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Andrew Carnegie Hardcover – October 24, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Without education or contacts, Andrew Carnegie rose from poverty to become the richest person in the world, mostly while working three hours a day in comfortable surroundings far from his factories. Having decided while relatively young and poor to give all his money away in his lifetime, he embraced philanthropy with the same energy and creativity as he did making money. He wrote influential books, became a significant political force and spent his last years working tirelessly for world peace. Yet he was a true robber baron, a ruthless and hypocritical strikebreaker who made much of his money through practices since outlawed. Nasaw, who won a Bancroft Prize for The Chief, a bio of William Randolph Hearst, has uncovered important new material among Carnegie's papers and letters written to others, but comes no closer than previous biographers to explaining how such an ordinary-seeming person could achieve so much and embody such contradictions. He concentrates on the private man, including Carnegie's relations with his mother and wife, and his extensive self-education through reading and correspondence. His business and political dealings are described mostly indirectly, through letters to managers, congressional testimony and articles. Nasaw makes some sense out of the contradictions, but describes a man who seems too small to play the public role. While Peter Krass's Carnegie and Carnegie's own autobiography are more exciting to read and do more to explain his place in history, they also leave the man an enigma. 32 pages of photos. (Oct. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Given the vast subject, critics commend David Nasaw's effort. The author combines thorough and much previously unavailable research in only the second full-length biography of Carnegie in nearly 40 years (Peter Krass's Carnegie, 2002). Despite his talent as a biographer, Nasaw—professor of history at City University of New York and winner of the Bancroft Prize for The Chief, his biography of William Randolph Hearst—at times comes up short in his inability to reconcile Carnegie's contradictory ruthlessness and generosity. To be fair, no author has succeeded completely, and Carnegie's true motivation remains hidden to history. At nearly 900 pages, the book might more succinctly make its point. Those interested in Gilded Age history, however, will appreciate the meticulousness of Nasaw's research and his enthusiasm for a time of unprecedented change in America.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201042
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
David Nasaw, who previously authored a well-received biography of William Randolph Hearst, has produced in this fine biography undoubtedly the most complete account of Andrew Carnegie that we will ever have. The book runs some 842 pages, including notes, and is based upon prodigious research into published and unpublished sources. The book reminds me very much of the stupendous biography of J. Pierpont Morgan by Jean Strouse, in that it is comprehensive and definitive. The author takes quite a balanced approach to Carnegie, which many other accounts of Gilded Age zillionaires fail to employ. He recognizes Carnegie's talents and philanthropic efforts, but also demonstrates that Carnegie often misled the public about his activities, and sometimes even engaged in self-delusion, especially about the Homestead Strike. Many dimensions of Carnegie with which I was not familiar are skillfully developed by the author, including his involvement in world peace and arbitration efforts, his career as a published author, and his efforts to become a key political advisor to TR, Taft and Wilson. Much like the Morgan volume, this book is also an outstanding business history of the late 19th-early 20th century period in the U.S., especially as regards the development of the steel industry and its eventual consolidation by Morgan into the U.S. Steel Corportation.

The fly in the ointment is that while the author's throughness is the book's greatest strength, it also becomes a major weakness. That is, it is simply too long by far. Sometimes one comes to believe that every letter exchanged between Carnegie and his leadership group, including Henry Clay Frick and Charles M. Schwab for example, has been reviewed by the author and recounted in the text.
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Format: Hardcover
A mentor of mine once told me that 'to learn history, the only books you really need to read are great biographies'.

His point was, of course, that within the confines of a well written story of one life the reader unearths a much larger landscape of the times, events, and issues that surround the subject. Having just finished David Nasaw's excellent 'Andrew Carnegie' I think my teacher would be pleased and fully approve as the book meets any objective criteria of quality and excels on every level.

Here, we follow the figure of Andrew Carnegie from birth and each subsequent chapter of his full life. Carnegie's actions and thoughts are fascinating and Nasaw paints a masterful portrait of his subject. He uses a clear and concise tone to convey all of what is important and none of which that is not. You really feel like there is not a wasted word in the entire narrative.

Along the way we get in depth -but never tedious- lessons on issues as wide ranging as the immigrant experience to a particular brand of evolutionary philosophy to the history of labor to turn-of-the-century American foreign policy....Frankly, I was hooked from the beginning and thanks to the writing style and its intriguing subject the book's 800 pages fly by.

Another positive is the way Nasaw gives the reader credit for being intelligent enough to decipher the facts he provides and then let the reader form his or her own conclusions. I appreciated the linear narrative approach as well, as too many current biographies tend to 'do too much' and jump all over the place. That's not the case here as Nasaw never loses his compass and the reader benefits as a result.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
801 pages of biography. This is what David Nasaw has produced--a massive biography of Andrew Carnegie. Well known as a philanthropist, he gave away much of his fortune. For instance, one accounting notes the following (page 801): ". . .at the time of his death, Carnegie had given away more than $350 million (in the tens of billions today). There remained but $20 million of stocks and bonds. . . . In the seventh paragraph of his last will and testament, Carnegie directed that it be bequeathed, in its entirety, to the Carnegie Corporation. And with this he accomplished the final, and to his mind, the most important goal he had set himself." In essence, he had given his entire fortune away.

This book provides cradle to grave coverage of Carnegie, beginning with his origins in Scotland. Early on, the family moved to the United States, settling in the Pittsburgh area. Carnegie's first job was in a cotton mill when he was thirteen. He was close to his mother then and throughout his life. He quickly moved to a position as a messenger with a telegraph company and then, in a stroke of fortune, become a telegraph operator in a company. Here, he began an association at a young age with Thomas Scott and J. Edgar Thomson of the Pennsylvania Railroad. By 17, he was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad and on his way.

The volume notes his small stature (barely five feet tall), but by 24, he was superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division of the rail company. Early on, he began to develop "rules for business" (e.g., see page 76). He was in a position to get involved over time with an oil company, with bridge building, with rail, coal, a bank, a grain elevator. And, of course, with iron and then steel.
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