across the railroad's poles, which stretch across the entire state. This is such a valuable asset that Keystone is able to merge almost immediately with the Pacific and Atlantic Telegraph Company, allowing Keystone's investors to triple their return.

1868: Carnegie pledges to resign from business
Carnegie writes himself a letter which outlines his plans for the future. He determines to resign from business at age 35 and live on an income of $50,000 per year, devoting the remainder of his money to philanthropic causes, and most of his time to his education.

1870: Carnegie meets Louise Whitfield
A mutual friend introduces Carnegie to 21-year old Louise Whitfield, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Carnegie continues to call on her family from time to time.

1872: Carnegie sees Bessemer's steel plants
On a visit to England, Carnegie visits Henry Bessemer's steel plants. The Freedom Iron Company, which Carnegie formed in 1861, had been using Bessemer's process of making steel for several years. While in England, Carnegie realizes the commercial potential of steel and returns to America with plans to expand his steel business.

1873: Carnegie donates a pool to Dunfermline

Henry Clay Frick invests in coke
In 1871, Frick organizes the Frick Coke Company with money borrowed from family and neighbors. By 1873, a financial panic hits the US and Frick borrows more money to buy out his partners and most of his competition. Four years later the price of coke had quadrupled and Frick had earned his first million. 

1875: Edgar Thomson Works opens
Carnegie opens his first steel plant, the Edgar Thomson Works, in Braddock, Pennsylvania. The plant is named for the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Not surprisingly, Carnegie's first order is for 2000 steel rails for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

1880: Carnegie begins his courtship of Louise Whitfield
Although Carnegie is seeing several young women, he is most fond of Louise, and calls her his favorite riding partner. They become increasingly closer.

1881: Carnegie acquires interest in Frick's company
Carnegie, who has been one of Frick's largest coke customers, proposes a merger with Frick. At first Carnegie's interest totaled only about 11% of the stock, but he soon increases his share to over 50% of the company.

Carnegie returns to Dunfermline with his mother 
Carnegie invites Louise Whitfield to accompany him on his trip to Scotland, but his jealous mother intercedes, and Louise remains at home. Alone with her Andrew, Margaret travels to Dunfermline and parades in a coach in front of the townspeople. Andrew donates a library to the town, his first outside of the United States. 

1883: Carnegie buys the Homestead Works, a rival mill

1886: Carnegie defends unions
In Forum Magazine, Carnegie publishes an essay defending workers' right to organize into a union. He also publishes Triumphant Democracy, which sells over 70,000 copies and celebrates the American belief in democracy and capitalism.

Carnegie's mother and brother die
At his home in Cresson, Pennsylvania, Andrew catches typhoid. He suffers a relapse when he learns of his brother's death. A month later, while Carnegie is still ill, his mother dies of pneumonia. In order to keep Margaret Carnegie's death a secret from her son, her coffin is lowered out of her bedroom window.

1887: Carnegie marries Louise Whitfield
Carnegie and Frick disagree over a striking union
Henry Clay Frick organizes a coalition of coke companies to resist striking labor, but Carnegie has a large enough share in Frick's company to force him to settle with the workers. The tension between the two men is resolved for the time being, but Carnegie and Frick will disagree on labor issues in the future.

1889: "Gospel of Wealth" published
Carnegie publishes "The Gospel of Wealth" arguing that the wealthy have a moral obligation to serve as stewards for society. By the next year, Carnegie's annual take-home pay is $25 million.

1892: The Homestead Strike occurs
A union contract at Homestead expires; on vacation in Europe, Carnegie directs Frick to handle the situation. The workers have been organizing a strike, and when they are locked out, the strike proceeds. Frick has prepared for a stand-off by hiring Pinkerton agents. The New York Times writes, "It is evident there is no `bluffing' at Homestead. The fight there is to be to the death." The Pinkertons arrive and shoot it out with workers for about twelve hours. Although the Pinkertons surrender, they are forced to pass through a crowd of hundreds of workers, who beat them mercilessly, severely injuring twenty of them. The state militia is sent in to reclaim the mill and strikebreakers are hired to re-open it. This incident marks the end of Carnegie's image as a friend of the worker.

1897: Margaret Carnegie is born.
At Louise Carnegie's request, Andrew searches for a home in Scotland. His only requirements for the new estate are that it include a view of the sea, a waterfall, and a trout stream. He settles for Skibo Castle, which is in ruins and does not have a waterfall, for 85,000 pounds.

1898: Carnegie tries to gain independence for the Philippines
Following the Spanish-American War, the United States captures the Philippines from Spain. The US decides to pay Spain $20 million to purchase the islands. Carnegie sees this move as imperialist and offers the islands $20 million to purchase their independence.

Carnegie decides to produce finished products
Carnegie decides to expand his business into the production of finished products, which will compete directly with some of J.P. Morgan's interests. Morgan believes Carnegie has become too much of a threat to his empire and must be bought out entirely.

1899: Carnegie organizes several of his steel companies into Carnegie Steel
Tensions rise between Carnegie and Frick.
Carnegie asks Frick to resign as chairman of the board. Questions remain about how much the Frick Company will charge Carnegie for coke.

1900: Frick and Carnegie disagree over the price of coke
Carnegie attempts to get Frick to sell him coke at a cut-rate price, and even to take over Frick's interest in Carnegie Steel. Frick sues for the market value of his coke, and the case is settled out-of-court.

Carnegie Steel's annual profit is $40 million

Carnegie Institute of Technology established

1901: Carnegie sells out to Morgan
Carnegie allows J.P. Morgan to buy him out for $480 million, a move which allows Morgan to create US Steel, and makes Carnegie the richest man in the world.

1902: Carnegie Institution established
Carnegie founds the Carnegie Institution to provide research for American colleges and universities.

1905: Carnegie Teachers' Pension Fund is established
Carnegie endows the fund with $10,000,000.

1901: Carnegie donates money to advance the cause of peace
Carnegie establishes the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and builds the Central American Court of Justice in Costa Rica, which is destroyed by an earthquake later that year.

1911: Carnegie Corporation is founded
Carnegie establishes the Carnegie Corporation with his remaining money, about $125,000,000. He intends that the corporation will aid colleges, universities, technical schools, and scientific research. This is the last philanthropic trust Carnegie creates-- in all, he has given away 90% of his fortune.

1913: The Palace of Peace is dedicated
The Palace, or Temple, of Peace in the Hague, which was financed by Carnegie, has its grand opening.

1914: World War I begins
As World War I breaks out, Carnegie leaves Scotland for the last time.

1916: Carnegie buys Shadowbrook, an estate in Massachusetts

1919: Carnegie dies at Shadowbrook
Carnegie's gravestone is made of stone taken from Skibo. It reads:

Andrew Carnegie 
Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, 25 November 1835. 
Died in Lenox, Massachusetts, 11 August 1919.

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