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How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune Into A Library Legacy : NPR

How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune Into A Library Legacy : NPR

2023-04-13 06:34:32

Patrons within the studying room of the Carnegie Library of Homestead in Munhall, Pa., circa 1900. The Carnegie Metal Co.fought again in opposition to placing metal staff in Homestead in 1892. Click here to see a bigger view of this picture.

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Patrons within the studying room of the Carnegie Library of Homestead in Munhall, Pa., circa 1900. The Carnegie Metal Co.fought again in opposition to placing metal staff in Homestead in 1892. Click here to see a bigger view of this picture.

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Andrew Carnegie was as soon as the richest man on this planet. Coming as a mud poor child from Scotland to the U.S., by the Eighteen Eighties he’d constructed an empire in metal — after which gave all of it away: $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries throughout the nation.

The Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C., dates again to 1903. Paul Dickson, writer of The Library in America, says this library was “one of many first actually stunning public buildings” within the metropolis.

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The Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C., dates again to 1903. Paul Dickson, writer of The Library in America, says this library was “one of many first actually stunning public buildings” within the metropolis.

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Carnegie donated $300,000 to construct Washington, D.C.’s oldest library — a phenomenal beaux arts constructing that dates again to 1903. Inscribed above the doorway are the phrases: Science, Poetry, Historical past. The constructing was “devoted to the diffusion of information.”

It opened in 1903 to ladies, kids, all races — African-Individuals bear in mind when it was the one place downtown the place they might use the bogs. Through the Melancholy, D.C.’s Carnegie Library was known as “the mental breadline.” Nobody had any cash, so that you went there to feed your mind. Washington author Paul Dickson, writer of The Library in America, says the marble palace was an early and imposing Capitol establishment.

“This went in effectively earlier than the monumental limestone and marble buildings of Pennsylvania Avenue, Structure Avenue. This was one of many first actually stunning public buildings,” he says.

Carnegie libraries are nonetheless one of the best buildings in lots of cities. Through the years some have been expanded or torn down. And, along with books and computer systems, Carnegie libraries discover new methods to serve the neighborhood.

The general public library in Woodbine, Iowa, loans cake pans — individuals do not maintain all configurations and dimensions of cake pans at residence, “in order that they verify ’em out and bake their truffles and convey ’em again,” explains Woodbine library director Rita Bantam. “[It’s] providing a service that folks want. It brings individuals into the library.”

As a teen, Andrew Carnegie labored as a bobbin boy in a textile mill and was decided to enhance his lot in life. Above, Carnegie as a younger man in 1868.

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As a teen, Andrew Carnegie labored as a bobbin boy in a textile mill and was decided to enhance his lot in life. Above, Carnegie as a younger man in 1868.

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Andrew Carnegie gave $7,500 to Woodbine. That paid for the 1908 constructing itself. The cities needed to elevate cash for books, salaries and upkeep. Earlier than Carnegie, Bantam says, the library was situated in an uncommon part of Woodbine’s city corridor: “It was over the jail,” she explains, “they needed to shut the library when the jail was occupied.”

From jail to cakepans, public libraries are embedded of their communities. In South Carolina, the Union County Carnegie Library — named finest small library in America just a few years again — invitations Ronald McDonald over to lure youngsters into summer time studying packages. Director Ben Loftis says there have been subscription libraries in South Carolina earlier than 1903 when his was constructed — with a $10,000 Carnegie grant — however this was the primary public library.

“It went from being for simply the rich elite landowners and planters to truly being a service for the complete county that everyone has entry to,” he says.

It was pioneering — public and free. These have been the visionary keystones of Carnegie’s library mission. The mission was born in Allegheny Metropolis, Pa., the place Carnegie labored as a bobbin boy in a textile mill — his job was to fill the bobbins with thread and oil them for the machines. He was decided to enhance his lot, however he could not pay the $2 subscription for an area library that was out there solely to apprentices (and he actually could not afford to purchase books).

He despatched a letter to the library administrator asking for entry to the library, however the administrator turned him down flat. So 17-year-old Andy received the letter printed in The Pittsburgh Dispatch.

“He made his case so effectively that the administrator backed off instantly,” explains Carnegie biographer David Nasaw. “And the library was opened to working males in addition to apprentices. He received what he needed.”

He normally did. Fast, sensible and self-educated, “the little Scotsman from Pittsburgh” went from bobbins to telegraphs to railroads to iron and metal. In 1901, when he bought Carnegie Metal to J.P. Morgan for nearly half a billion {dollars}, it turned a part of U.S. Metal — and Carnegie turned the world’s richest man. After which he gave it away: a complete of $350 million.

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Was he the Invoice Gates of his day? “I believe Invoice Gates would very very like to be often known as the Carnegie of his day,” says Nasaw.

Carnegie finally gave away $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries throughout the nation. “In bestowing charity the primary consideration needs to be to assist those that assist themselves,” he wrote.

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Carnegie finally gave away $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries throughout the nation. “In bestowing charity the primary consideration needs to be to assist those that assist themselves,” he wrote.

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In 1889 Carnegie wrote an article known as “The Gospel of Wealth,” through which he spelled out his views on philanthropy: “In bestowing charity the primary consideration needs to be to assist those that assist themselves.”

The wealthy ought to give, so the poor might enhance their very own lives — and thus the lives of the society. Giving was a code of honor. “The person who dies wealthy dies in shame,” Carnegie mentioned.

Nasaw says the metal grasp was in his 30s when he determined he was merely the shepherd of his wealth.

“It’s his accountability to provide it again,” Nasaw says, “to return it to the neighborhood as a result of the neighborhood — all of these women and men who contribute to the making of Carnegie metal, the moms who feed their kids, the day laborers, the entire giant neighborhood — is accountable for making this wealth and so they’re those who must get it again.”

So public libraries turned devices of change — not luxuries, however somewhat requirements, necessary establishments — as important to the neighborhood as police and fireplace stations and public colleges.

Now, Carnegie was a sophisticated man. Sensible, charming, beneficiant — and brutal. Carnegie biographer Les Standiford, writer of Meet You in Hell, says the industrialist presided over what is taken into account this nation’s most bitter labor dispute.

“The Homestead Metal Strike of 1892 — through which he and Henry Clay Frick conspired to mercilessly beat down the steelworkers who have been placing for higher pay and higher working circumstances. It stands to at the present time because the worst labor battle in American historical past,” Standiford says.

“Enhance our wages,” the employees demanded. “What good is a ebook to a person who works 12 hours a day, six days every week?”

Nasaw says Carnegie thought he knew higher and replied to his critics this manner: “If I had raised your wages, you’d have spent that cash by shopping for a greater minimize of meat or extra drink on your dinner. However what you wanted, although you did not understand it, was my libraries and live performance halls. And that is what I am giving to you.”

And so he did: 1,689 public libraries. Temples of studying, ambition, aspiration for cities and cities all through the US.

How do you employ your native public library? Please inform us within the feedback under.

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