Andrew Carnegie and the Rise of Big Business (Library of American Biography Series) (3rd Edition)

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9780321432872: Andrew Carnegie and the Rise of Big Business (Library of American Biography Series) (3rd Edition)
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In this biography, author and scholar Harold C. Livesay examines the life and legacy of Andrew Carnegie, one of the greatest captains of industry and philanthropists in the history of the United States.

 

Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each of the titles in the Library of American Biography Series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of American history and national life. In addition, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times.

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Editor's Preface

The term "industrial revolution" has become a catch phrase that obscures rather than clarifies. All too often it conveys the impression that the economic process which transformed the modern world began with an event at some point in eighteenthcentury England, from which all subsequent consequences proceeded smoothly and continuously.

The actuality was far more complex. The basic changes stretched over two hundred years and are not yet over. They involved not only the new technology of machines, but also profound alterations in the organization of work and in habits of the mind.

Andrew Carnegie exemplified one phase of the change. He arrived in the United States at a crucial moment in its development. When the small boy Andy and his family left Scotland, British industrialization was well underway; indeed, their migration resulted from one of its unexpected consequences. When the Carnegies reached Pittsburgh, Americans had already begun to move in the same direction; the founding of the early manufacturing mills at Lowell, Massachusetts, was decades past. Significantly, Carnegie's first job was as a bobbin boy in a textile mill. But both countries had taken only the first hesitant steps in industrialization. Manufacturing was still primarily a rural activity and still small in scale.

Carnegie was involved in reorganizing the whole pattern of industrial activity. Early in his career he changed jobs, moving from textiles to the telegraph office and then to the railroads. Those shifts were symbolic insofar as they brought him into contact with the dynamic forces that were altering communications and were creating large regional economic units to replace the earlier, small ones. Much of what he learned about communications and transportation he later ingeniously adapted to the steel industry.

Carnegie also exemplified the habits of mind important at one stage of industrial development. He was a Scot, a fact most clearly manifest in the ethnic links that helped at each point in his career. He showed the capacity to use capital and technicians well, not in a speculative or an exploitive fashion, but to create wealth. That he remained apart from the corporate developments commonly associated with the closing decade of the nineteenth century-as, indeed, did his contemporary Andrew W. Melton-was not an accident. When he finally sold out to United States Steel, he closed his own career and also the stage of development in which he had actively participated. By then, however, as Harold C. Livesay's book shows, Carnegie had helped to establish the foundations of American economic power.

Oscar Handlin

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